Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra

Asked to explain jazz, Louis Armstrong once said, "If you've got to ask, you'll never know." It may be fair to say the same about Chicago's Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra. Forget that bassist Derek Brand plays regularly with Muddy Waters's right-hand man Hubert Sumlin. Or that John Pirucello builds high-quality instruments and plays guitar like he's plugged into an abandoned bus station out on Highway 49. Forget it because when these six men come together around Nicholas Tremulis's songs, CD players explode, the sun gets spots and the World Wide Web goes on the blink. There's something tribal — like Tarzan calling the elephants — about this band at full tilt. Listening to Tremulis tunes like "Your Famous Baby," "Invisible Woman Standing on a Bridge" or "Happy Isn't What You Want" is like listening to Alejandro Escovedo — listeners are brought to the precipice, and shown scope and depth that only being there brings. I never listen to Tremulis and not think, "These are full-grown men toiling at their craft." Don't miss this earthquake of a band.

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William Michael Smith