Tim Mulvenna | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tim Mulvenna


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The unaccompanied drum recital was a staple of 70s free music. Andrew Cyrille was first to go on record by himself, with What About? (BYG) in 1969, and he and fellow explorers like Milford Graves and Han Bennink turned the seemingly limited setting into a boundless format, expanding the kit with ancillary percussion and transforming the role of the jazz drummer from servant to master. Sadly, solo drum performances are rare as hen's teeth these days, which makes this lone venture by Tim Mulvenna, one of Chicago's most original new skinsmen, that much more exciting. Mulvenna has been on the local straight-jazz circuit for some time, but he's flourished in the last few years within the city's vanguard jazz scene. Subtle and at times delicate, with impeccable taste and timing, Mulvenna is also extremely versatile. I've heard him navigate hairpin turns and drive trash-rock backbeats in the Vandermark 5, engage in light-touch free exchanges with pianist Georg GrŠwe in GrŠwe and Ken Vandermark's large ensemble, slip in and out of straight time with bassist Kent Kessler in Steam, and kick into a spacious, swaggering blues rhythm on Eric Dolphy's "245" with the Jeb Bishop Trio. Last year he successfully crossed sticks with drum great Robert Barry in a challenging trio with Vandermark, and he seems totally at home behind the full horn section of Mars Williams's Sun Ra Project, playing some of the same charts Barry played with Ra in the 50s. He even changes drum sets with almost every gig, mixing and matching the ideal pieces for the job from an impressive collection. And while he rarely has a chance to demonstrate it, he's reputedly an accomplished hand percussionist, a side of his work he'll probably turn to in this solo show. For the second set, Mulvenna will be joined by Kessler, bassoonist Tim McLoraine, and oboist Robbie Hunsinger. Thursday, January 22, 9 PM, Xoinx Tea Room, 2933 N. Lincoln; 773-665-1336. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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