We’ve circled the sun six times since Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang first celebrated the winter solstice with an intimate concert in 1990. Their annual event–which has evolved from that single performance of Mesopotamian frame-drum duets into this year’s two-day, four-part international percussion extravaganza–has taken root over a period that’s seen vast changes in Chicago’s jazz community, and Zerang and Drake have been in the thick of those developments. Each flip of the calendar has marked rapid growth in the percussionists’ respective careers: Drake, who was already known in 1990 as one of the most versatile and sensitive drummers in town and had been playing with Gambian kora master Foday Musa Suso, Danish guitarist Pierre D¿rge, and the late, great Don Cherry, has in the intervening years acquired a worldwide reputation that increasingly takes him out of Chicago. Anyone with half an ear is out catching him at every available opportunity, before he’s whisked away to live in some more lucrative locale. Zerang, too, has tackled a variety of projects, writing music for numerous successful theatrical events and participating in performance pieces, founding and recording the electric quartet Broken Wire, working extensively with pianist and electronicist Jim Baker, continuing the free trio Liof Munimula, and playing both here and abroad with a smorgasbord of the world’s finest improvisers. Zerang and Drake meet on occasion outside the solstice context–they’ve sandwiched tenor man Fred Anderson and driven vortical big groups fronted by saxophonist Peter Brštzmann. But the rapport they have as a percussion team is truly special, as their debut duo record, Ask the Sun (Okka Disk), amply demonstrates. Spreading out instruments from the Middle East and northern India and Africa, as well as standard jazz kits and various European orchestral objects, the twosome can conjure quite a magical season changing, particularly at the early-morning event–enter in darkness, leave after dawn, go out for breakfast. Saturday night Ehechatl, an Aztec ceremonial dance troupe, opens the show and Fred Anderson will join the percussionists. Because the concerts have become so popular, this year tickets must be purchased in advance from the Bookworks, 3444 N. Clark; 773-871-5318. Saturday, 4 and 8 PM, and Sunday, 6:30 AM and 4 PM, Link’s Hall Studio, 3435 N. Sheffield; 773-281-0824 or 773-871-5318. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Marc PoKempner.