Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls

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The Rebel Souls, led by drummer Ted Sirota, play all around Chicago all the time--just not together. The quintet is made up of several of the city's most provocative young jazzmen, including its newest addition, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and guitarist Jeff Parker, who's lent his porous tone and discrete phrasing to groups as varied as Tortoise, the New Horizons Ensemble, and the Chicago Underground Orchestra; saxist Kevin Kizer (a founding Soul) and bassist Josh Abrams complete the lineup. It speaks to Sirota's leadership that he's provided a framework flexible enough to encompass the whole bunch but strong enough to give this band its immediately recognizable sound. On their 2000 disc, Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls vs. the Forces of Evil, the group's repertoire stretched from updates on the hard-bop aesthetic to the reggae "Tubby" to tunes clearly inspired by Ornette Coleman and Stevie Wonder. Like all the best drummer-bandleaders, Sirota maintains control by setting the pace and lifting his soloists instead of grabbing the spotlight with intrusive colors or rhythms or empty improvisations; when he does take a solo, it's always well placed, standing out for its painterly musicality, not the rapidity of its flailing. Sirota pushes against musical boundaries both onstage--whether driving the early-morning shows by the Sabertooth Organ Quartet each weekend at the Green Mill or sitting in with poetry slammer Marc Smith--and offstage, where a dispute with Naim Records has led to his albums disappearing from the catalog. (They're currently available from Sirota.) Friday, March 7, 9 PM, and Saturday, March 8, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Thursday, March 13, 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

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