MAXWELL Put on Maxwell's long-awaited BLACKsummers'night (Columbia) and the first thing you'll feel is relief: authentic, masterful R & B is at hand, not synthetic trifling bullshit. Then after the relief comes fear: this record might get you pregnant. All that baby-forgive-me, let-me-hold-you-girl, imma-do-it-to-you, sung in the tenderest falsetto this side of D'Angelo's Voodoo—it's the kind of thing that gets a girl in trouble. The music on BLACKsummers'night is more aggro than what most people think of as neosoul, balancing post-Radiohead rock dynamics with old-school Stax touches like warm horn lines and little pulses of Hammond organ; there is really no better setting for Maxwell's voice. It's been eight years since his previous album, but he's dropped another modern classic, and the even better news is that it's the first of a trilogy—he plans to release the remaining chapters in 2010 and '11. Common and Chrisette Michele open. 7:30 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison, 877-598-8703, $20-$150. —Jessica Hopper
MIGUEL ZENON A few years ago New York jazz saxophonist Miguel Zenon began looking to his native Puerto Rico for inspiration. His 2005 album Jibaro is informed by the music of the island's back-country troubadours, especially the traditional ten-line stanza or decima, but the connections are mostly abstract—though he might echo rhyme structures with patterns of phrases or favor chords built on fifths, he borrowed only snatches of melody from the songs themselves. His superb new Esta Plena (Marsalis Music), on the other hand, has a much clearer and deeper connection to Puerto Rican music. Plena, a folk form that once had such topical lyrics it could serve as a kind of musical newspaper, is rooted in the brisk rhythms of the pandero, a tambourine-like hand drum that traditionally comes in three sizes. Over the past century those rhythms have evolved along many paths—they often turn up in New York salsa—but Zenon chose three old-school pleneros, including Hector "Tito" Matos (a member of the great Los Pleneros de la 21 who also leads his own forward-looking group, Viento de Agua), to sing and drum on his album. He wrote lyrics for half the tunes, and his compositions combine the pleneros' strict four-beat groove with melodic cells of three or nine beats (a reference to the number of panderos) from his crack quartet, which also includes pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole. The jazz players provide a precise, full-blooded attack, the pleneros provide a heartbeat, and in the productive tension between those two pulses lies the album's brilliance. Zenon's quartet will be joined here by Matos to perform material from Esta Plena. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak
DAVID BOWLIN Italian composer Luigi Nono is best known for serialist orchestral compositions with explicitly leftist messages, but late in his life—he died in 1990—he often worked instead with a bare minimum of materials. Few pieces illustrate this development better than La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura (1989), a galvanizing hour-long piece for solo violin and eight-channel tape. To create the tape Nono spent several days with violinist Gidon Kremer, recording and in some cases electronically processing a library of sounds and phrases: two channels are dense harmonic material, two are untreated violin, mostly in single notes and fifths, two are studio noises like squeaking chairs and conversation, and two are fierce melodic passages filled with long, whistling high notes, rapid tremolos, and vigorous bow strikes. The piece encourages interaction between the "sound projector" controlling the tape and the violin soloist, who roams among six to ten music stands, six of which hold the six parts of the score. The soloist can pause to interpret between sections, influencing the piece's flow, while the projector determines which of the channels will play and at what volume (though all eight are never to sound at once). Given the leeway granted to the musicians, the piece can vary widely—I've heard a couple very different versions—but in every case the live violin navigating both Nono's austere, harrowing score and the ever-changing taped sounds is hair-raisingly tense and surprisingly elegant. Here the soloist is David Bowlin, a founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, and the projector is his ICE colleague Joshua Rubin. Bowlin will also perform Luciano Berio's Sequenza VIII for solo violin (1976) and excerpts from Salvatore Sciarrino's 6 Capricci (1976), which is dedicated to Nono. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S. Michigan, 312-663-5554, $10. —Peter Margasak
