Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on June 5, 2017 · 4-4
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 4-4

Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Monday, June 5, 2017
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4 Chicago Tribune ArtsEntertainment Section 4 Monday, June 5, 2017 IN PERFORMANCE Execution a problem in Mingus tribute By Howard Reich Chicago Tribune Pianist-composer Jason Moran has established a deep and long-standing connection with Chicago audiences, thanks to years of performances at Symphony Center, the Chicago Jazz Festival and an array of other settings. Most famously, he collaborated with the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band in the world premiere of his "Looks of a Lot" at Symphony Center in 2014, the piece unflinchingly addressing Chicago violence via music, spoken word and set design. Last February, Moran brought the students to Washington, D.C., to present the opus at the Kennedy Center, where he serves as artistic director for jazz. So expectations were high for the Chicago premiere of "New Fables," created by Moran and singer-pianist Georgia Anne Muldrow as both a tribute to and a reflection on the enormous oeuvre of composer-bandleader-bassist Charles Mingus. By the looks of it, however, "New Fables" was a lot more fun to perform than it was to behold. Moran and Muldrow, in other words, appeared to revel in the moment, swaying to beats that changed tempo but never stopped, one song melting into the next with U2 show revisits '87 hits U2, from Page 7 the band during "Where the Streets Have No Name." The journey outlined on the album's first few songs took on the dimensions of a spiritual quest America as an idea as much as a place. Bono later thanked America "for hundreds of years of refuge for the Irish," and then acknowledged that "we could be thrown out of the country for bad harmonica playing." The apology was necessary because the middling harp riffs in "Trip Through Your Wires" didn't measure up in the home of the blues. It underscored that the album's second half has a few rough spots, and the pacing of the concert might have been improved had the band shuffled the placement of a few songs. There was no way to improve the one-two punch of "Bullet the Blue Sky" as the Edge's guitar violence melted into the hushed junkie prayer "Running to Stand Still." But "Exit" strained to make an impression as something more than a psychodrama that cops Patti Smith circa "Horses," and served as a poor introduction for the s s out interruption. The evening-length work which Moran, Muldrow and an instrumental ensemble performed Friday night in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center amounted to a kind of fantasia on Mingus compositions, interspersed with original work. Considering the freewheeling, risk-every-thing approach at the core of Mingus' aesthetic, that concept was thoroughly appropriate. So was Moran and Muldrow's attempt at infusing Mingus' scores with more recent musical influences, from funk and R&B to hip-hop and you-name-it. Considering Mingus' ears-wide-open philosophy, it's hard to imagine that he would have objected to bringing his 20th-century sounds forthrightly into the 21st. The problem with "New Fables" lay in the execution, which, alas, centered on Muldrow. Ninety minutes of her singing, chanting, screaming, moaning, dancing, writhing, twisting and preening was about 85 minutes too much. To witness this spectacle in contrast to the brilliant instrumentals accompanying it was to understand where "New Fables" went wrong: If Mingus was the subject, the piece should not have become a vehicle for Muldrow, or for any NUCCIO DINUZZOCHICAGO TRIBUNE Bono and U2 perform Saturday at Soldier Field, where they revisited their hit 1987 album "The Joshua Tree." mourning song "Mothers of the Disappeared." The encore juggled more outsized ideas, including a plea for women to transform the world, the notion that America remains the biggest and perhaps last hope for countless refugees, and a plea for citizens of all political persuasions to overcome their widening differences. "AH are welcome here," Bono repeated several times, as if opening a sanc -CHICAGOLAND- THEATRE DIRECTORY Leonard Bernstein's musical hit with full 24-piece orchestra Wednesday at 2, F 8, Sa 8, Su 2 Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) at Cahn Auditorium, Evanston (847) 920-5360 Enjoy