Clarinetist Ben Goldberg and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt highlight this weekend’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival
by Peter Margasak
The 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival kicks off tomorrow with a typically packed schedule of diverse sounds, focusing on some of the city's most important and creative forces while making room for a selective smattering of national and international attractions. In this week's paper I highlighted a couple of duo performances by Nick Mazzarella & Tomeka Reid and Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry, but naturally there's much more that's worth your time.
I'm excited for the return of trumpeter Jaimie Branch's quartet, playing its first gig in town since May; the world premiere of Bamako*Chicago Sound System, flutist Nicole Mitchell's new project with the great Malian kora player Ballake Sissoko; as well as the premiere of a new commission from the superb reedist Geof Bradfield, "Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers," featuring a fantastic lineup with saxophonists Greg Ward and New Yorker Anna Webber and trumpeters Marquis Hill and Russ Johnson. Of course, there's more: a solo set for piano and pipe organ by the great Amina Claudine Myers, the Ari Brown Quartet with guest saxophonist Oliver Lake, and panel discussions about the Wall of Respect and pianist Thelonious Monk, both featuring the scholar Robin D.G. Kelley.
On Saturday evening at 6:30 PM the wonderful Bay Area clarinetist Ben Goldberg presents new solo interpretations of Thelonious Monk's music, a bold and challenging pursuit. Yet Goldberg has built his career from making brave choices, forging new techniques and approaches for the clarinet, whether in his influential New Klezmer Trio, which adventurously braided the Jewish musical style with a free-jazz ethos, or the genre-melting group Tin Hat Trio.
Lately I've been immersed in From the Granary, a digital release Goldberg has sold through his Bandcamp page—it documents experiments undertaken this summer during an extended residency at Civitella Ranieri, an ancient castle in the Umbria region of Italy. In the description of the album he writes, "One of my goals while here is to develop pieces for solo clarinet so I'm sitting around with the microphone on." But there's a modesty in that sentence that belies the rigor, beauty, and quality of what he's shared. While there's a workshop vibe to some of these pieces, Goldberg has such a strong compositional and narrative sensibility that these excursions prove endlessly fascinating. His practice offers tantalizing hints at what he might do with the indelible melodies and jagged shapes of Monk's singular music. Below you can check out one such example, a lovely, fluid piece called "Subject/Object/Subject for Joan Wadleigh Curran."