COATHANGERS The Coathangers have built a reputation on their live shows: the all-female Atlanta quartet throws down rabid, sugar-high garage punk so furious and frenetic that even the staunchest rock chauvinist will admit they're "pretty good" without adding "for a bunch of girls." Their recent full-length, Scramble (Suicide Squeeze), preserves a fair amount of that onstage crackle in its fun and funny buzz-saw pop—most clearly in "Stop Stomp Stompin'," a rant at a lead-footed upstairs neighbor, and "Getting' Mad and Pumpin' Iron," a revenge fantasy that sounds like both sides of the Bikini Kill/Huggy Bear split playing at the same time. But for the majority of the album the Coathangers work skeletal, almost experimental junk-shop arrangements that remind me of the Raincoats without actually sounding much like them. Japandroids headline. 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, sold out. —Miles Raymer
GOJIRA It might seem redundant for a death-metal band to make an album about death, but Gojira don't just splash around in hellfire and nihilism: the French quartet's vision of the apocalypse is environmentalism's worst-case scenario, an End of Days that doesn't require armies of demons or a pissed-off God. Their current record, last year's widely acclaimed The Way of All Flesh (Prosthetic), concerns itself with the world's inborn cycles of renewal and destruction—and with how humans have doomed both the planet and themselves by behaving as though they were exceptions to those cycles. "Toxic Garbage Island" and "Wolf Down the Earth" in particular sound like eloquent and furious eruptions from the avenging id of Al Gore. The Way of All Flesh has been Gojira's breakthrough album in the States: they had their first U.S. headlining tour last spring, and this time they're spending much of their trip supporting Metallica. It's a breakthrough artistically as well—their take on the usual chug 'n' thrash is percussive and progressive, brutal and melodic, streamlined as a cyborg and unpredictable as nature's wrath. Burst and Zoroaster open. 7 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179 or 312-559-1212, $13. —Monica Kendrick
- Gabrielle Duplantier
MURDER CITY DEVILS When I saw the Murder City Devils on the Louisville stop of their farewell tour in 2001, front man Spencer Moody had apparently discovered an enchanted portal to a realm where a mere mortal can get as blasted as ten men. The band swung like a wrecking ball of evil, whiskey-reeking rock 'n' roll, and Moody embodied its dissipated black heart, his slovenly, guttural vocals often rendered incomprehensible by what looked like attempts to swallow the mike. As soon as they broke into "Rum to Whiskey," the already wound-up audience lost its shit, never to find it again—the rest of the night is a ragged blur. The Murder City Devils were teetering on the cusp of greatness after the release of their classic 2000 album In Name and Blood (Sub Pop), and their sudden breakup—catalyzed by the departure of keyboardist and organist Leslie Hardy—did for their legacy what death did for James Dean's. Bassist Derek Fudesco moved on to Pretty Girls Make Graves and drummer Coady Willis now plays in Big Business, but the original six-piece lineup has been reuniting intermittently since 2006, mostly for big blowouts like Coachella and Sasquatch. This show's part of Riot Fest, which runs through Sunday; if the Devils can muster a set that even comes close to the one I saw in '01, it'll be the high point of the whole thing. The Dead Milkmen, Apocalypse Hoboken, the Riverboat Gamblers, and the Frankl Project open. 5:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 866-468-3401 or riotfest.org, $25. —Kevin Warwick
YUGANAUT The Chicago Calling Arts Festival organizes artistic collaborations that cross not only disciplinary but also geographical boundaries, and this show does both: local visual artist Selina Trepp will mix videos into an improvised performance by transcontinental trio Yuganaut. Neither Trepp nor the members of Yuganaut, who live in Michigan, California, and New York, are strangers to this sort of thing. Trepp often appears with musicians like Jeff Parker and John Herndon at Rodan; Yuganaut sometimes play along to video graphic scores, which their audience can also see. Bassist and tuba player Tom Abbs has worked with painters and video artists, and in one memorable solo concert I saw him give here, he used colored oils and an overhead projector to create his own visuals. Yuganaut keyboardist Steve Rush brings together dance and a myriad of musical genres in his work as a professor at the University of Michigan, and drummer, cornetist, and mandolin player Geoff Mann (son of jazz flutist Herbie) writes soundtracks when he's not on the road. In keeping with their diverse instrumentation, Yuganaut incorporate quasi-African percussion fantasias, postbop steeplechases, free-form freak-outs, and gospel interludes into their music—and they're never better than when Rush channels Sun Ra with his Moog. 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. —Bill Meyer
MIGUEL ZENON See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.
