Growing up near 47th Street in Chicago, trumpeter Malachi Thompson reveled in the sights and sounds of a music scene very different from today’s–one that positively buzzed with Chicago heroes and visiting superstars working their way across a skein of now-legendary south-side clubs. Now Thompson hopes to retrieve some of those glory days, leading the charge in returning music to the Sutherland Hotel (once an important venue that hosted, among others, Miles Davis and John Coltrane). He’s also at work on Up From 47th Street, a music-theater piece under the aegis of the Victory Gardens Theater Community Arts Partnership Program. Thompson’s slice of this work in progress will consist of one scene from the play, some of his own commentary about 47th Street in the 40s and 50s, and plenty of music from his hardworking Freebop Band. Currently the Freeboppers boast the tenor-sax swagger of Sonny Seals and the skinned soul of trombonist Steve Berry, along with pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Avreeayl Ra–a lineup that should forcefully advocate Thompson’s brand of postfreedom hard bop. (The Freebop Band’s last release, New Standards (Delmark), displayed a new maturity, not only in Thompson’s ensemble concept but also in his own trumpet work.) Up From 47th Street kicks off the final week of the Chicago Cultural Center’s November salute to homegrown jazz and blues, Monday, 5:30 PM. It’s followed on Tuesday by a film of a 1981 performance by the Art Ensemble of Chicago; on Wednesday by a jam session featuring regulars from the Green Mill; and on Thursday afternoon and evening by two concerts celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 346-3278.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.