JAZZ | Bassist Harrison Bankhead finally releases an album of his own
Bassist Harrison Bankhead has been about as ubiquitous on the local scene as a jazz musician can be. Over the past couple decades he’s amassed a discography that includes dozens of credits, backing countless Chicago heavies—Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Malachi Thompson—and serving as a key member in groups like 8 Bold Souls, Indigo Trio, Frequency, and Witches & Devils. He’s the kind of selfless musician who makes just about everyone he plays with sound better. Unfortunately, that selflessness seems to have rubbed off on his first album as a bandleader, the long-overdue Morning Sun Harvest Moon, which was released in May by ESP-Disk offshoot Engine—it arrived with virtually no fanfare, and I haven’t seen a review or spotted it on the shelves of a single shop. As of last week even Jazz Record Mart hadn’t stocked it.
This situation is doubly sad because it’s a damn good album. Bankhead leads a sextet made up of players he’s worked with for years—reedists Edward Wilkerson Jr. and Mars Williams, violinist James Sanders, drummer Avreeayl Ra, and percussionist Ernie Adams—and they flow between his original tunes and group improvisations with organic ease.
When I reach Bankhead by phone, he’s at O’Hare waiting for a flight to Paris, where he’ll perform with flutist Nicole Mitchell and drummer Hamid Drake in Indigo Trio. “It’s a funny thing that it took this long,” he says of Morning Sun Harvest Moon. “A lot of it was always talking about making a record, but not doing anything about it.” He says he’s been doing more writing and arranging lately with Dee Alexander, Indigo Trio, and Frequency, which helped his confidence—but it was persistent encouragement from Fred Anderson that finally did the trick. Bankhead cut the album in April 2010, just two months before the tenor saxophonist died.
Bankhead plays with Sanders and Ra at 4 PM on Sun 7/31 at the Logan Square Arts Center as part of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival. He also performs with the Dee Alexander Quartet at 5:30 PM on Tue 8/2 at the MCA.
INDIE | There’s only room for one Canadian Girlfriend in this town
Before the Internet, every college town in America could be home to a mediocre alt-rock band called the Toad Lickers, and unless one of them got big they could all coexist in peace. Not so these days—vetting potential names via Google is now SOP for new bands.
Local all-girl group Canadian Girlfriends, who describe themselves as “kitten-core,” googled their name when the band was coming together in January, and it came up clean—mostly. “We just saw there was another band called My Canadian Girlfriend and thought that the names were different enough,” says guitarist Nikita Word. “They have three words and were guys and we’re an all-girl group and a totally different sound. We figured it wouldn’t be a big deal because they were in fact different names.”
That might have worked out if My Canadian Girlfriend weren’t also from Chicago, which Word and company hadn’t noticed. (Full disclosure: I’m friendly with members of Canadian Girlfriends.) My Canadian Girlfriend is also an indie band—one more indebted to the brainy pop of the Smoking Popes and Harvey Danger—and has been around since 2005. Though front man Jamie Fillmore (formerly of Cheer-Accident) says he regularly googles his band’s name, he didn’t realize Canadian Girlfriends existed until a few weeks ago—in late June and early July, the two groups were booked on consecutive Wednesdays at Pancho’s.
My Canadian Girlfriend sent Canadian Girlfriends an e-mail asking that they find another name. Canadian Girlfriends replied that precedent was on their side. My Canadian Girlfriend countered with a cease-and-desist letter from their lawyer. “Bringing in the lawyers is never fun,” says Fillmore. “You know, it’s not the kind of stuff you want to do.”
Canadian Girlfriends weren’t up for a legal battle. “So, um, we e-mailed them stating that we would change our name and asking actually if My Canadian Ex-Girlfriend was acceptable,” Word says. “To which they replied, ‘no.'”
Canadian Girlfriends have decided to find a new name with help from a Facebook poll. Their next gig is the Love of Everything record-release show at the Empty Bottle on Mon 8/22. Fillmore says he hopes there aren’t any hard feelings. “You know in Chicago most [bands] are like more interested in hanging out and partying together than, you know, beating each other up or anything,” he says. My Canadian Girlfriend plays Fri 7/29 at Memories in Portage Park.
PUNK | Kid Sister Everything jumps on the tape train
Local punk label Kid Sister Everything released a five-song live EP by Fargo posthardcore band Animal Lover last week—its first cassette after four years of CDs and seven-inches. Label head Harrison Hickok has a simple explanation for the new format: “I decided to do a tape because it was really cheap and I was bored with CDs.”
The release is particularly special for Hickok because two of Animal Lover’s members previously played in one of his favorite bands, an experimental posthardcore group called Gumbi. “When they broke up I was really bummed,” he says. The fact that Animal Lover recorded the cassette at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center—a nonprofit space in Saint Louis devoted to engaging kids creatively—was a bonus for him. “I really liked that it was recorded at Lemp because of everything that it stands for,” Hickok says.
Hickok, a part-time screen-printer, wrapped each cassette in an impressive 11-by-17-inch poster he designed. You can order a copy from Kid Sister Everything’s Big Cartel site.