I go to a lot of concerts—one recent year I counted 139—and aside from the occasional festival, jazz and improvised music almost always happen indoors. For more than a year now, the pandemic has kept me from my regular haunts—Constellation, Elastic Arts, Experimental Sound Studio—but it’s also brought me a new kind of show. For a few months this past summer and fall, saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Tyler Damon played regularly, usually on Friday evenings, in Margate Park near Foster and Lake Shore Drive. The Chicago Jazz Festival is outdoors, of course, so this wasn’t entirely novel, but in Millennium Park you won’t see bemused volleyball players watching between points, a couple passing by with a toddler in a cargo bike and doubling back to listen, or the driver of an out-of-service bus stopping on the access road to LSD and opening the doors to hear. You’ll get sun and breeze anywhere outside, but in Margate Park on Saturday, November 7—just hours after the major news networks called the election for Biden—Rempis, Damon, and drummer Bill Harris opened with Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” as a burst of wind carried a flickering swirl of golden honey locust leaves around their heads. The first time I saw the duo, on Friday, September 25, was also the first time I’d seen live music in person in more than six months. “You know those before-and-after diptychs of Death Valley that show how suddenly and extravagantly the desert blooms when it finally rains?” I wrote on Instagram at the time. “That’s the inside of my brain right now.” It feels strange to say this, but I can’t wait for concerts to be so ordinary again that I won’t be on the edge of tears whenever I see one.
Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.More by Philip Montoro