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Ray Anderson Lapis Lazuli Band

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RAY ANDERSON LAPIS LAZULI BAND

In lending it the name of an azure stone, Ray Anderson has given this sassy, inventive, wild-assed blues quartet an oddly elegant air. He's made a career out of zigzags and contrasts, though, so his band's name shouldn't surprise anyone. Anderson started out as a fire-breathing new-music trombonist--he twisted his pliable sound around the sharp corners of Anthony Braxton's band in the 70s and did notable work with both Roscoe Mitchell and Dutch drum fiend Han Bennink. He's also no stranger to genre bending, so when he indulges in guilty pleasures like blues and funk his music sails sky-high over the tired din coming out of the clubs on North Halsted. Fortunately, Anderson's inspired choice of bandmates gives Lapis Lazuli emotional ballast as well. On last year's Funkorific (Enja) his sweet and blustery trombone naturally complements the understated gospel chords from another former Chicagoan, Amina Claudine Myers, who alternately preaches and seduces at the Hammond B-3 organ. And when they sing together (on lyrics that Anderson's wife, Jackie Raven, has written for some of his tunes) Myers's insistent purr and Anderson's growl make an odd but appealing pair--Sonny & Cher gone over to the dark side. Sometimes Anderson comes off like an updated version of Mose Allison, using his twangy, mannered vocals to comment on middle-aged love ("Damaged but Good"), trust in a relationship ("I'm Not a Spy"), and attention deficit disorder ("Monkey Talk"). The group is rounded out by Jerome Harris, whose strong-willed electric bass lines stick in the ear even when he switches to guitar for a colorful solo, and percussionist-composer Bobby Previte, a star of the downtown New York scene, who contributes his compact, inventive, and terrifically melodic drumming. Friday, 11 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. Anderson also conducts a free master class in the theater at 4 PM. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Patrick Hinley, Work/Play.

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