ROB REDDY'S QUTTAH
New York alto and soprano saxist Rob Reddy--a veteran of groups fronted by drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and bassist Reggie Workman--leads no less than five different ensembles of his own, ranging from a bass-heavy octet to the aptly named Horn Choir. Quttah, the one he brings to town this week, puts the emphasis on strings, featuring guitarist and sitarist Jef Lee Johnson, violinist and mandolinist Charles Burnham, cellist Rufus Cappadocia, and bassist Dom Richards as well as hand percussionist Hearn Gadbois. I haven't heard all of Reddy's projects, but comparing last year's Songs That You Can Trust, by his three-horn band Honor System, to Quttah's recent debut, However Humble (both albums are on Koch Jazz), suggests that he doesn't necessarily write different kinds of melodic material for each group. He's something of an American synthesist: dark shadings of Ellington and Mingus can be heard in his elegant, soulful ensemble writing, which is filled with dense counterpoint and calmly unfolding vistas, but the music's most obvious point of reference is the 90s work of alto saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill, whose groups Very Very Circus and Make a Move were highly efficient models of seamless style blending and meticulous group interplay. Soul, gospel, blues, and (in Gadbois's dumbek playing) a tinge of Middle Eastern lyricism thread the tunes on However Humble, where Reddy's compositions are never just vehicles for his own blowing: his careful arrangements often call for the strings to join him on the front line, and while there's plenty of extended soloing, it's usually closely connected to the machinations of the group, from which it draws a delicious harmonic tension. This is the group's Chicago debut. Monday, November 13, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.