Recently, my wife and I went to the movies to see “The Artist”. The film (which is silent) is a love letter to grand old cinema, with references to Welles, Chaplin, Wilder, and many more. The theater was packed with people watching from the stairs in rapt attention without a peep from a soul in the audience.
There is something fantastic about a work that wittily references the past and exudes expressive nuance at the same time.
What does this have to do with jazz? It’s the same phenomenon experienced with Petra’s Recession Seven, a delightful jazz septet whose musicians artfully perform the music of the Great Depression. The wink at our nation’s current economic woes aside, the group sells their jaunty melodies and sharp rhythms with such panache that you would think you stepped in on Louis Armstrong with his “Hot Seven” or Django Reinhardt performing gypsy jazz in a café in Paris. The group is led by vocalist Petra van Nuis who brilliantly embodies the best singers of the 1930’s. The rest of the group is teeming with Chicago talent, including Andy Brown on guitar, Art Davis on trumpet, Russ Phillips on trombone, Kim Cusack on clarinet, Joe Policastro on bass, and Bob Rummage on drums. The septet always delights with wonderful solos but it is the jovial warmth from the traditional New Orleans accompaniment of the horns and rhythm section that really impress.
Petra’s Recession Seven recently recorded a live album at Katerina’s and will be appearing at The Jazz Showcase (Dearborn Station 806 S. Plymouth Ct. Chicago, IL, 312-360-0234, $20) Thursday, February 16 – Sunday, February 19, Sets at 8 & 10 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; Sets at 4, 8, and 10 on Sunday.