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Friday 1

AMY CORREIA New York singer-songwriter Amy Correia brought in a lot of musicians and instruments to record her second album, Lakeville (Nettwerk); a handful of tracks feature cello, trombone, and pedal steel, and Correia herself plays piano and ukulele in addition to acoustic guitar. But what impresses me most about the album is that the songs don't wind up sounding overproduced--they come off as minimalist country blues despite all the ornamentation, and Correia's sultry but introverted vocals suggest the maverick confidence of Rickie Lee Jones or Laura Nyro. Josh Rouse headlines. 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $17.50, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

JOHN ELLIS QUARTET Saxophonist John Ellis grew up in rural North Carolina, where he learned folk tunes from his grandparents, and spent three years playing in New Orleans. On his new album, One Foot in the Swamp (Hyena), he merges those southern roots with the sound of New York's jazz vanguard. Ellis, who's best known as a member of Charlie Hunter's funky trio, has said that the absence of acoustic piano on the disc (Aaron Goldberg sticks to Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards) was a conscious choice because the piano "suggests 'jazz' in a way I wasn't interested in for this record." Instead, Ellis slithers from funky second-line rhythms ("Happy") to high-velocity postbop ("Work in Progress") to traditionals ("Michael Finnegan," "Sippin' Cider") and makes the disparate repertoire sound of a piece. He gets significant help from trumpeter Nicholas Payton (who often treats his lines with electronic effects), guitarist John Scofield, chromatic harmonica player Gregoire Maret, and the nimble New Orleans rhythm section of drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Roland Guerin. And if you ask me, their mix of precise ensemble playing and loose-limbed soloing is certainly jazz. For these dates he's joined by pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Brandon Owens, and drummer Derrek Phillips. See also Saturday. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10. --Peter Margasak

MERLE HAGGARD Hag's much ballyhooed return to Capitol Records, where he recorded most of his classic work, isn't a return to his classic country sound. On Unforgettable, released last year, he applies his gentle, wonderfully weathered crooning to pop standards like the title track, "As Time Goes By," "Pennies From Heaven," and "I Can't Get Started." In the past Haggard has recorded album-length tributes to country legends Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers, and he sounds just as comfortable dipping into the Great American Songbook, much as Willie Nelson did on his seminal 1978 album Stardust. The spare arrangements are tastefully gilded by strings and the occasional saxophone, but Haggard's vocals are always the focus; on this tour with headliner Bob Dylan, however, he's sure to draw mostly from his own songbook, which is significant itself. Amos Lee opens. See also Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, sold out (tickets still available at press time for Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). --Peter Margasak

Saturday 2

JOHN ELLIS QUARTET See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10.

MERLE HAGGARD See Friday. Bob Dylan headlines; Amos Lee opens. 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, sold out.

HEAVENLY STATES This Bay Area ensemble put out a fairly engrossing self-titled debut on Future Farmer back in 2003, but the latest news about the group isn't what it's playing--it's where. Their Web site has a detailed, moving, and slightly harrowing account of their January trip to Libya; they were initially forbidden to play, but were eventually able to put together a gig in the basement of the British consulate. I have to wonder what the Libyans made of their dreamy, Sonic-Youth-on-ludes swirling; Lord knows we're pretty jaded about the stuff over here. Helen Stellar headlines; Airiel opens. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $8. --Monica Kendrick

JULIETA VENEGAS When I first heard Si (BMG U.S. Latin), the third album by Mexican singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas, I dismissed it as a shallow pop throwaway. Her first two records were dark and intense, putting a Latin cast on the attitude of strong female rockers like P.J. Harvey and Fiona Apple. Next to them Si sounded like a trifle. But a few weeks ago, I tried listening to it on its own terms and it won me over. It's a light and straightforward record, filled with positive romantic songs, but it's a damn good one. Though I'm usually turned off by new-wave production, the electronics that gild Venegas's frothy melodies fit the music's tone perfectly, and she navigates sunny lyrical terrain with the same confidence and verve as she does her gloomier stuff. Her shift toward pop has increased her popularity, but I don't believe she's chasing fame so much as trying something different. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $36 in advance, $41 day of show, 18+. --Peter Margasak

Sunday 3

MERLE HAGGARD See Friday. Bob Dylan headlines; Amos Lee opens. 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, $29.50-$69.50.

Monday 4

XZIBIT Flush from his gig hosting MTV's Pimp My Ride, veteran west coast MC Xzibit is clearly looking for comparable success in his hip-hop career: his gruff delivery remains unchanged on last year's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Columbia), but the tracks, mostly produced by unknowns, glisten with ambition. Unfortunately, only Timbaland's sole contribution, the click-clackin' "Hey Now (Mean Muggin)," and the old-school gangsta stomper "Criminal Set" are really on the money. There are some surprisingly political zingers on the album, though: the opening "State of the Union" manipulates Dubya's anti-Saddam rhetoric into an indictment of Bush himself, and on "Cold World" Xzibit empathizes with an Iraqi youth who's defenseless against "88,000 tons of missiles and bombs." Ras Kass and Strong Arm Steady, both of whom appear on Weapons of Mass Destruction, open. 7:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $21 in advance, $22.50 at the door. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Tuesday 5

MERLE HAGGARD See Friday. Bob Dylan headlines; Amos Lee opens. 7 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, $29.50-$69.50.

