All year the Jazz Institute of Chicago has been celebrating the legacy of singular tenor saxophonist and crucial mentor Von Freeman, who would’ve turned 95 in October (he died in 2012). Friday night’s concert is built around the music of pianist, composer, and bandleader Sun Ra, but it’s part of the Freeman series too—Freeman played in the Arkestra off and on in 1959 and ’60, shortly before Ra and his group left Chicago in ’61. Freeman also worked with Sun Ra (born Herman Blount) in 1948 and ’49, years before he formed the Arkestra. The saxophonist doesn’t appear on any known Sun Ra recordings, but it’s easy to see how he got involved: like many other Arkestra members (saxophonists John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, and Charles Davis, trombonist Julian Priester, bassist Ronny Boykins), he’d studied under the direction of Captain Walter Dyett at DuSable High School.
During Ra’s Chicago years, especially the late 1950s, he produced some of his most memorable and enduring tunes, more obviously rooted in postbop fundamentals than the outlandish, experimental work he pursued in the decades that followed. The repertoire and arrangements For Friday’s concert, Chicago native and French horn player Vincent Chancey chose the repertoire (much of it from the period when Freeman worked with the Arkestra) and wrote the arrangements. A founding member of Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, Chancey has been part of the Arkestra sporadically since the late 60s—he performed with the group for a couple concerts at Constellation in December. He’s also worked with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Julius Hemphill, Carla Bley, Muhal Richard Abrams, and David Murray.
The superb group Chancey has assembled for Friday’s concert features reedists Edward Wilkerson Jr., Mwata Bowden, and Edwin Daugherty, pianist Robert Irving III, drummer Mike Reed, bassist Joshua Abrams, trombonist Norman Palm, and trumpeter Victor Garcia. The concise songbook is packed with Ra classics: “Saturn,” “Rocket Number 9,” “Velvet,” “Angels & Demons at Play,” “El Is a Sound of Joy,” “Call for All Demons,” “Watusa.” Below you can check out the excellent 1958 version of “Saturn” from the album Jazz in Silhouette, with Gilmore, Boykins, Priester, Patrick, Davis, brilliant trumpeter Hobart Dotson, reedists Marshall Allen and James Spaulding, and drummer William “Bugs” Cochran.
Bram De Looze, Septych (Clean Feed)
Ensemble Musique Oblique, Schöenberg: Pierrot Lunaire/Erste Kammersymphonie (Harmonia Mundi)
MMM Quartet, Oakland/Lisboa (Rogue Art)
Annea Lockwood, A Sound Map of the Hudson River (Lovely Music)
Mortiz von Oswald & Ordo Sakhna, Mortiz von Oswald & Ordo Sakhna (Honest Jon’s)