This weekend's Chicago Jazz Fest offers no less than five wildly varied large-ensemble performances; even so, you'll find one of the weekend's most impressive big bands ensconced miles away from Grant Park. That shouldn't bother composer-arranger Patrick Kelly and his PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, who are no strangers to life off the beaten path: they're from Cincinnati, an unlikely home for some of the most inventive and promising big-band jazz of the 90s. On Kelly's turf, the 60s rock and soul bands he idolized as a teenager come face to face with the jazz tradition: Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton shake hands with Duke Ellington and Thad Jones, while Frank Zappa huddles in the corner with Sun Ra and Miles Davis. The PAO repertoire includes John McLaughlin's trippy 1973 anthem "The Dance of Maya," one tune derived from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," songs both by and about Charles Mingus, and a brilliant arrangement of the Cream classic "Sunshine of Your Love." Still, most of the compositions on the band's self-produced CDs (Supreme Thing and Reactivation, two of this decade's best big-band recordings) come straight out of Kelly's active imagination, which subtly twists and tweaks the conventional big-band format to reflect and unite the leader's welter of influences. Kelly writes for a punchy, deeply focused sound--all the more noteworthy considering his band's downsized lineup: at 13 pieces, the PAO uses one less trumpet, trombone, and saxophone than the standard jazz orchestra. (Then again, standout soloists like trumpeter Gary Winters and altoist Rick VanMatre often seem to do the work of two men.) This gig represents the PAO's first visit in a year and a half, and only their second local appearance ever. Friday and Saturday, 11 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Psychoacoustic Orchestra.