BILL MALLONEE The underrated Vigilantes of Love will never be more than a footnote in the musical annals of Athens, Georgia, but the solo albums put out by former front man Bill Mallonee serve as a sort of Reader's Digest condensed version of the history of that scene. On last year's Dear Life (Fundamental), he took the Byrdsy peals, folksy tales, and subtle Neil Young rip-offs that defined the Athens sound in the 80s and compressed them into a bundle of intimate, novelistic, and vaguely leftist songs. Ethan Kaulus opens. a 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Monica Kendrick

K. SRIDHAR & ANIL DATAR Much like fellow sarod master Rajeev Taranath, who played here last week, K. Sridhar works in a broad range of styles and began his musical training early. At five he began studying with Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, an expert in dhrupad, a northern Indian classical song form; at 12 he became the youngest member of Ravi Shankar's orchestral group. Unlike most Indian classical musicians, Sridhar is fluent in both the austere Carnatic tradition of southern India and the more common and ornate Hindustani style of the north. He's also open to multicultural collaborations--see The Arab Path to India (Womad Select), his 1996 album with Palestinian oud player Adel Salameh--but for this concert he'll stick to Hindustani music. Longtime collaborator Anil Datar accompanies him on tabla; they favor more meditative explorations over extroverted ragas. 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Wednesday 6

MERLE HAGGARD See Friday. Bob Dylan headlines; Amos Lee opens. 7 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-902-1500, $29.50-$69.50.

Thursday 7

CYRO BAPTISTA & BEAT THE DONKEY This pomo dance band, led by master percussionist Cyro Baptista, mixes and matches regional Brazilian styles with bits of jazz, reggae, funk, drum 'n' bass, hard rock, and even gamelan music--and its brand-new second album, Beat the Donkey Beat (Out of My Mind Music), captures the wildness of its live shows even better than the debut. Crazed, kinetic percussion changes direction almost constantly under buoyant sing-along melodies by a slew of vocalists and instrumentalists, among them multiculti saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum. I'm not a fan of Beat the Donkey's kitschy, theatrical side--they're sometimes so aggressively high-spirited they sound cut out for a PBS kid's show, and at their most recent Chicago gig, band members ranged around the room and mimed volleying an invisible ball, using their pandeiros like tennis rackets. But that goofy stuff is probably just an unavoidable side effect of the group's go-for-broke onstage energy. 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15. --Peter Margasak

LATEEF THE TRUTH SPEAKER By staying true to its roots--playful experimentation and hyperactive rhyming--the Bay Area label Quannum Projects has consistently produced some of the country's finest independent hip-hop. Two members of the Quannum crew--Blackalicious producer Chief Xcel and Lateef the Truth Speaker, who's half of the duo Latyrx--recently collaborated under the name Maroons, releasing Ambush in October. The album's at its best during giddy, boisterous songs full of MC chest-thumping, but I found myself skipping over the didactic yawners (call me jaded, but I'm tired of hearing hip-hop cliches about what's wrong with the world, even if they're still true). Lateef packs syllables into his singsongy flow with insane breath control, but he can't touch headliner (and Blackalicious MC) Gift of Gab, whose inimitable, serpentine delivery sounds like one endless exhalation. Diverse opens. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $13 in advance, $15 at the door, 18+. --Kabir Hamid

PAXSELIN QUARTET This acoustic ensemble from Portland, Oregon, gracefully covers much of the avant-jazz spectrum on its debut CD, A Guide to Desolation Wilderness (SHRecords), which features klezmer-derived melodies, some swinging, funky grooves, and a confident exploration of pulse-free counterpoint. The reedists--Chad Hensel on clarinet and Mary-Sue Tobin on soprano and alto saxes--fluently articulate the unison passages of the tunes, which flow easily into exuberant, well-organized solos. On the album, bassist Bill Athens and drummer Steve Pancerev filled out the group--its awkward moniker comes from combining parts of the musicians' last names--but Pancerev has since left. New stickman Ken Ollis will play at this show, the quartet's first in Chicago. The Mike Allemana Quartet opens. The Paxselin Quartet also performs Saturday 4/9, 9:30 PM, at a private residence at 3829 N. Broadway, www.dbayne.com, and Sunday 4/10, 10 PM, at Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, with the Nick Broste Quintet opening. 9:30 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland, 773-862-3616, $5-$10 donation. --Bill Meyer

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