JACK McDUFF with the CHICAGO JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Putting a Hammond B-3 organ in front of a jazz orchestra has always struck me as overkill; with its multiple tone colors and capacity to play as many as three independent lines at once, the B-3 is practically a big band all by itself. Only a few arrangers have ever successfully written for this combination, producing charts that vary enough in density and texture to complement the organ but still match its flamboyance: Oliver Nelson and Lalo Schifrin, both arranging for Jimmy Smith in the 60s, come to mind; and so does the impeccable Benny Golson, who in ’64 masterminded an organ-and-orchestra record called Prelude, with Jack McDuff on the Hammond. That album has supplied most of the music for this Chicago Jazz Orchestra concert with McDuff, the second in the ensemble’s first subscription series under its new name (for 21 years it was called the Jazz Members Big Band). Because so little good material for such a pairing exists, shows like this are a rarity–but I have other reasons to recommend it. McDuff is one of the savviest jazz organists around; on an instrument that breeds excess, he practices restraint, playing less but doing more than practitioners of high-octane riffing. A longtime leader of his own band (where George Benson got his start in the early 60s), McDuff nestles his smartly developed solos symbiotically into a tune, paying as much attention to his musical surroundings as he does to his own playing–and he couldn’t ask for 17 partners more sympathetic than the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Under the tireless direction of trombonist Jeff Lindberg (who transcribed the charts off the Prelude LP, which is long out of print), it’s the city’s longest-running and most consistently accomplished big band, able to meet the demands of a wide range of music–later concerts in this series will feature early Basie and late Gil Evans. Friday, 12:15 PM (open rehearsal), and Sunday, 3 PM, auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; 312-409-3947. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc Norberg.