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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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The Regulators Perform for the Logan Center’s Jazz Series

Arts Reporter Celeste Alcalay attends Logan Center’s Third Tuesday Jazz concert, featuring The Regulators.
Attendees+at+The+Regulators+concert
Celeste Alcalay
Attendees at The Regulators’ concert

The ladies in the oil sketches on the wall appeared to strain their necks in the direction of lilting melodies, funk fusion, and jazz-influenced, hard-driving grooves at Logan Café the night of Tuesday, January 23. The audience watched The Regulators with rapt attention. The trio didn’t seem to notice.

On guitar was Michael Allemana, Director of the University of Chicago’s Jazz Ensemble and professor of ethnomusicology. On bass was Matt Ferguson. At his drum set sat Gerald Dowd. The low glow of  Logan’s pendant lighting framed the men, nestled in the cafe corner as they played their strains, the bare wintry Midway Plaisance concealed by reflective glass windows.

The hour-and-a-half-long set consisted of eight original compositions, all of a protean genre. One song’s arc gave no indication as to how the arc of the next one would unfold. “Just One Week” was experimental and began tempo rubato; traversing the neck of the guitar to utilize its upper register, Allemana bent sustained notes which lingered dissonantly in the air and tapered out in reedy whispers. A repeated melodic figure from the bass anchored the group. Dowd gripped his brush and pressed it down against the surface of the snare to cause friction so that the bristles resisted, creating scraping, grating murmurs.

The heartbeat of “Wide-Mouthed Bottle” was a memorable guitar riff. Accompaniment appeared halfway through when Dowd pulled out a tambourine. Other moments were quieter. A softly arpeggiated guitar chord began one piece.

Unafraid of where the music might lead them, the musicians seemed to surprise themselves: a head bob to the propulsive beat, a shared look, and the absence of any overt communication—subtle acknowledgements of a trio that has been playing together for more than 15 years. They formed in mid-2008, during the Great Recession: their name alludes to the crisis, but Allemana didn’t spell out the relationship between band name and economic disaster. After all, the only topic too taboo for the band, they announced, was “Politics!”

In each song, the trio transitioned between disparate sections with a casual ease that contrasted the music’s concentrated intensity. Fragments of rhythms and melodies from the tunes were springboards, when the time came for improvisation. Allemana launched into flurries of topographically even sixteenth notes, balanced by his sassy, assertive, more melodic statements.

The Regulators ran free in their odd-meter constructions, unphased by wonky rhythmic cycles of their own creation. The three friends always journeyed back to beat one together.

After naming one of his newly composed pieces “Mr. Carter” on the spot, Michael Allemana shrugged into the mic, smiling, and looked out at the Logan Cafe crowd. “See?” he said. “We just make it up!”

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About the Contributor
Celeste Alcalay
Celeste Alcalay, Grey City Reporter
Celeste Alcalay is a student in the College from Brookline, Massachusetts, planning on studying Cognitive Science. Her favorite journalistic activity is meeting people in pursuit of a story. She writes mainly for Grey City, occasionally dabbling in other sections, and co-hosts the podcast, So, What Brings You Here?. She enjoys watching film noirs, cajoling her friends into teaching her phrases in their native languages, and playing music. She also sings in UChicago’s jazz ensemble.
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