Paul Wertico | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Paul Wertico, the drummer for the Pat Metheny Group, finally gets a little R and R from that band's grueling schedule, so what does he do? He returns to Chicago and puts together another band. Wertico is a multifaceted powerhouse. He drives Metheny's complicated, boundary-bashing music as perhaps no other drummer could; yet left to his own devices, he has leaned toward the dadaist freedoms of his earlier band, Earwax Control. This time around, he's focused on the classic jazz repertoire of the 1960s, loading up on tunes by McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and others of the Blue Note label. Wertico describes the proceedings as "straight ahead, but with a twist," adding that he's interested in leading a band that plays "really hard"; that should be easy with the guys he's assembled. Keyboardist Jim Trompeter has gravitated toward commercial work since leaving the Miami Sound Machine, but once out of the studios he unreels an intense mixture of scholarship and abandon. Trumpeter Orbert Davis and saxist Pete Balin are two more studio rats with sterling jazz credentials, while Eric Hochberg, the strong-souled bassist, has worked with Wertico on and off for nearly 20 years. As a leader, Wertico knows what he wants and how to get it; as a drummer, he reins the raw energy of fusion and funnels it into the postbop tradition, igniting the music as only a handful of modern drummers can. You need to hear this. Wednesday, the Bulls, 1916 N. Lincoln Park West; 337-3000.

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