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Sound artist and composer Olivia Block turns to the piano

On most of Olivia Block’s records, what she does to sounds matters much more than how they were originally made; using field recordings, instrumental passages, or electronics, she cuts, distorts, and layers the material until even the quietest passages feel packed with multiple meanings. But in concert, things can happen for a long time without intervention; the sustained organ notes and prerecorded electronics of 132 Ranks, which she performed last April at University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel, turned the building’s interior into one giant instrument for an hour.…

Veteran Chicago reedist Dave Rempis settles into a gripping solo practice with Lattice

Chicago reedist Dave Rempis is well established as one of the city’s finest improvisers, a player who can adjust and adapt to fluid, unexpected musical situations with stunning alacrity, sensitivity, and ingenuity. But his ability to live in the moment doesn’t mean he’s not a thinker and a planner.…

John McCowen shares his research on the contrabass clarinet with a riveting new solo...

Although clarinetist John McCowen is a founding member of the Chicago art-rock band Wei Zhongle, I only encountered his playing long after he moved to California for graduate studies at Mills College. Earlier this year his contributions to a tape by the Vibrating Skull Trio knocked me out; his overblown lines push things into the red and pulse with intense energy.…

Country singer Marty Stuart salutes the cosmic vibe of America’s southwest on Way Out...

Few active country artists possess the deep knowledge and love of the tradition’s history and lore of singer-songwriter Marty Stuart, who’s evolved into a gray eminence with a mixture of elegance and unquenchable curiosity. His latest album, Way Out West (Superlatone), draws upon this background to send a trippy love letter to the southwest, cowboy culture, and the drifter lifestyle.…

Drummer Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O deftly walks the line between sincerity and kitsch with...

Few jazz musicians combine love of tradition with mordant wit like drummer and bandleader Matt Wilson. That combination is perfectly suited to his Christmas Tree-O project, which sanguinely essays holiday themes—both classic and schmaltzy—with gusto and ardor.…

Dreamy post-punk trio Dehd celebrate the release of two records in one

One of the best local releases of 2016 was the debut self-titled tape from Dehd on the prolific Maximum Pelt Records. The trio of guitarist-vocalist Jason Balla (of Ne-Hi and Earring), bassist-vocalist Emily Kempf (of Heavy Dreams and Veil), and stand-up, cymbal-less drummer Eric McGrady explored dreamy, hazy postpunk with beautiful vocal interplay; simple, plunky guitar; and a dark, behind-the-beat throb.…

Chicago Public Schools inspector general: Forrest Claypool ‘repeatedly lied,’ and other news

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, December 8, 2017. Have a great weekend!…

The year’s best box sets, honorable mentions

As I mentioned last week, I couldn't fit everything in my annual column of gift ideas that I thought was worthwhile. On Friday I wrote about a couple terrific music-related photography books, and today I'm highlighting some additional box sets.…

Kim Foxx gets a report card

As Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx's first year in office has drawn to a close, a group of independent justice system observers have published a new report evaluating her leadership thus far. Foxx ran against former state's attorney Anita Alvarez on a reformist platform, vowing to institute a variety of changes to the prosecutor's office, from greater data transparency to changes in criminal charging practices.…

Gary Oldman is the complete Winston Churchill, but Darkest Hour tells only half the...

Joe Wright’s biopic captures a great leader but not the people who empowered him. Awards season has arrived, which means that for the rest of the year we can expect lots of big movies with big actors playing big people. Christmas weekend brings Hugh Jackman as circus mogul P.T. Barnum in Michael Gracey's The Greatest Showman, Christopher Plummer (a last-minute replacement for Kevin Spacey) as billionaire J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World, and, in Steven Spielberg's The Post, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the Washington Post's gutsy publisher, Kay Graham, and executive editor, Ben Bradlee.…

The Delta’s Adam Kamin creates a cocktail with lobster guts and lobster ice cubes

Lobster tomalley, also known as "the green stuff," is a digestive gland in lobsters that performs the functions of the liver and pancreas.…

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool’s very bad day, and other news

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Thursday, December 7, 2017. …

Hubbard Street Dance gifts us with an evening of works by Crystal Pite

Crystal Pite’s evolution as a choreographer has been driven by a proverb: “Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.” Theater audiences want to feel represented by the performers, and Pite seeks to create that connection through dance. The three works presented in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Winter Series are a series of experiments exploring this idea through narrative. But those narratives aren’t set in stone.…

In Violet, a scarred heroine goes in search of a miracle

When we first catch sight of her, waiting at a Greyhound Bus stop in the mountain hamlet of Spruce Pine, North Carolina (which actually exists, by the way), the eponymous 25-year-old heroine of Violet looks like any young woman on the verge of an adventure. What we can’t see is, ironically, what’s most obvious to the people she meets over the course of this 1997 musical set in 1964: a grotesque facial scar, the result of a freak accident she suffered as a child.…