JAZZ | Peter Margasak
Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly was born to Puerto Rican parents in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1974, and as a youth spent many summers on the island, in San Juan and Arecibo—but until maybe five years ago he was oblivious to its musical culture. Though he was already playing drums by the first of those summers in Puerto Rico, he occupied himself there by surfing and hanging out, not listening to local sounds. It wasn’t till the mid-aughts, when he stumbled upon Lamento Borincano (Arhoolie), a reissue of Puerto Rican music recorded in New York between 1916 and 1939, that he had his ethnic awakening.
“You could feel the newness of it, for its time,” Rosaly says. “It’s mostly plena [music], and there’s a life to it and messages that I never felt from salsa.” Since then he’s been researching the island’s musical past—recordings by Efrain “Mon” Rivera, Rafael Cortijo, and Andres “El Jibaro” Jimenez have resonated with him especially strongly. Earlier this month he finally began incorporating that research into his own music, launching a quartet called Bootstrap—it’s named after Operation Bootstrap, a controversial midcentury industrialization project the U.S. led in Puerto Rico. The group also features reedist Mars Williams, bassist Nate McBride, and pianist Jim Baker, and it’s in the middle of a residency at the Whistler, playing every Tuesday in June.
The group’s repertoire consists mostly of new compositions by Rosaly, plus a handful of tunes from Lamento Borincano and the Bad Brains song “Black Dots.” Rosaly calls it all “rebel music,” because it has a spirit of resistance similar to the one he hears running through the Puerto Rican music he likes best. I saw Bootstrap’s debut on June 5, and the sound was unmistakably free jazz, though Rosaly added subtle rhythmic accents from plena and bomba. From his drum throne he cued different pieces from the group’s book midperformance—a practice he says he’ll use more as the group develops its rapport.
Bootstrap is an outgrowth of a bigger project Rosaly has in the works, which will debut on August 25 in Millennium Park as part of the Made in Chicago series. Called ¡Todos de Pie! (“Everybody Stand Up!”), it’s a more explicit celebration of Puerto Rican music; its lineup will include McBride, tres player Alex Farha, flutist and saxophonist Cameron Pfiffner, trombonists Jeb Bishop (who moved to Carrboro, North Carolina, last week) and Nick Broste, and four members of local plena and bomba group Las BomPleneras.
EXPERIMENTAL | Miles Raymer
Few bands practice truth in advertising as thoroughly as Chord. Their psychedelic instrumental compositions, which they call “power ambient,” are all explorations of a single chord—and each is named for the chord it’s made from. In the past they’ve tackled exotic, dissonant chords such as Gdim13 and C7#11, but their latest recording consists of two takes on Gmaj7, a melodious chord that pops up frequently in country and folk music. Guitarist Trevor de Brauw, also of instrumental metal band Pelican, acknowledges the connection: “This is basically our country album,” he says. Considering that both songs run more than 20 minutes and lack not only prominent melodies but also any trace of country music, he might be kidding. But the self-released Gmaj7 really is the most accessible Chord record yet. The group’s early efforts were “really obtuse and often discordant,” says de Brauw. “At some point we decided we wanted to do something a little bit more pastoral and pleasing to listen to—Gmaj7 perfectly captures that.” Gmaj7 also includes drumming—a first for the group—by Pat Samson, formerly of U.S. Maple. The album is out now digitally, and will soon be pressed in a vinyl run of 300, with cover art by local gig-poster gurus Delicious Design League; you can buy both versions through Chord’s Bandcamp page.
HIP-HOP | Leor Galil
On Sat 6/2 local MC Legit, aka Lamar Israel, posted the song “Bonjour!” to his website, the first in a weekly series of free releases he’s calling #NewShitSaturdays. Israel had been toying with the idea of such a series while figuring out what to do with material he left off last year’s Coloring Outside the Lines mix tape. “Bonjour!” sounds a lot like that mix, with his rhyming glide atop a jazzy instrumental. “I tend to always say I’m like an old white man trapped in a rapper’s body,” Israel says. “I listen to jazz like all day.”
Long before he got hooked on Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis, though, the 20-year-old MC was into hip-hop. In sixth grade he dove into the rap world and was soon dabbling with rapping himself, but it wasn’t until he was a sophomore at Thornridge High in Dolton that he began to take his own work seriously. Israel says he used to be a “stereotypical rapper,” rhyming about drug dealing and trafficking in the usual misogyny, but he eventually decided to drop the front and create a style that faithfully reflected his personality—hence the name Legit.
Israel was involved in his school’s poetry club, and at a poetry event at rival school Thornwood in late 2009, he met rappers and producers Calez and Fonz-E Mak. He soon joined their collective, 2008ighties, and is now a member of a subgroup of that crew called the Brkf$t Club, alongside Calez, Fonz-E, Johnny St. Cloud, Julian Malone, and UG.
The Brkf$t Club hopes to release an EP shortly and a full-length by the end of the year. Israel plans to continue #NewShitSaturdays through the end of August (“Ex-Ray” came out 6/9), and he’s working on a new mix tape for December. He’s put together a five-piece band for his live set, and on Thu 6/28 they’ll perform as part of Reebok’s summer music series, Beats, at Red Kiva (1108 W. Randolph); it’s $10 and also includes sets by DJ Pascale and the Innovatorz.