Tripleplay | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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One reason Ken Vandermark has so many bands is that he recognizes how changing a single musician can have a big impact on a group's sound. Tripleplay, his trio with bassist Nate McBride (who until recently lived in Boston) and drummer Curt Newton (who still does), is similar in form to two of his other bands, but each has a repertoire and approach that's defined by the strengths of its drummer. Replace Newton with the hard-hitting Hamid Drake and you've got the lumbering groove crew Spaceways Inc.; stick the restless Paal Nilssen-Love behind the kit and you've got the tumultuous, expansive FME (Free Music Ensemble). Newton's precise cymbal work and deft snare accents on Tripleplay's second album, 2004's Gambit (Clean Feed), emphasize the melodic contours of the tunes, which are composed by the other two players. His brisk, kinetic stick work brings light to the dark corners of the brooding vamp that opens McBride's "Barker Waters," which is named for the key players in the free-jazz ensemble Gold Sparkle Band; on Vandermark's "Tilted," Newton tugs gently at the sleeves of the other players, imploring them to wring every bit of feeling from its poignant theme. The scope of Vandermark's projects has tended toward the epic of late: the Vandermark 5's recently released Alchemia (Not Too) documents its residency at a Polish jazz club last year on a whopping 12 CDs. Tripleplay's music is appealingly modest in comparison; the concise performances and simple themes are well suited to a band whose sporadic gigs used to be planned around Vandermark's trips to the east coast. His heavy tour schedule means this is Tripleplay's first gig in more than a year, and the first since McBride moved to Chicago. Sun 7/17, 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.

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