cDEE ALEXANDER Blessed with pitch-perfect control, a resonant timbre, and a four-octave range, Dee Alexander strikes a sometimes precarious balance between virtuosity and restraint, whether she's rendering the Ella Fitzgerald/George Gershwin songbook (as she did at the 2004 Chicago Jazz Festival) or creating kaleidoscopic landscapes with her peers in the AACM (as she's been doing lately at the Velvet Lounge). Tonight she's paying tribute to a mentor, reedman "Light" Henry Huff, whom she credits with helping her find her "natural" voice when she was a singer and interpretive dancer in his ensemble Breath in the late 70s and early 80s. (Huff died in 1993.) Considering the variegated textures and tonalities her voice is capable of assuming, that couldn't have been easy. Alexander says this concert is the realization of a long-standing dream, so expect an even more spiritual, intense, and risk-taking performance than usual. Afterward she'll join Douglas R. Ewart & Inventions for the first of two nights at the Velvet Lounge, and on Sunday she performs on Navy Pier. See also Saturday and Sunday. a 7:30 PM, Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson, 773-287-0856, FA; 9 PM, Velvet Lounge 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15, $10 for students, 21+. --David Whiteis
CAPLETON Over the last decade and a half Capleton has transformed himself from dirty dancehall star to seriously righteous Rasta, spearheading a genre-wide shift away from digidub and toward classic roots reggae. One of Jamaica's most recognizable voices, he's capable of accelerating his deep roar to high speeds without ever losing his fierce rhythmic footing. But he can also be surprisingly tuneful. On his latest, Rise Them Up (Penitentiary), he sings soulfully over what could pass for irie jams straight out of the 70s. And even when he's doing what he does best, manically hectoring over a stuttering beat, the songs are fleshed out with guitars and horns. Jah Thunder & Moses I and the Prophecy Band open. a 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $23.50-$25, 18+. ---Peter Margasak
cDEFTONES The Deftones never really fit nu-metal's dumb-thug stereotype, but because they had a long-standing relationship with Korn and occasionally shared a stage with Limp Bizkit, they were guilty by association. Time seems to have absolved them: over the last decade they've displayed enough artistic vision to earn some cred and a fan base that extends beyond black-clad teens. The "experimental alternative rock band" description in their Wikipedia entry might be a bit generous, but then again, how many Billboard-chart acts can you name that apply the Slint school of dynamics--sweeping, textural blasts of guitar followed by soft, dreamy quiet bits--to pop metal? Their fifth album, Saturday Night Wrist (Maverick), released last year, was their first without producer Terry Date; the guitars steamroll more than they bludgeon, but vocalist Chino Moreno is all over the place as always, switching from throat-shredding screams to heaving sighs to posthardcore crooning. Dir En Grey and Fall of Troy open. a 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --Jessica Hopper
PANTHERS One of these days Brooklyn's cage-pacing Panthers (former members of the screamo band Orchid plus Turing Machine guitarist Justin Chearno) will have to decide if they want to be a neo-prog outfit with some stoner gravity, a tentacle of the brainy-metal octopus, or a Fugazi-damaged riff machine--sometimes I think they'd be happiest if they managed to write a "Black to Comm" or a "Sister Ray" and just jam out on that free-form for years. (It would please me too.) But on their third full-length, The Trick (Vice), their first release since 2004, that sort of freak-magic alchemy still eludes them. But live their sweaty exertions are always entertaining enough in their own right. Raise the Red Lantern opens and Big Business headlines. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
cKENDRA SHANK QUARTET The exquisite vocalist Kendra Shank and her friend and mentor Abbey Lincoln have both released new records this year, each comprising selections from Lincoln's body of thoroughly distinctive work. Comparing the two is instructive, as here the student outshines the master. On Abbey Sings Abbey Lincoln restyles her compositions in an Americana mode that would suit Cassandra Wilson or Norah Jones; but Shank's A Spirit Free (Challenge) uses inventive rhythm arrangements and a pilgrim's fervor to charge them with fresh urgency and cast new light on their lyrical wisdom. It's the singer, however, not those songs, that makes this rare Chicago appearance a must-see. On her four albums to date, but especially in person, Shank exudes an uncommon maturity. Her incisive phrasing lets her pierce the surface of her black-cherry voice and expose the textures within; she seems to reveal certain truths about herself and her material and to hint at more. For the first time she'll bring to Chicago her regular accompanying trio, led by pianist Frank Kimbrough, who combines a cerebral approach with an unconventional soulfulness. See also Saturday. a 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. --Neil Tesser
cSTNNNG, KILL THE VULTURES Playing out steadily since 2003, STNNNG (pronounced "stunning") have earned their reputation as an endorphin rush of a live act. But beneath the apparent anarchy, the Minneapolis quintet keep honing their bed-of-knives sound, and the material on their most recent full-length, Fake Fake (Modern Radio)--recorded in Chicago last year with Mike Lust--shows the benefits of discipline. On these ten tight tracks I can hear the Fall's crackpot articulation, U.S. Maple's taunting zigzags, and the punishing rhythmic efficiency of Big Black, all integrated into an unrelenting war cry that seems like something dazzlingly new, although really it isn't. The twists and turns come at you fast and leave you reeling, with no recovery time before you're sucked into the vortex of the next song. By the end you feel as though you've been whipped by a pagan god and loved it. --Monica Kendrick
For their second album, The Careless Flame (Jibdoor), KILL THE VULTURES have shrunk from a quartet to a duo and radically transformed their sound in the process. Once an offshoot of the good-time Twin Cities hip-hop crew Oddjobs, the act now retains only hints of its earlier style: Anatomy's production is still sample-based, but here he sets free-jazz saxophone and twangy oud over fierce, lurching beats that mock idiomatic simplicity; meanwhile MC Crescent Moon has boiled his flow down to a lavalike moan, all strung-out lamentations and rants. The result may not be what you think of as hip-hop, but its brutality sure is appealing. --Peter Margasak
The bill, from the headliner down, is Stnnng, Kill the Vultures, the rock band Red Eyed Legends, and local MC Robust. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10.
