Looking lean and sounding inspired, Jeff Beck easily lived up to his reputation as a British guitar god at the 9:30 club Monday night. Most likely the only thing that stopped some guitar fanatics from kneeling in reverence before him was the lack of space in the sold-out club.
Beck appeared rejuvenated as he opened his first U.S tour since 1995, energized by both the crowd's reaction and the breadth of music drawn from his new album. The resonating techno-beats on "Who Else!" might seem monotonous and trendy if Beck weren't such an imaginative and unpredictable guitarist. Beginning with "What Mama Said," he used the electronic pulses as a kind of sonic foil for his signature Stratocaster, which erupted throughout the show with splashing colors created by wicked string bends, quicksilver runs, bottleneck rhapsodies and crunching power chords. While some tunes from the album generated plenty of heat, others radiated a lighthearted spirit or a melancholy lyricism, especially when Beck and fellow guitarist Jennifer Batten playfully traded fleet-fingered riffs or collaborated on the haunting Celtic ballad "Declan." Likewise, the forceful but not rigid pairing of drummer Steve Alexander and bassist Randy Hope-Taylor helped enliven the show with some unhinged funk.
No doubt a lot of fans turned out hoping to hear Beck forge an intense rhythmic bond with former drummer Terry Bozzio, as he did on the last tour. But Beck wasn't in the mood to look back for very long. Although he occasionally recalled the propulsive thrust of some of his earlier collaborations, the concert's most appealing flashback came when he slipped in a sly and soulful remembrance of the Beatles, circa "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
-- Mike Joyce
Stefan Milenkovich At the Kennedy Center
Violinist Stefan Milenkovich's recital at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater Monday evening was so disarmingly magical that it is not easy to describe its glories. At 23, Milenkovich is clearly at the threshold of a major career. This is not so much a matter of dazzling virtuosity (though he has it all) as of searching musicianship. Each piece on the program sounded utterly different, a creation of its own time and place.
The Grieg Sonata No. 3 is slight music that has grown unfashionable, but Milenkovich's tonal variety was remarkable throughout, so much that it seemed the embodiment of Nordic fiddling a century ago.
Milenkovich enriched his tone considerably for two Tchaikovsky miniatures (Waltz-Scherzo and "Serenade Melancolique"), giving them an effortless, soaring lyricism of surprising simplicity and grace. And when he turned up the voltage he summoned reserves of power that nonetheless came naturally without tonal hardening or rhetorical flourish.
Milenkovich's Paganini ("I Palpiti," Op. 13) was mind-numbing -- each note in presto passages seemed to have a minute cushion of air behind it, double-stops had dead-center intonation, and the long, arching melodic lines were rainbowed with primary colorations.
Milenkovich and his superb piano accompanist, Rohan De Silva, began the program with Beethoven's Sonata No. 7, played with pungent wit, whiplash intensity and fine classical style.
-- Ronald Broun
Chicago Underground Duo At Metro Cafe
The nagging philosophical question of "When is a duo really a quintet?" was answered Monday at the Metro Cafe when the Chicago Underground Duo played. The improvisational twosome of cornetist Rob Mazurek and percussionist Chad Taylor was joined for more than half of the set by fellow Chicagoans, including Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and opening duo Brokeback (for Brokeback, it was a returned favor because the Underground Duo played on part of its set). The Underground Duo and friends played space jazz, modal groovers, minimalism and everything in between, proving that the friendship between Chicago's avant-garde jazz and rock scenes is a fertile one.
The Duo began as, well, a duo, with Mazurek shaking a collection of clangy bells as Taylor played dancing polyrhythms on his drums, occasionally striking the vibraphone next to his kit. Two more songs of beautiful percussive punches and cornet caresses followed before Parker and Brokeback joined the Duo. Parker and Taylor then took over the show with their ferocious interplay. Even when comping behind Mazurek's lyrical soloing, Parker's choppy guitar lines, treated with volume control pedal and punctuating effects, urged the music forward as Taylor chugged away on his drums.
-- Christopher Porter
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