Sonido Isleno | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Sonido Isleno

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When I was growing up on Long Island, every town had at least one rock band called the Long Island Sound. In 1996 guitarist and scholar Benjamin Lapidus, who still lives there, founded Sonido Isleno ("Island Sound"), twisting the pun to reflect his interest in Caribbean music. Lapidus focuses on the tres, a small Cuban guitar with three sets of doubled strings; because each pair is tuned to the same note, the instrument has a reduced range, but the doubled strings give it a quavery, multidimensional sound, a bit like a mandolin's. The tres lends his band's take on Latin jazz a clean, rural affect that contrasts especially well with the modern tunes in its repertoire. The title of Sonido Isleno's latest, Blue Tres (Tresero), deliberately echoes that of the classic Coltrane album Blue Train, and one song grafts a favorite harmonic sequence of Trane's onto rhythms characteristic of folkloric Cuban styles like changui and nengon, both early relatives of son. Lapidus also includes several Jewish liturgical melodies--not all that surprising given his heritage, but surprisingly effective in execution--which in this context come across as nods to the cultural legacy of the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. Bassist Francisco Javier Cotto and percussionist Felix Sanabria, the heart of Sonido Isleno, have made the trip with Lapidus; rounding out the band's lineup here are two locals, drummer Ruben Alvarez and reedist Steve Eisen, who also happen to rank among the country's best Latin-jazz players. Friday 11/5, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. See also Saturday.

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