CALIFONE In his old band Red Red Meat, Califone mastermind Tim Rutili didn't just go off the rails; he flung himself off, deliberately sabotaging a good thing in order to create something great. At the time it wasn't always clear what the idea was, and not every risk paid off, but this spring's deluxe reissue of Bunny Gets Paid (Sub Pop) reaffirmed that Rutili and company were smart to trust their wild instincts—the same instincts that shape the brilliant sound they still create as Califone. The brand-new All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans) is the best rock album I've heard this year, the work of a mature and masterful group. The unforgettable melodies, sometimes rickety, sometimes tender, unfold through gloriously untidy arrangements that develop so organically they seem improvised, and the band's spaced-out, broke-down postblues sound world is undeniably all their own. The music teems with such rich detail that every listen reveals something new—the way the opening track, "Giving Away the Bride," builds from a phalanx of grimy, off-kilter percussion into almost plaintive piano-driven lyricism, or the way fat droplets of marimba dot the long tones of guitar feedback and melodica on the devastatingly beautiful "Krill"—but there's almost no point trying to parse the sounds separately from the songs, as neither would make sense without the other. For these special museum shows, Califone will play a half-hour set and then provide a live soundtrack to the premiere of Rutili's first feature film, also called All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. See also Sunday. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, sold out. —Peter Margasak
CHRISTINA COURTIN On Christina Courtin's recent self-titled debut for Nonesuch, you'd be hard-pressed to hear much trace of her classical pedigree—though she studied violin at Juilliard and has worked with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Dawn Upshaw, she sings idiosyncratic pop songs that seem to take Joni Mitchell's music as a point of departure. Courtin relishes melodic variation, and some of her tunes sound through-composed; instead of returning to the same melodic shape for each verse, she explores new nooks and crannies every time. The inventive, multifarious arrangements, assembled with the help of guitarist Ryan Scott and jazz bassist Greg Cohen, help her avoid repeating herself—there's a dose of folk-pop here, some Tin Pan Alley there, and a little walking jazz around the corner. Unfortunately when she aims for Billie Holiday's lilting phrasing she gets knotted up and a little breathless, and when she tries to sound emphatic she just ends up strident. She's got no shortage of good ideas, but she needs to train her too-small voice to cooperate. Elizabeth & the Catapult headline; Courtin, Will Phalen & the Stereo Addicts, and Farewell Milwaukee open. 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Peter Margasak
TELEFON TEL AVIV When I interviewed Charlie Cooper and Joshua Eustis in January, they were practically vibrating with excitement over their lushly gothic new album, Immolate Yourself, which was about to come out on Ellen Allien's BPitch Control label. But that celebratory mood didn't last long—two days after the record hit shelves, Cooper was found dead of what's since been ruled an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. "For a month after, I wasn't sure if I was going to do it anymore," Eustis says. "And then I decided that the best way to treat his last work was to tour." He's hit the road for a month of shows across the country, joined by frequent collaborator Fredo Nogueira, who also plays with tourmates the Race; their trip ends tonight with Telefon Tel Aviv's first and possibly only Chicago set sans Cooper. After that, according to Eustis, the group's future is uncertain. The Race opens. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Miles Raymer
ANNA TERNHEIM Swedish singer Anna Ternheim has an exquisitely clear voice that shapes her elegant melodies with precision and grace, but in the past her pretty, breathy pop songs have sometimes sounded a bit soggy and lifeless. For her excellent new album, Leaving on a Mayday (Verve Forecast), she tapped producer Bjorn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn and John) to give them a solid backbone and some lean muscle. Though the grooves are still unobtrusive—just carefully mapped tom beats and a percussive bass pattern on "Damaged Ones," for instance—they're sharper now, and the arrangements are downright ingenious. Yttling reinforces the album's various strains of melancholy romanticism, daubing "My Heart Still Beats for You" with string chords and ornamenting "Summer Rain" with harmony vocals and the strumming of a lone acoustic guitar. Loney Dear headlines; Asobi Seksu and Ternheim open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. —Peter Margasak
MIGUEL ZENON See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.
CALIFONE See Saturday. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, sold out.
