Hyde Park Jazz Fest: Bill Meyer’s Top Picks

ChicagoMusic.org

by Bill Meyer

Saturday, September 27

Oriental Institute, 3:30 PM
Oriental Institute, 4:30 PM
Joshua Abrams

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams makes a virtue of versatility. He’s played electric and acoustic bass with pop and jazz ensembles, improvised freely and fearlessly with heavyweights like Fred Anderson and Peter Brötzmann, composed diverse and evocative soundtracks for The Trials of Muhammad Ali and The Interrupters, and led his own superb jazz quartet at the most recent Chicago Jazz Festival. But in two separate concerts this afternoon, he will bear down on the essentials of one of his most celebrated projects, the pan-stylistic, spiritually oriented Natural Information Society, whose first two albums have just been reissued on CD by Eremite Records. Performing alone amongst the collection of the Oriental Institute, Abrams will play hypnotic rhythms on the guimbri, a Moroccan bass lute.

 

Logan Center Penthouse, 4 PM
Joshua Berman Trio

Cornetist Josh Berman is an inveterate organizer, responsible for keeping the Hungry Brain’s Sunday night concert series running for every week for over a decade. He is also a shrewd scholar who has used his perception of the aesthetic links between nascent jazz and its current expressions to breath new life into the music by reacquainting it with its roots. With this trio, which also features bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, Berman will show how that penchant for locating complementarity manifests in his own music by making bold themes and textural abstractions dance in intimate proximity.

 

Logan Center Penthouse, 5:15 PM
Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now (HiN)

This trio exemplifies the long stylistic and geographical reach of Chicago jazz in the 21st century. Cellist Tomeka Reid has been a steadfast participant in both the more adventurous side of the city’s jazz scene and large improvisational ensembles led by internationally known ex-Chicagoans Anthony Braxton and George Lewis. The other two members of this collaborative string trio, violinist/singer Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi, hail from New York and Livorno, Italy; their CVs range from Celtic folk to wooly free jazz. Together they combine conservatory-schooled precision with a deep dip in the well of blues feeling and an unerring sense of swing that will ensure that you never wonder where the drummer is.

 

Little Black Pearl, 5 PM
Mikel Patrick Avery •PLAY•

Drummer Mikel Patrick Avery has planned his recent music around an antique 44-key piano, whose distinctly clipped sonorities bring to mind the player pianos that proliferated in economy-minded saloons before prohibition. Writing for the instrument, which will be played tonight by Whitney Young Magnet High School student Alexis Lombre, has afforded Avery a chance to set arch, playful melodies atop swaggering grooves and percussive sound effects drawn from pre-bebop jazz.

 

Logan Center Performance Hall, 7:30 PM
Dana Hall: Black Ark Movement

Dana Hall is a drummer, educator, and former Artistic Director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble; he understands the requirements of making music come alive in the moment, and the rigors of studying and nurturing it over the long hall. His Black Ark Movement project brings both of those perspectives together by marshaling a truly thrilling line-up to explore music that had to cross geographical expanses in order to survive. Tonight Hall, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, clarinetist/saxophonist John Wojciechowski, trumpeter Russ Johnson, and bassist Robert Hurst will play the music of trumpeter Bobby Bradford and reedist John Carter. The duo were both born in Texas in the 1920s, which makes them contemporaries of Ornette Coleman, and they migrated to Los Angeles in the 1960s. There they made a series of superb recordings for the Revelation and Flying Dutchman labels. It remains to be seen what lessons Hall will draw from their oeuvre, but if even approaches the fluent lyricism, exacting tonal command, and rhythmic fluidity exhibited on Carter and Bradford’s Flight For Four (Flying Dutchman, 1969; reissued by International Phonograph, 2013), this could be the set of the festival.

For more on Hyde Park Jazz Fest, please read Neil Tesser’s in-depth preview for ChicagoMusic.org here.