cDEE ALEXANDER With Douglas R. Ewart & Inventions; see Friday. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15, $10 students.
DAX RIGGS If former Acid Bath front man Dax Riggs cast off his most overtly rockist tendencies when he took to the freak-folk path with Deadboy & the Elephantmen, he's definitely reclaimed them on his forthcoming solo debut, We Sing of Only Blood or Love (Fat Possum). Here he teams brittle Bowie-isms with an oddly vicious strain of stadium bombast that he waves like a banner whether it's working for him at the moment or not--and often it's not. At times, though, he displays a real knack for paranoid poetry (see "Demon Tied to a Chair in My Brain") and savant-rock glee (on a Ramones-primal version of Richard and Linda Thompson's "Wall of Death"). CoCoComa and Michael Morris open. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Monica Kendrick
cKENDRA SHANK QUARTET See Friday. a 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.
SLOUGH FEG These San Franciscans, once known as the Lord Weird Slough Feg, have been fusing elements of Celtic and Scandinavian folk with traditional heavy metal since the early 90s--when it seemed everyone else was either going grunge or trying to be Pantera. On Hardworlder, their sixth full-length (due soon on Cruz Del Sur), they keep that torch burning. Their folk-tinged power-metal usually manages to sound epic as opposed to campy--the Celts they're trying to conjure are the human-sacrificing, head-hunting sort. (There is a Horslips cover, but that's just evidence of their shotput-size balls.) Slough Feg headline a bill called the Alehorn of Power Festival; Novembers Doom, Bible of the Devil, Crescent Shield, Widow, and Valkyrie open. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $14, $12 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
c A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW Remember that Remington ad where the guy liked the shaver so much he bought the company? I can't tell you how many times I played A Sunny Day in Glasgow's self-released The Sunniest Day Ever EP the night I brought it home last winter, but by the time the sky had turned robin's egg blue I'd e-mailed the band offering to release their next album, responding to an insert soliciting interested labels. (I don't actually have a label, but I do have an AmEx card.) Turns out I was beaten to the punch: Scribble Mural Comic Journal, which reprises the best tracks from that EP alongside new material, was released on the tiny Notenuf imprint in February. The quartet's sound and hook sense is strange but teasingly familiar: imagine the best aspects of every 4AD band all rolled together, then worked over by My Bloody Valentine every other song. Which isn't to say they don't transcend influences: their best moments are like summers, completely different even though they somehow feel the same. My Teenage Stride and Anon Good Nurse open. a 8 PM, South Union Arts, 1352 S. Union, southunionarts.com, $10 suggested donation. A --J. Niimi
cDEE ALEXANDER See Friday. a 1 PM, Navy Pier Beer Garden, 600 E. Grand, 312-595-7437. FA
veils Nux Vomica (Rough Trade), the second album from this New Zealand-based band, was named after a tree that's a source of both medicine and poison, and aptly the songs alternate between soothing and abrasive. Front man Finn Andrews is a second-generation postpunk-pop artist by blood--his father is Barry Andrews of XTC and Shriekback--and it's clear he draws inspiration from the postpunk masters. Sometimes he cruises cool like Lloyd Cole, other times he waxes minorly regal like Ian McCulloch, and still others he's wistful and wry, as if singing for one of his dad's old bands; when he's really worked up, he aims for a sort of Bad Seeds-like angularity. This is sleekly orchestrated lit-pop: suave, sometimes loud and gritty, but always kind of wordy. Comas and Saturday Nights open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
c FEIST The first few times I listened to The Reminder (Cherrytree/Interscope) I couldn't get over how a record widely heralded as a commercial breakthrough could sound so subtle. The production is lean and unfussy, and there's a preponderance of relatively introspective ballads, which seemed strange in light of "Mushaboom," the giddy confection that was Feist's closest thing to a hit. With time I've come to appreciate the singer's new confidence in her songwriting--half of 2004's Let It Die was covers but here she had a hand in all but one track ("Sealion," a gospel-tinged take on the traditional "Sea Lion Woman")-. Her melodies are strong, and she inhabits them in a gentle but commanding way. I've also grown to love the dynamic arrangements and the spacious-sounding way they were recorded, with the band playing all together in a single room sans headphones on most of the tracks. If Feist becomes a big star, I hope she keeps making the kind of original, personal music she's made here. Grizzly Bear opens. a 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --Peter Margasak