the Theater Tonight -CHICAGOLAND- THEATRE DIRECTORY ssBjiE. x EaBf HBJBBV70H BRITTANY SOWACKEFOR THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE Pianist Jason Moran performs in "New Fables" on Friday as a part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Jazz Series. individual, really. Indeed, if you were to factor out Muldrow's excesses, there was a great deal to value in this music. Moran's pianism by turns as melodic as a nocturne by Chopin and as explosive as a solo by Cecil Taylor proved consistently gripping. Whether he was playing a concert grand or Fender Rhodes keyboard, he wove his themes seamlessly into the texture of the instrumental ensemble he had convened. And what a unit it was. Moran's long-running Bandwagon served as its nucleus, drummer Nasheet Waits' multilayered rhythms and Tarus Ma-teen's earthy electric bass tuary instead of hosting a rock concert. For many U2 fans, "The Joshua Tree" remains a refuge, a rite of passage, a place where serious themes could be explored in music that invited everyone to sing along. It fit with an era in which Live Aid and concerts benefiting Amnesty International were in vogue, and rock stars were cast, sometimes awkwardly, as do-gooders who wanted to save the world. Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE TUE 7:30, WED 1 &7:30,THU 7:30, SAT 3 & 8, SUN 2 & 6:30 31 2. 595. 56DD Enjoy the Theater Tonight 3 iiiii mmiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiH lip! lines consistently driving the music forward. Add to this Darius Jones' imploring lines on alto saxophone, Frank Lacy's characteristically explosive utterances on cornet, Marcus Rojas' fat-and-pungent notes on tuba, Daniel Moreno's ever-inventive percussion and Daru Jones' emphatic attacks on drums, and you had a band that sounded larger and richer than the sum of its parts. The proceedings began well enough as Darius Jones, Lacy and Rojas marched onto the stage for "Dirge Fables," a land of three-man New Orleans procession. When the rest of the musicians took their places, listeners heard an U2 set list Saturday at Soldier Field: A Rainy Night in Soho (Pogues songJSunday Bloody Sunday New Year's Day Bad Pride (In the Name of Love) Where the Streets Have No Name I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For With or Without You Bullet the Blue Sky Running to Stand Still Red Hill Mining Town In God's Country Trip Through Your Wires One Tree Hill Exit Mothers of the Disappeared Encore: Beautiful Day Elevation Miss Sarajevo (Passengers cover) Ultra Violet (Light My Way) One I Will Follow But it still held sway Saturday for different reasons. It remains alternately problematic and uplifting, ambitious and naive, and sometimes undeniably moving. Most compelling was that U2 made it sound less like a finished work, a monument from a long-lost decade, than a series of songs still in search of answers. As Bono said, "We're all trying to figure this out." GregKot is a Tribune critic. !IMI!!lllil!llIIIIIIUII!ll!!MIMM!MIMI!UMMII!IIIIIUMMIIMUIU!MIIIIMMU!MIIII!! J - CITY-NEAR NORTH STALKER-2:30 A QUIET PASSION-2:00,4:30,7:00 MANHATTAN-7:1 5,9:40 BUSTER'S MAL HEART-9:30pm - CITY - NEAR NORTH - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (PG-13) (1 :00, 4:00) 7:00, 9:55 NOR HAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (R) (1 :45, 4:35) 7:25, 1 0:1 0 "PARIS CAN WAIT (PG) (2:1 5, 4:40) 7:1 0, 9:30 CHURCHILL (PG) (2:00, 4:45) 7:20, 9:50 THE LOVERS (R) (1 :55, 4:1 5) 7:05, 9:45 THE WEDDING PLAN (PG) subtil (2:1 0, 4:50) 7:35, 10:15 IDEAN (PG-131 (2:30, 5:05) 7:40, 1 0:00 Wit's ShouM r Time! astonishing range of color, expressed with a degree of subtlety soon to be demolished by the evening's vocalist. At first, the ferocity of Muldrow's singing made an impact, especially when counterbalanced by Darius Jones' searing, slithering lines on alto saxophone. But before long, Muldrow was yelling, and not even Lacy's exuberant cornet riffs could provide sufficient distraction. Whether the problem was overamplification, the over-reverberant acoustics of Orchestra Hall, Muldrow's overwrought manner or all of this, the result was the same: Most of the lyrics Muldrow delivered were rendered unintelligible and, therefore, mostly irrelevant. When it came to scat singing, Muldrow's work was adequate, but nothing more. Intonation problems bedeviled much of her work as the evening progressed, her singing undistinguished, at least by jazz