Umbrella Fest has much super-charged jazz
BY MICHAEL JACKSON November 9, 2012 9:26AM
Chicago Underground Duo's Chad Taylor plays with his bandmate Rob Mazurek Nov. 9 at 11 p.m.
After two nights of free concerts at the Cultural Center under the banner European Jazz meets Chicago, three of the city’s year-round centers for experimental music host their customary cutting-edge bills for the Umbrella Festival. Only ex-pat Greek Pandelis Karayorgis and Dutchman Fred van Hove represent continental Europe this weekend but some of Chicago’s finest improvisers in fresh formations will mix with outstanding East Coast musicians. The sets are nicely balanced between intimate and expansive, electric and acoustic, established and emerging. Early arrival is recommended if you expect a seat at any of the following shows.
Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd floor, www.elasticarts.org; (773) 772 3616, $20 cover.
9 p.m. Darius Jones Trio: New Yorker Jones’ CD “Big Gurl (Smell My Dream)” (AUM) not only has a weird title but also bizarro cover art depicting a three-eyed woman petting a three-eyed dog. Jones dedicates the record to employer George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for “giving a young black kid the option to be funky and strange(r).” Adam Lane’s willowy bass and drummer Jason Nazary’s polyrhythms frame Jones’ alternately plaintive and confessional, then raspy and confrontational alto saxophone. His debt to Chicago-born saxist Steve Coleman is revealed on Jones’ mathematical restructuring of Ellington’s “Take the A Train” although Jones’ attitude is grittier than Coleman or the Duke.
10 p.m. Joe Morris Solo: When I last heard Morris in his home base of Boston he was playing acoustic bass, though in a period of disaffection with the free jazz scene.
Since he has returned to guitar and will perform tonight unaccompanied as he did on “Singularity” (AUM, 2000). That record on steel string acoustic suggests what he may sound like. As the titles “Light”, “Gravity,” “Atmosphere,” “Liquid,” “Dimension” suggest, Morris approaches solo play like a science experiment, full of tiny detail and observations, micro shifts in attack. Morris’ dynamically varied layers of picking can suggest a West African stringed instrument parsing Delta blues.
11 p.m. Chicago Underground Duo: Cornettist/conceptualist Rob Mazurek returned to the Chicago area after an extensive sojourn in Brazil, but with drummer/multi-instrumentalist Chad Taylor now a longtime New York resident, this bandname has become a tad tenuous. Nevertheless the two remain as thick as thieves on their recent release “Age Of Energy,” (Northern Spy) a further chronicle of their 14 plus years as a unit. Taylor’s rumbling drums occupy a landscape of episodic industrial fuzz, before Mazurek’s cornet barges in on a cloud of reverb. It’s a warehouse party upturned. On “Castle in Your Heart” a pool of playful mbira dominates muted horn shimmers, which fade with fragments of Abba’s “Winner Takes It All.” No telling whether this will resemble what these arch sound alchemists will regale us with tonight.
Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, www.hideoutchicago.com; (773) 227 4433, $20 cover
9 p.m. Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Pianist/keyboardist Karayorgis recently recorded with this group including Chicagoans Dave Rempis, Keefe Jackson and Frank Rosaly under the working title “Circuitous.” It well describes Karayorgis’ approach, which can re-envision jazz standards repertoire, such as Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys” or Wayne Shorter’s “Pinocchio” (check his 2008 trio album “Betwixt”), with a Fender Rhodes distorted with filters, pedals and ring modulator. Traditional jazz fans will be lured in and then negotiate the curveballs, they’ll find outstanding local bassist and longtime Karayorgis accomplice Nate McBride helpful with the task.
10 p.m. Adolphe’s Ax: Not the unmentionable creator of the Third Reich but the inventor of the saxophone, this Adolphe led a life full of ups and downs and saxophone historian Cameron Pfiffner is gripped by his story. Pfiffner intends to tour a theater piece about Sax’s life, meanwhile this innovative, lively all-sax sextet, with Julie Wood on baritone, Nate Lapine and Pfiffner on tenors, Nick Mazzarella and Caroline Davis on altos and Anthony Bruno on soprano, perform a repertoire scrolling way back before Sax’s time, delving into Medieval music and the deployment of the saxophone by legends such as South-African icon Dudu Pukwana.
11 p.m. William Parker’s In Order to Survive: Bassist Parker is a leading, expansive light in expressive music, who brings many elements together including spoken work and poetry. He brought an ambitious project celebrating the music of Curtis Mayfield to the Chicago Jazz Festival and his “Essence of Ellington” (Centering/AUM) recorded live in Milan this year is a tremendous explosion of the individuality principles fostered by the legendary bandleader. Parker is a community activist and instigator of the Sound Unity and influential Vision festival in New York. This concert features his longrunning quintet with saxist Rob Brown (heard in superb form on “Caravan” from the Milan date), trumpeter Lewis Barnes, drummer William Hooker and one-off multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore, playing piano in this context.
The Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, www.umbrellamusic.org; (773) 935 2118, $15 suggested donation.
9 p.m. Fred van Hove: The Dutch pianist, born in Antwerp in 1937, is one of the foremost practitioners of solo piano, although he earned notoriety in a trio with volatile German saxist Peter Brotzmann and compatriot drum legend Han Bennink. One wonders whether Hungry Brain hosts Mike Reed and Josh Berman will import a grand piano as when Alexander von Schlippenbach performed at the Velvet Lounge for the festival. Given that Harrison Bankhead’s eight piece (see feature) will populate the small stage afterwards, it seems unlikely. Van Hove’s approach to the piano is so surgical (he often explores the zithering potential of the piano’s strings as much as its keys), he will doubtless operate with focused intensity on whatever instrument is provided. For an idea of what to expect (including sudden vocalizations, reminiscent of Bennink’s whimsical outbursts), check quintessential Van Hove recitals from the 80s collected on the German FMP label, including the intense investigations of “Die Letzte.”
Michael Jackson is a local free-lance writer and photographer.