Harrison Bankhead
Credit: Krzysztof Machowina

Histories of jazz tend to play up the significance of composers and conceptual innovators who also lead bands. Harrison Bankhead will not stand in their ranks; during a career that began in the 1970s and lasted until his death in Waukegan on April 5, he only made two albums as a leader. But as a double bassist, he was the kind of player who makes music live and breathe. With its warm tone, unshakable time, and abundant pizzicato and arco technique, his playing helped everyone sound their best—including countless visiting musicians, Chicago-based groups 8 Bold Souls, Frequency, and Indigo Trio, and bandleaders Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, and Malachi Thompson. Also an accomplished cellist, guitarist, and percussionist, Bankhead could provide the kind of tonal color and timbral embellishment that’s essential to the music radiating from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, of which he was a member. It’s a testament to the regard he earned from his peers that nearly three dozen of them are expected to participate in A Joyful Noise: Celebrating the Life of Harrison Bankhead. Vocalist Dee Alexander, violinist James Sanders, and woodwinds players Edward Wilkerson Jr. and Ernest Dawkins, all of whom worked closely with Bankhead, have assembled four ensembles to highlight his contributions to their music, and a “choir” of nine bassists and cellists will also honor their departed comrade.

YouTube video
YouTube video

A Joyful Noise: Celebrating the Life of Harrison Bankhead More than 30 musicians pay tribute to Harrison Bankhead, including a bass-and-cello choir and ensembles led by Dee Alexander, James Sanders, Edward Wilkerson, and Ernest Dawkins. Wed 6/7, 6:45 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, free, 18+