The city’s most progressive showcase for jazz and improvised music dropped down from five days to four in 2009. But it’s back at full strength this time around, thanks to increased participation from European consulates and embassies. Ten countries are involved in the European Jazz Meets Chicago minifest that opens Umbrella, four more than in any previous edition, making it necessary to stretch that segment out across two consecutive nights at the Chicago Cultural Center. Among the highlights: innovative French clarinetist Xavier Charles, Viennese electronic musician and composer Christof Kurzmann, Swedish reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist of Atomic, and the wonderful Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández, making his Chicago debut. In most cases the visiting musicians will collaborate with local groups, ranging from established entities like the Chicago Luzern Exchange (with Swiss tubaist Marc Unternährer) to a new ensemble led by Dutch trombonist Joost Buis.
The other three days of the festival focus on strong Chicago bands like Slow Cycle, the Nick Broste Trio, and the Outskirts, and heavy-duty out-of-towners: powerhouse tenor saxophonist David S. Ware performs solo; storied vets Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille, and Oliver Lake convene as Trio 3; New York bassist Mark Helias brings his superb Open Loose; and AACM trumpet legend Wadada Leo Smith plays with the great German drummer Günter “Baby” Sommer.
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