Chicago Edge Ensemble Credit: Nick Broste

In 2001, guitarist Dan Phillips moved to Bangkok, where he now works as a music professor, but the six years he spent on the Chicago jazz scene prior to his relocation made a profound impact upon him. Last year, during one of his regular visits home (he grew up in the area), he convened with some of the most important players at work in the late-90s free-jazz scene to form a new band called the Chicago Edge Ensemble and create the recent album Decaying Orbit (released by Silpakorn University, where he teaches). Indeed, the seven tunes on the record vividly recall the brawny yet precise attack of some of the city’s best-loved groups of the time, like the NRG Ensemble and Vandermark 5—the latter of which comes as no surprise, since Edge Ensemble members Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Mars Williams (reeds) played together in the outfit. Phillips wisely hired drummer Hamid Drake, a master percussionist who’s worked with both horn players in numerous contexts over the years, as well as his own regular Chicago bassist, Polish native Krzysztof Pabian. The guitarist’s wiry playing veers closer to mainstream jazz than the raucous, noisy sounds Bishop created in the V5 when he wasn’t playing the trombone, but his tunes nicely wend muscular grooves, full-blooded multilinear arrangements, and attractive melodies, giving the soloists plenty to work with. Decaying Orbit is hardly the most original thing I’ve heard this year, but it evokes fond memories of one of Chicago jazz’s most fertile eras.   v