Ruthless Cello 

Alison Chesley at the Luggage Store Gallery.

In recent interviews, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and saxophonist David Murray contended that the cello ranks among the sexiest of instruments — second only to the saxophone. Chicago cellist Alison Chesley perfectly illustrates their point in her new rock-influenced solo album, Helen Money (slated for September release on her label Cellbird). Recorded live, Helen Money reveals everything a person can say by playing cello through a guitar amp: Chesley is by turns tetchy, shifty, pensive, and melancholy. She's both a bruiser and an uncompromising romantic, capable of hacksawing and puncturing each note (as illustrated on one of her hardest tunes, "Hendrix"), or oozing seductively around it. Though you can hear Bach mingling uneasily with Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth on many of her compositions, Chesley is neither self-consciously hip nor beholden to the rigorousness of her classical background. Rather, she sounds mercurial and sometimes ruthless, capable of changing the mood on a dime. Chesley performs Thursday at San Francisco's Luggage Store Gallery, with Lisa Mezzacappa and Ross Hammond opening. 8 p.m., $5.


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