Reviews: Victor Goines and Amanda McBroom in compelling shows

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It wasn't billed as such, but saxophonist Victor Goines' hard-charging opening set Saturday night at the Green Mill Jazz Club amounted to a tip of the hat to his adopted city: Chicago.

Born and raised in New Orleans and previously based in New York, where he has been a key figure in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Goines became director of jazz studies at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music in 2008.

Amid his global touring, Goines has played periodic Chicago performance dates, and for this one he explicitly referenced the mighty Chicago tenor saxophone tradition, in both music and words.

You could hear it from his opening notes, Goines producing a big, beefy, bluesy tenor sound in "Salt and Pepper," the title cut of a duet album from Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves. Backed by a hard-hitting Chicago rhythm section, Goines produced rough-and-raspy tones of a sort one does not often hear from this most polished of jazz reedists.

He dug still more deeply into the evening's theme when he offered two tunes associated with one of the most revered figures of Chicago tenordom, Gene Ammons. The penetrating tone and throbbing long-held notes that drove Goines' solo in "Canadian Sunset" crystallized key facets of Ammons' work, but Goines' distinctly personal way of shaping a phrase was vividly clear, as well. Goines brought heightened lyricism to another Ammons favorite, "My Foolish Heart," Goines evoking an earlier era in tenor playing with a gauzy timbre and gently cushioned articulation.

Exalted levels of virtuosity also have been integral to Chicago tenor players, and none achieved greater technical brilliance than Johnny Griffin. Goines saluted the master with an anthem Griffin famously performed with its composer, Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning." Here Goines and his quartet turned up the intensity level, pianist Ron Perrillo playing with a deep-into-the-keys ferocity and characteristic harmonic sophistication. Bassist Dennis Carroll drove hard, as well, the high point arriving when Goines and drummer Greg Artry duetted, each pushing the other to new levels of fervor.

Artry recently moved here from Indianapolis, this set illustrating how he and Goines are enriching the Chicago scene. Between songs, Goines told a capacity audience that he has been busily studying Chicago tenor history.

It sounds as if the professor already has mastered quite a bit.

The Victor Goines Quartet plays from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43d St.; $10; hydeparkjazzsociety.com.

Amanda McBroom

So many years have elapsed since cabaret singer-songwriter Amanda McBroom played a solo show in Chicago that one almost forgot the disarming power of her work.

Though she has made cameo appearances here through the years, I last heard her in a full-fledged concert at the long-gone Toulouse Cognac Bar in 1996.

The passing years have treated McBroom well, judging by an eloquent performance she gave Friday night at Davenport's, on North Milwaukee Avenue. Her voice showed plenty of power and color, and despite some minor flaws, enabled her to shape meaningful interpretations of substantive repertoire.

Not surprisingly, McBroom turned in her most effective work in original material, nowhere more than in "Errol Flynn," her great homage to her father. No, the legendary actor was not her dad – but David Bruce, who appeared alongside Flynn and other stars, was. Anyone who has heard McBroom sing the tune, which she wrote with Gordon Hunt, knows how succinctly it expresses a child's adoration of a beloved father.

But this time, with McBroom singing from the perspective of a certain maturity, "Errol Flynn" unfolded as an evocation of a vanished Hollywood, where larger-than-life adventurers such as Flynn, William Holden and other Bruce cohorts swashbuckled their way across the screen and around the globe. McBroom's personal connection to that time and place was made palpable not only by the poetry of her lyrics but also the longing in her voice and the gentleness of her delivery. Surely "Errol Flynn" stands as something more than a daughter's ode to her father – it's also a kind of love song to grand moviemaking of a golden age, and the affection we share for it.

There were other revelations as well. In her "Crimes of the Heart," McBroom sounded nearly operatic in exploring a woman's affair with a younger man.

McBroom proved comparably effective in American standards, notwithstanding a high register that's not particularly persuasive. She reconceived Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" at a slow-and-dreamy tempo, with radical reharmonization from Chicago pianist Beckie Menzie. Rarely has the song sounded so unsettling.

Of course, McBroom also featured her most famous song, "The Rose," and performed it majestically.

All of which suggests that McBroom needs to return here for a more extended run. It has been too long.

hreich@tribune.com

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The Grammys 2011