Is it jazz, classical, Western, Eastern? Simon Shaheen defies labels

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Simon Shaheen

Simon Shaheen (April 19, 2013)

"I have been thinking in the last few months about writing a suite – a suite that will include vocals and instrumentals, and it will use Arabic classical poetry," says Shaheen, who teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and at an annual Arabic Music Retreat at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. In 1994, he won a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Shaheen says he'll work on the new piece when the current term at Berklee ends. But are American audiences ready for another major oud opus?

"Yes, I would say that when I go and play the oud in cities and towns, people aren't surprised anymore to see the instrument," he says.

A large share of the credit goes to Shaheen himself.

Simon Shaheen and Chicago Sinfonietta
7:30 p.m. Friday at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr.; 8 p.m. Saturday at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville; $26-$50 at the Harris; 312-334-7777; $40-$50 at Wentz; 630-637-7469;

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Matt Ulery's Loom. Bassist Ulery achieved a musical breakthrough last year with his recording "By a Little Light," which has taken his work into dark, moody terrain. 9 p.m. Friday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $12; 773-878-5552 or

Roscoe Mitchell & Mike Reed Duo: Reedist Mitchell and drummer Reed play Chicago's newest and most promising venue for adventurous music. 9:30 p.m. Friday at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; $15-$20;

Bobby McFerrin: The one-of-a-kind vocalist performs his "Spirit You All" show. 8 p.m. Saturday at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $30-$110; 312-294-3000 or

Victor Goines: A remarkably versatile reedist, Goines plays in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and heads the jazz studies department at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, making any performance under his own name a rare and welcome opportunity. 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43d St.; $10; valet parking available;

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to | Twitter @howardreich

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