Chicago-based jam heroes Umphrey's McGee, in town for a three-night residency at First Avenue, revel in playing the kind of sprawling, improv-rich spatial odysseys that leave jam fans ecstatic. But what sets UM far apart from the run-of-the-mill noodling crowd is a sense of resolve that translates into constantly shifting patterns and expectations as the music evolves across multi-textured terrain. Funk bleeds into reggae into prog rock into classical tangents into jazzy epiphanies, festooned with melodic hooks to hang your high-hat on, and a conceptual framework that's part Zappa, part Deadhead trip, and part Sun Ra setting the controls for the heart of the sun. You could boil it down as "Angular Momentum," the title of a scorching exchange between guitarist Jake Cinninger and drummer Kris Myers that's one of the highlights on UM's latest and first official live album, Live at the Murat (SCI Fidelity), recorded over two nights last April in Indianapolis. It's overflowing with UM's geometric dashes, grooves in elliptical orbit, and pretzel logic as fine-tuned and intriguing as it is otherworldly. 18+ at 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday; all ages at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 1, 7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 29. Continues through March 2, 2008