October 15, 2012
By Lawrence A. Johnson, critic

The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts opened over the weekend at the University of Chicago with an inaugural festival of dance, jazz, classical and spoken-word events.

I caught the first half of the Turtle Island Quartet’s concert Sunday afternoon at the new hall, located at 60th and Drexel. From a classical standpoint, this was a soft launch since the crossover group’s genre-traversing style doesn’t quite offer the full spectrum of dynamics and colors that might be heard in, say, a late Beethoven quartet.

Still, there’s little doubt that Chicago now has the superb new mid-size concert hall the city has long needed. The Logan Center is a beautiful space, with pitched stadium-style seating and excellent sight lines. With its high ceilings, dark wooden walls and gently curved shell on stage, the Logan Center offers an elegant yet warm venue, ideal for chamber music and small ensembles.

The room is more airy and open than the darkly monastic atmosphere of Mandel Hall. The red-orange cloth seats are wider than the narrow and uncomfortable Mandel chairs and one won’t miss the sudden involuntary lurches of the seats in the older venue. Only the marquee lighting on the Logan side walls jars, not quite fitting in architecturally with the relaxed formality of the rest of the hall.

Acoustically, the hall offers a clear yet detailed perspective. Even with the cement floors, the sound was surprisingly crisp and transparent all the way to the back row of the 454-seat room. The Turtle Island strings emerged with fine clarity, body and definition with their patented mix of jazz, folk and pop stylings (though to this heavy-metal purist the rustic Jimi Hendrix arrangements sounded more like Edgar Meyer).

The Logan Center will get a better acoustical test drive 7:30 p.m. October 30 when Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante offer a wide-ranging Baroque program. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu