From the Chicago Tribune:
Douglas Ewart‘s Nyahbingi Drum Choir,9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Rd.; $5-$15; 312-791-9050. Multi-instrumentalist Ewart leads a number of innovative ensembles, but the Nyahbingi Drum Choir stands out among them. Fusing aspects of Jamaica’s “mento” music (a forerunner of ska and reggae) with the improvisational techniques of Chicago’s South Side avant-garde, the Nyahbingi Drum Choir mines Afro-Caribbean rhythms unlike anything else in Ewart’s oeuvre. Unfortunately, Ewart has recorded just a couple of tracks with this ensemble since he established the group, in 1986. But he promises to release a full-fledged CD later this year. Until then, the live performance is the only place to encounter the original compositions and Jamaican folkloric tunes that are central to the Nyahbingi Drum Choir, which will include vocalist Dee Alexander, reedist Edward Wilkerson Jr., and a core of musicians playing hand-held percussion.
Nicole Mitchell,7:30 p.m. Saturday at Harper College Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Algonquin Rd., Palatine; $15-$25; 847-925-6100. Though the protean Chicago flutist seems to thrive in all settings, she doesn’t perform as often in concert halls as her artistry merits. This event offers a welcome opportunity to hear her in a serious listening room, where she’ll lead her quartet.
Isaiah Spencer,6 p.m. Sunday at the Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Rd.; $5-$10; 312-791-9050. Freewheeling jam sessions aren’t as abundant as they were in an earlier era, yet several have been sprouting in Chicago clubs in recent years. Spencer, a propulsive young drummer, has been inviting all comers to this weekly session, in which he leads a core group staffed by fellow young lions, including saxophonist Kevin Nabors, multi-instrumentalist Christopher McBride, trumpeter Sayid Chrisberg, guitarist Scott Hesse and bassist Junius Paul (depending on who’s in town).
Ari Brown,9 p.m. Tuesday at Andy’s Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $10; 312-642-6805. Busier than ever, Chicago saxophonist Brown proves that the combination of bebop syntax and free-jazz experimentation can appeal to a mainstream audience.
Ab Baars Trio with Ken Vandermark,7 p.m. Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; free; 312-744-6630. Launching their Chicago residency amid a brisk, North American tour, Dutch reedist Baars and his Chicago counterpart Vandermark should be in fighting form.
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