- James Loveday
- Fresh & Onlys
FRESH & ONLYS It must be an exciting time to be in a band in the Bay Area. When you're surrounded by everything from the glorious mystical drone of Wooden Shjips to the anthemic party punk of Personal & the Pizzas, all you must need to get inspired is a set of ears. Nobody better embodies this happy state of affairs than San Francisco five-piece the Fresh & Onlys, who absorb the city's wild diversity of fantastic sounds and then beam them through a prism of hook-laden pop psych—an approach that's caught the ears of hot-streaking labels like Woodsist and HoZac. In 2009 they've released two LPs, an EP, a cassette, and a handful of singles—including "Laughter Is Contagious" b/w "Horrible Door" on brand-new Chicago imprint Trouble in Mind—with more on the way. And this incredible flood of collaborative creativity hasn't come at the expense of craftsmanship: with each listen the solid song structures, giddy male-female vocal harmonies, and carefully placed lead-guitar notes seem more and more perfect and inevitable. Box Elders headline. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Brian Costello
SIAN ALICE GROUP On its debut this British combo seemed to be restlessly switching between two channels: between songs, which were either moody, introspective art-pop (a la early Broadcast or Pram) or ethereal psych-folk, they indulged in experimental instrumental interludes. But on the dazzling new Troubled, Shaken Etc. (The Social Registry) the Sian Alice Group reconciles those impulses. Now the experimentation happens within the songs, and Sian Ahern's honeyed, hypnotizing voice wraps it all up together like a long golden thread—post-Reich minimalism, numb electronica, textural guitar and marimba, woozy piano ballads, folk-guitar licks, and more. El Jesus De Magico and Unlucky Atlas open. 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $3. —Peter Margasak
MIGUEL ZENON See Thursday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.
ORQUESTRA DE SAO PAULO WITH EVELYN GLENNIE "In some respects my hearing is superior to the average nonimpaired person. I simply hear in a different way." "No one really understands how I do what I do. Please enjoy the music and forget the rest." "If the audience is instead only wondering how a deaf musician can play percussion then I have failed as a musician." In the essays on hearing and disability from her Web site, Evelyn Glennie is as defiant in discussing her deafness as she's been in overcoming it. Having inspired repertoire from many important composers, she's forged a solo career that redefines the possibilities for classical percussionists. Glennie joins Orquestra de Sao Paulo—an ensemble that has really blossomed in the past decade—on its U.S. tour under 29-year-old conductor Kazem Abdullah. Together they perform one of Glennie's signature pieces, James MacMillan's Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which pulls a 15th-century French Advent plainsong into the late 20th century; in its striking middle section, marimba darts above the serene orchestral refrain. Abdullah, whose career has gotten a push from his successful Met debut in January, leads the orchestra in two works by Brazilian composers: Alberto Nepomuceno's genial "O Garatuja" and Heitor Villa-Lobos's "Bachianas Brasileiras no. 4," from his popular series of nine that funnels Brazilian ethnic music through Bach. The program concludes with Bartok's jarring Suite From The Miraculous Mandarin. On Tuesday, October 13, Glennie will answer questions following a 5:30 PM screening of the documentary Touch the Sound at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago. 7:30 PM, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, $25-$55. —Steve Langendorf
KURT VILE It's easy to hate a musician like Kurt Vile: he's young and painfully hip, and every tastemaking label worth blogging about seems eager to line up around the block to fellate him. He's such a perfect target, in fact, that when you turn out to like him it's a bit of a letdown. He's given his new album, Childish Prodigy (Matador), a title that wraps his apparently healthy self-regard in the thinnest layer of irony—something that by rights should just make him more hateable—but it's honestly one of the most pleasurable singer-songwriter records of the year. Vile works hard to project the persona of a romantic urban wastrel poet—something hundreds of young men continue to strive after, even though Richard Hell perfected it a couple of decades ago—and he does a better job than the vast majority of his fellows, setting his dreamy odes to fucked-up friends, fucked-up loves, and generally being fucked up to scratchy, beat-up tunes that make up for a shortage of memorable melodies with a Suicide-by-way-of-Springsteen moodiness. Love of Everything, Plastic Crimewave (playing solo), and Ken Camden open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8 (limited $5 tickets). —Miles Raymer