• Karl Berger

You might’ve been able to glean from some of my Soundboard items that this is a pretty busy weekend, jazzwise. On Saturday night trumpeter Russ Johnson brings his excellent Eric Dolphy project to Constellation, but the big action is happening mostly at Hyde Park’s Promontory, where HotHouse makes a splash from beyond the grave with the Old and New Dreams Festival, an action-packed three-day event where the venue founded by Marguerite Horberg will make some kind of announcement about its return to a new location in Bronzeville, although I’m betting details will be sparse. In any case, the lineup for Promontory is impressive. In this week’s paper I wrote about the David Murray concert on Friday and a rare pairing of Pharoah Sanders and the Chicago Underground Duo on Saturday, but there are some other promising sets as well.

Friday’s bill features a rare Chicago performance by veteran vibist and pianist Karl Berger, a visionary most famous for starting the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, with singer Ingrid Sertso (his wife, with whom he’ll perform here) and Ornette Coleman. The endeavor radically challenged notions of jazz orthodoxy, opening up a workshop that encouraged a free exchange of genres, ideologies, and styles built around improvisation. Devoting much of his life to education and establishing such platforms for exchange, he hasn’t recorded as actively as most of his peers, but his playing can be beautiful. On his most recent effort, Reverie (Leo), a duo session with the prolific Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman, his meditative calm and embrace of silence manage to cool the hot jets of his blowing partner, who has rarely sounded so contemplative and judicious. Below you can hear the title track from the album.

  • Mo Daoud
  • Mark Helias

On Sunday afternoon the agile, wonderful New York bassist Mark Helias reconvenes his long-running trio Open Loose—one of the most accurate band names in all of jazz. Helias pens durable themes for the group, which also features tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey, but as the name implies, the musicians push, pull, and stretch the melodic and harmonic shapes with inspiring malleability. The trio alternatively swings, grooves, and hovers, with all three participants altering course along the way without ever letting go of a fine thread as strong as steel cable. If people wonder what the term freebop means, Open Loose provides as good a definition as anyone. Below you can check out “Work It,” an exemplary piece from the trio’s most recent recording, Explicit: Live at the Sunset (Marge).


There are still plenty of other notable jazz gigs this weekend. Keith Jarrett’s trio with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette is at Symphony Center on Sunday, violinist Zach Brock performs in a quartet with pianist Phil Markowitz tonight and Saturday at the Green Mill, the thoughtful and adventurous New York saxophonist Michael Attias leads a local quartet at Constellation tonight, and guitarist Larry Coryell leads a trio at the Jazz Showcase through Sunday.

Today’s playlist:

Busk, Nur Eins (ILK)
Jonathan Biss, Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. II (Onyx)
Glenn Jones, My Garden State (Thrill Jockey)
Andreia Dias, Pelos Trópicos (Scubido Music)
Ensemble Pearl, Ensemble Pearl (Drag City)