Tonight the second Old and New Dreams Festival begins, an endeavor organized by the influential, long-homeless music venue HotHouse. Last year’s three-day extravaganza took place at the Promontory, and this weekend’s events remain in Hyde Park, scooting west to the Logan Center on the campus of the University of Chicago. Tonight’s headliner is the Odean Pope Trio, a group led by the great Philadelphia saxophonist known for his lengthy membership in bands led by Max Roach. Tomorrow night percussionist and Chicago native Adam Rudolph presents two different, ongoing projects: his Moving Pictures group with guest percussionist Hamid Drake and a Chicago version of his large band, the Go: Organic Orchestra.
Rudolph was an early adherent of melding jazz improvisation and global traditions, an aesthetic he notably explored when he still lived here in the mid-70s with the Mandingo Griot Society. That group included Drake and the brilliant Gambian kora player Foday Musa Suso, following an imperative established by trumpeter Don Cherry starting in the late 60s. Since moving to New York in the early 80s Rudolph has continued these explorations, although there’s a lot more competition nowadays for such hybrids. He’s also worked in purer jazz contexts, including a fruitful relationship with the great Yusef Lateef.
Moving Pictures often delivers heavily polyrhythmic, long-form jams informed by music from all over Africa, Cuba, and the Middle East, put together with the seething intensity and expansiveness of early-70s Miles Davis. You can certainly pick up that vibe on the extended track below, “Oshogbo,” from a 2012 performance in Finland. The lineup for Saturday’s concert features many of the same personnel: trumpeter Graham Haynes, reedist Ralph Jones, bassist and guitarist Jerome Harris, along with keyboardist Alexis Marcelo, oudist Brahim Fribgane, and old friend Drake.
The Go: Organic Orchestra investigates similar notions, albeit with huge numbers of musicians—two albums released earlier this year feature between 30 and 40 players. What differentiates this group, however, is that Rudolph conducts it with an improvisational mind-set, bringing an elasticity to his compositions. Last month Rudolph unveiled a new iteration of the project with Turning Towards the Light (Cuneiform), leading Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, a smaller version of the ensemble featuring 11 guitarists—including Harris, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Rez Abbasi, Marvin Sewell, and Miles Okazaki, among others. In the promotional materials for the recording Rudolph says, “Since I don’t play guitar, I don’t really think ‘guitaristically,’ I’m thinking compositionally and percussively.” I would emphasize “percussively,” because for me the music meanders, driven by the same sorts of rhythmic complexity evident in the leader’s other projects. He’s definitely working with a top-flight crew of musicians here, but to me they seem underutilized and hamstrung by material that doesn’t give them enough melodic leeway. Below you can check out a piece called “Galactic Drift.”
For the Chicago performance Rudolph will lead a more conventional, 21-piece lineup combining some of his New York collaborators (Jones, Haynes, Harris, Fribgane, Marcelo, and guitarist Marco Cappelli) with a diverse crew of Chicagoans, including cornetists Josh Berman and Ben LaMar Gay, reedists Jason Stein and Nick Mazzarella, trombonist Steve Berry, bassist Joshua Abrams, and keyboardist Ben Boye, among others.
The Masqueraders, Unmasked (Grapevine)
John Casken, Violin Concerto/Concerto for Orchestra/Orion Over Farne (NMC)
Gjermund Haugen, Drøymarenn (Talik)
Dizzy Gillespie, Afro (Verve/Nogran)
Daniel Goode, Annbling (New World)