cIN THE COUNTRY These Norwegians usually get classified as jazz, but on their excellent second album, Losing Stones, Collecting Bones (Rune Grammofon), it's clear they're not concerned with fitting in to any particular category. Pianist Morten Qvenlid (one half of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra) writes gorgeous poppy melodies, spreading out notes in the style of one of his primary influences, Paul Bley, while bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pal Hausken back him up with steady, slow-moving grooves. The parts are generally fixed, adhering to a loose verse-chorus structure, but all three find room to improvise: Qvenlid delivers quite a few emotionally wrenching solos and Arntzen and Hausken subtly tweak their patterns with every pass. Swedish singer Stefan Sundstrom makes a cameo on "Everyone Live Their Life," belting out vocals befitting a rock ballad, while New York guitarist Marc Ribot turns the meditative "Torch-Fishing" into a devastating slow burner. In the Country are pretty faithful to the recorded versions of their songs in concert, but no matter how familiar you are with the material, you'll always discover something new. The Late Severa Wires headline and Mykel Boyd opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --Peter Margasak
cJuilliard string quartet Founded in 1946, the Juilliard String Quartet rose to international prominence following its 1948 American premiere of the complete cycle of Bartok's six string quartets. In its multiple incarnations since, the quartet has premiered the works of more than 60 American composers, championing the music of Elliott Carter, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbitt; it rescued the quartets of Schoenberg from near obscurity and gave the first U.S. performance of Shostakovich's String Quartet no. 15, included on a 2006 recording that shows the current group's wide-ranging sonic capabilities. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the quartet will present the Bartok cycle in two concerts this week. Tonight's program features the dark, highly chromatic First Quartet, the aggressive Third, and the Fifth--mature Bartok, modal and rhythmically driven, with a scherzo in the Bulgarian style. Tomorrow it's the Second, the exhilarating Fourth, and the hauntingly sad Sixth Quartet, the last work Bartok composed in his native Hungary. See also Wednesday. a 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$40.--Barbara Yaross
16 BITCH PILE-UP The three ladies in 16 Bitch Pile-Up thrash like they've found their higher calling. Their steady spray of noise--overprocessed gibbering, feedback shrieking like a car being sawed in half--seems to gather in black-hole-dense clumps that then loom and recede like an immense pendulum. Though every single sound they make is somewhere between grating and horrifying, the total is so relentless that ultimately it's more anesthetic than painful--like some superviolent movie you put on just so you can fall asleep. 16 Bitch Pile-Up headlines, Burrow plays second, and Magic Is Kuntmaster opens. a 9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, 312-493-3657, $5 suggested donation. A --Liz Armstrong
cjuilliard string quartet See Tuesday. a 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$40.
TCHEKA See Thursday. a 12:30 PM, Borders, 150 N. State, 312-606-0750. F A
c melt-banana This 15-year-old Japanese institution helped put Chicago's Skin Graft label on the map-- from the other side of the world and despite the fact they were weird even by Skin Graft standards--winning over even the most militant art-noise haters thanks to the helium-voiced Yasuko, who seemed capable of bridging any cultural gap by simply singing louder and faster. Since 2003's Cell-Scape (the band's fifth studio album, on their own label, A-Zap), some fans have been muttering about the band "selling out" or "going pop"--which must be understood in relative terms--and Bambi's Dilemma, their latest, isn't going to quiet them. By Melt-Banana standards some of the tracks are downright leisurely, plus there are choruses you can sing and tunes you can hum. Yasuko's still infectiously gleeful, but guitarist Agata-, known for his onslaught of effects, at times sounds like R2-D2 puking up Night Train in the gutter. As always, in the live setting Melt-Banana is guaranteed raucous and abrasive fun. Cheer-Accident, Locks, and Rabid Rabbit open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
TCHEKA This Cape Verdean attracted attention as a songwriter a few years ago, when the singer Lura recorded a few of his tunes for her album Di Korpu Ku Alma. But with the international release of his second solo record, Nu Monda (Times Square), it's plain that Tcheka is a gifted performer as well. On guitar, he updates the polyrhythms of the batuque--a kinetic traditional style once performed only by women--and pairs them with fluid, jazzy runs, while his gorgeous singing adds a welcome touch of rasp to the pretty melodies. Tcheka's music bears little resemblance to the melancholy mornas of Cape Verdean grande dame Cesaria Evora (who's playing at Ravinia Sunday): it's springy and energetic, and a strong pop sensibility ripples through the stripped-down arrangements. His appearances this week are his first in Chicago; he'll play with a quartet. See also Wednesday. a 8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15. --Peter Margasak