Fred Ho

A stirring baritone saxophonist and provocative composer, Fred Ho is one of the two most important artists in the Asian-American jazz movement–along with his west-coast compatriot, pianist Jon Jang–and certainly the angriest. Ho is a musical and sociological descendant of Charles Mingus: his compositions have a slashing energy, and he often gives them politically charged or confrontational titles (The Underground Railroad to My Heart, “Never Broken, Always Outspoken,” “Fuck Patriarchy! I”) that reflect his concern for injustices done to Asians and other minorities. But for all that, I think his most colorful and effective writing appears on the two albums–Monkey Part One (1996) and Monkey Part Two (1997)–that celebrate the ancient Chinese myth of Sun Wu Kong, the Monkey King. Monkey was the most unusual invention in Ho’s busy career–that is, until this year’s double CD, the three-act opera Warrior Sisters: The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors (like the Monkey volumes, on Koch). In this wacky action fantasy, feminist revolutionaries from late-19th-century Asia and Africa join forces and travel to “1970s Amerikkka,” where they spring African-American dissident Assata Shakur from prison. The libretto, which Ho conceived but did not write, is overtly political but not overly shrill; Ho’s music combines operatic grandeur, the streamlined punch of jazz, and hints of Chinese rhythms and scales. For this performance, the music is the whole story: Ho’s bringing a sextet sans vocalists to Chicago to improvise on themes from the opera. The band includes three of the musicians heard on the recording–tenor saxist David Bindman, marimba player Diana Herold, and percussionist Royal Hartigan. It also includes Ho, who didn’t perform on the album: while baritone sax figures prominently in his score, he was too busy conducting to play it himself. Sunday, 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jason Jem.