Reuben Wilson | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Reuben Wilson


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Organist Reuben Wilson, though not as well-known as Hammond B-3 masters like Jimmy Smith or Jack McDuff, enjoyed last decade's acid-jazz craze at least as much as his more famous peers. His early recordings were sampled by hip-hop artists like Nas and a Tribe Called Quest, and he collaborated in the flesh with Guru's Jazzmatazz. In 1998 he recorded two new albums, his first outings as a leader in more than two decades: Down With It (Cannonball) and Organ Donor (Jazzateria). The latter is the better, but both are somewhat sterile. The material's not the problem: from the start of his recorded career Wilson has tried to reach beyond the predictable greasy soul of his idiom by dabbling in pop material--his 1969 classic Love Bug (Blue Note) featured spirited romps through crossover hits like "I Say a Little Prayer" and "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," and on the recent records he successfully tackled Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" and "Sexual Healing." But plastic-sounding synthesizers, wind chimes, smooth-jazz sax tooting, out-of-place electric bass, and air-brushed overproduction leave little room for the grit of his old stuff. Live, though, Wilson is still a crowd pleaser, milking bluesy phrasing, ecstatic repetition, and soulful glides for all they're worth--and for his turn in Lampo Productions' third annual "Heroes of the Hammond" series, he'll be matched up with guitarist George Freeman and drummer Robert Shy, assuring a night of funky, scrappy soul jazz. Saturday, 11 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 773-549-5549.

Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Petra.

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