Posted inArts & Culture

Hal Russell Memorial Concert

The big question is, whither the NRG Ensemble without its founder-leader Hal Russell? The endlessly creative drummer-vibist-trumpeter-saxophonist-singer-composer Russell, who died last month at age 66, was the band’s central source of energy, humor, and wild imagination. But his loyal sidemen were not just supporting players; they were proficient and vivid individuals themselves, so Saturday night’s […]

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Brad Goode

Brad Goode likes to speak of “the love, the exhilaration of playing as hard as you can,” and at his best this still-young veteran is the very model of a fiery improviser. He’ll start a solo with an attention-grabbing phrase, then spin lines that continually move between middle-register melodies and bravura high points. For all […]

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Urs Leimgruber & Fritz Hauser

It’s very rare to hear two musicians who play together with the care and sensitivity of saxophonist Urs Leimgruber and drummer Fritz Hauser. They’re musicians with big ears: they listen carefully and respond quickly to each other’s changing thrusts in dynamics, sound, and momentum. Theirs is a flowing, carefully crafted music, full of detail, whether […]

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London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra

It’s called a composers’ orchestra, but a principal attraction of this 17-piece crew is its terrific soloists. About two decades ago, when Europe was getting into its jazz renaissance, London was home to a group of extraordinary players who took the discoveries of the free-jazz revolution to logical and illogical extremes. Bassist-composer Barry Guy, a […]

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Tim Berne, Herb Robertson, Hamid Drake & Hank Roberts

This weekend marks alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s first engagements ever in Chicago, and yet in a musical sense this will be the New Yorker’s return home. His virtuosity shows kinships with Chicago free-jazz pioneers Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, themselves altoists, particularly when Berne develops freely moving, variegated lines out of minimal source materials. Even […]

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Tribute to Art Hodes

Though the Chicago style of traditional jazz was born here, this city has not been a haven for it in recent years as the number of musicians who are experienced in the music has steadily diminished. The Illiana Club, though, has long kept the faith, presenting monthly trad jazz concerts. September’s concert will be a […]

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Outerfest

Jazz is the music of the young, goes the old cliche; it surely helps to have plenty of stamina and energy for the late-night, sometimes all-night Outerfest shows. But with this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival severely truncated, the mostly free-jazz Outerfest assumes special importance. The music begins sometime after 10:30, when the main festival in […]

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Chicago Jazz Festival

A major event in the history of the Chicago Jazz Festival occurred eight years ago when it commissioned Randy Weston to compose a major work honoring the African sources of jazz. Weston and his arranger-orchestrator Melba Liston came up with African Sunrise, a huge, sprawling composition that the Machito Orchestra played–with guests Dizzy Gillespie, Weston, […]

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Muhal Richard Abrams

The only constant in the music of Muhal Richard Abrams is change. He composes complex scores full of mobile colors, textures, instrument groupings, and melodies that sometimes clash and sometimes complement. On the other hand, his familiar “Blues Forever” is a straightforward big-band swinger that’ll knock your socks off. As a pianist he ranges from […]

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Peter Brotzmann With Hamid Drake

Peter Brotzmann is not only one of the very best saxophonists alive–he may also be the most dramatic. Though little known in America, he’s been a crucial figure in Europe’s homegrown jazz renaissance since the late 60s, when he exploded onto the scene with his own incendiary version of Albert Ayler’s already inflammable music. Over […]

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Jodie Christian

Jazz pianist Jodie Christian whistles on his new CD on Delmark; he also sang in a commercial and he recently expressed a desire to resume dancing, an interest he pursued as a preschooler. Let’s hope he doesn’t stop playing piano, for he’s long deserved Chicago’s most valuable pianist trophy for his decades of work with […]

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Damon Short Sextet

The drummer who composes has always been rather rare in jazz, but in recent years Damon Short has demonstrated that the species is by no means endangered. As a percussionist he usually plays careful, craftsmanlike accompaniments; at his best, though, he engages in truly exciting interplay with his soloists. As a composer he’s not exactly […]

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Gerry Mulligan Tentet

Miles Davis’s 1949-50 “Birth of the Cool” little big band was a major step in jazz, not for its style–its several composers didn’t agree on a style–but for its curiously light yet bottom-heavy sound, for its rejection of big-band conventions, and for its repertoire, notably the classic “Israel.” Arranger-composer Gerry Mulligan was among the original […]