Smoker-Short Annual Quintet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Smoker-Short Annual Quintet


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Perhaps Chicago drummer, bandleader, and composer Damon Short should title his next album "Short Shrift": too often that's exactly the treatment his work has received. The smartly textured, even delicate hybrid of improvisation and composition Short has cultivated for the last 20 years has flowered in the 90s in the humid atmosphere of clubs like the Empty Bottle, HotHouse, and the Velvet Lounge. Yet his inventive and nourishing take on that style--postfreedom, avant-garde, "new progressive," or whatever you want to call it--doesn't have an appreciably larger audience now than it did a decade ago, which accounts for his relatively rare appearances on local stages. This particular band lives up to its name, coalescing about once a year during trumpeter Paul Smoker's visits from Rochester, New York. Smoker, among the most widely respected of new-music veterans, lobs marvelously convoluted phrases from the bandstand like balls of flame; only a handful of modern trumpeters can match his range, stamina, and apparently fireproof embouchure. His solos have a surprisingly cogent, almost classical architecture, and his balance of command and abandon cleaves beautifully to the combination of freedom and structure in Short's compositions. The rest of the quintet comprises Short regulars: Ryan Shultz plays his knotty but lyrical solos on the bass trumpet, pitched in a trombone's range, to contrast with Smoker's horn; saxist Chuck Burdelik, an original member of Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble, uses a brilliant, icy tone for his exacting improvisations; and bassist Larry Kohut's sharp ear for harmonic shifts helps stitch the whole band together. This concert will feature a slew of new pieces written specifically for the occasion by the coleaders. Thursday, July 8, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER

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

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