standards. As for the brief piano solo she played, it might most generously be described as unnecessary. Rapper Dudley Perkins, Muldrow's musical collaborator on previous ventures, at one point took to the stage to offer a short soliloquy that was nearly impossible to decipher due, once again, to a garble of overblown sound. Comic combines wit, grief in masterful set Oswalt, from Page 7 counted at one point, discussing having to break the news of his wife's death to his then-7-year-old daughter. "That's gonna be longer for me to recover from than my wife dying." But Oswalt followed intensely confessional moments like that with equally hilarious imagery, here describing being peppered with unfil-tered questions from his daughter's friends after four sleepless nights. In one remarkably poignant moment, as Oswalt recounted arguing with his wife about whether there's a rational framework and logic underpinning the universe (he said yes, she said no), he noted that "she won the argument in the (worst) way possible," a punchline that sneaked up on me. Only a few seconds later did I realize that I was both laughing and crying simultaneously. That's more than masterful comic work. It's a next level of intertwining comedy and tragedy where both are allowed to retain their full powers while neither takes precedence over the other. But not all of Oswalt's set was dedicated to his experience as a widower. For the first half of the show, he jumped between various topics the evolution of robocalls, tracing your .."DIRECTORY HIGHLAND PARK - PARIS CAN WAIT (PG) (1 :00, 4:00) 7:00 THE WEDDING PLAN (PG) subtlU. (2:00, 5:00) 7:50 CHURCHILL (PG) (1:15, 4:45) 7:45 NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (R) (1 :30, 4:1 5) 7:1 5 A QUIET PASSION (PG-13) (1 :40, 4:30) 7:30 ( MOVIE TIME ft ,i i u 1 1 li i tjp li,"1 " 1 G-Suggesred for GENERAL audiences PG-Parental Guidance Suggested some material may not be suitable for children PG-1 3 Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 1 3 R-Restricted Persons under 1 7 not admitted unless accompanied by parent or adult guardian NC-17 No children under 17 admitted Along the way, Moran and friends transformed Mingus classics such as "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Fables of Faubus," the instrumentalists deftly capturing the spirit of Mingus' music without sounding nostalgic. The rhythmic frenzy, harmonic complexity and unabashed dissonance of this work built persuasively on Mingus' vocabularies. Ultimately, even notwithstanding Muldrow's performance, "New Fables" needed more focus, dramatic arc and clarity of purpose. Unlike, say, Moran's "Looks of a Lot," "New Fables" didn't articulate a cohesive message and, therefore, left a far less favorable impression. In introducing the concert, Symphony Center Presents director Jim Fa-hey announced that Moran will bring his "In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959" project to the Chicago Jazz Festival on Sept. 1. Though the multimedia aspects of that program were uneven when Moran presented it in Orchestra Hall in 2007, Moran's reinvention of Hall Overton's arrangements of Monk's music was revelatory and augurs well for the forthcoming reprise. Howard Reich is a Tribune critic. Twitter howardreich DNA, a fight he witnessed and even did a solid segment of crowd work during which his quick wit was on full display. When he discovered that an audience member was a civil engineer who was part of the design team for the new Obama Presidential Center, after chiding him for working behind the scenes instead of on the physical side of the project, he quipped, "Is it gonna be a giant brick building in the shape of the words 'Miss Me'? " And of course he had a section his introductory 10 minutes dedicated to President Donald Trump. But the general message of his set, a message he repeated several times and ultimately closed with, was one of aspiration and perseverance over adversity. It was something his wife used to tell him frequendy to sum up her view of the world and our place in it. "It's chaos. Be kind." In his last moments, he reminded the audience of this mantra. "There are people who want to create wounds that will not heal," he said, before reiterating his new catchphrase: "It's chaos. Be kind." Zach Freeman is a freelance writer. Twitter ZachRunsChicago BafflQBfl BwffiSBfl BvMB33mE3BMsi MQhBsmJ BflEjMBfl

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