Chamber ensembles channeling rock-band dynamics is nothing new, and no one drops a jaw anymore when a string quartet squeezes a Radiohead tune between pieces by Michael Nyman and John Adams. What’s left is to perfect the fusion—to achieve the kind of seamlessness in performance that makes disparate pieces cohere into an artistic point of view. eighth blackbird (the lowercase caps are deliberate), the Chicago-based sextet, has a pretty impressive track record at this kind of thing, and its latest recital is a good example of why. The show is being billed as “one-time-only,” for which the band has a commissioned a twenty-minute suite by Bryce Dessner of the indie-rock band The National. It’s called “Murder Ballades,” and it’s inspired by grisly, blood-soaked folk songs from the European and nineteenth-century American traditions. I’m guessing it’s not for the faint of heart. The program is rounded out by a collection of works described as “Various songs of love and loss,” by Bon Iver, Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire and the steel-pan artist Andy Akiho, among others. There’s also a four-hand piano work by the group’s own Lisa Kaplan entitled “whirligig” (these people really have something against initial caps), and a piece by Claudio Monteverdi, which is about as far back as you can reach for a text without putting period purists on yellow alert. No matter where the group touches down in the chronology of global music, you can count on its members to play with their characteristic bravura, finesse, and—most excitingly—restraint; considering the sheer number of musicians onstage, and their unarguable virtuosity, what’s most astonishing about an eighth blackbird performance is often the eloquence of its interior silences. (Robert Rodi)
April 24 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000. $25, $23 members.
Robert Rodi is an author, spoken-word performer and musician who has served as Newcity’s Music Editor since 2014. He’s written more than a dozen books, including the travel memoir “Seven Seasons In Siena.” His jazz quintet recently completed a two-year residency at Uncommon Ground, and he regularly hosts a jazz singers’ jam at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge. His literary and music criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, The Huffington Post and many other national and regional publications.