Is it jazz, classical, Western, Eastern? Simon Shaheen defies labels

"I have been thinking in the last few months about writing a suite – a suite that will include vocals and instrumentals, and it will use Arabic classical poetry," says Shaheen, who teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and at an annual Arabic Music Retreat at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. In 1994, he won a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.

Shaheen says he'll work on the new piece when the current term at Berklee ends. But are American audiences ready for another major oud opus?

"Yes, I would say that when I go and play the oud in cities and towns, people aren't surprised anymore to see the instrument," he says.

A large share of the credit goes to Shaheen himself.

Simon Shaheen and Chicago Sinfonietta
7:30 p.m. Friday at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr.; 8 p.m. Saturday at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville; $26-$50 at the Harris; 312-334-7777; $40-$50 at Wentz; 630-637-7469; chicagosinfonietta.org

Also worth hearing

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau: Two free thinkers – mandolinist Thile and pianist Mehldau – offer a provocative partnership. 8 p.m. Friday at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $27-$41; 312-294-3000 or cso.org

Matt Ulery's Loom. Bassist Ulery achieved a musical breakthrough last year with his recording "By a Little Light," which has taken his work into dark, moody terrain. 9 p.m. Friday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $12; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com

Roscoe Mitchell & Mike Reed Duo: Reedist Mitchell and drummer Reed play Chicago's newest and most promising venue for adventurous music. 9:30 p.m. Friday at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; $15-$20; constellation-chicago.com

Bobby McFerrin: The one-of-a-kind vocalist performs his "Spirit You All" show. 8 p.m. Saturday at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $30-$110; 312-294-3000 or cso.org

Victor Goines: A remarkably versatile reedist, Goines plays in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and heads the jazz studies department at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, making any performance under his own name a rare and welcome opportunity. 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43d St.; $10; valet parking available; hydeparkjazzsociety.com

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.

hreich@tribune.com | Twitter @howardreich

CHICAGO
Best songs of 2014 so far

More music

More