The focus of creative music is shifting ever so slowly away from New York. The pioneers for the Downtown scene Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz moved to the Northwest, Sam Rivers, champion of the 1960 and 70's loft scene is based in Orlando, Jackie McLean is in Hartford, Vinny Golia hails from LA, and Sonny Rollins moved upstate years ago. So where is the scene? I say Chicago. A city rich in tradition from King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives, the AACM to Sun Ra's years and Gene Ammons, Chi-town has fostered jazz in many forms. Today we see a renewed (without pretension) creative jazz forming in Chicago with the likes of Ken Vandermark, Jeb Bishop, 8 Bold Souls, Patricia Barber, Kurt Elling, and The Chicago Underground Duo and Trio. What Chicago has over New York is time. These artists are given plenty of space to experiment and grow under the watchful eye of elders like Fred Anderson and Kahil El' Zabar.
Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble is one such band that has benefited from the cities jazz tutelage. Formed in 1979, the NHE has maintained a solid core of musicians, releasing 3 discs for Sweden's Silkheart records. Like Edward Wilkerson's 8 Bold Souls, the NHE has the ability to sound larger than their collective five or six musicians. Dawkins write charts that draw from big band sounds pairing horns up to locomotive rhythms, something he took from his tenure with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and his travel in South Africa.
But for all the talk of a Chicago sound, Jo'Burg Jump has more to do with Charles Mingus than the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. The NHE applies Mingus' urgent pulse throughout, just listening to the opener, 'Stranger, ' and the title track, I thought I had caught Charles, Jimmy Knepper, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, and Dannie Richmond. The NHE's music is that insistent. The band recorded on all but one track without their guitarist mainstay Jeff Parker who is devoting his time to other project like Tortoise and The Chicago Underground Trio. He does sit in on the 'Shorter Suite,' the one track that somewhat diverges from the hurried pace, to focus on shifting moods as a slow cooked blues. Besides Parker's guitar, trombonist Steve Berry takes a soulful solo. Dawkins displays his saxophone voice throughout coming from a lineage of Ornette Coleman and Roscoe Mitchell. On 'Turtle Island Dance' the direction shifts towards South Africa as the band blows flutes, toys and conch shells over hand drumming.
Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble is just one of many happening musical things vying for attention in Chicago, signaling out collective attention towards Illinois.
Personnel: Ernest Khabeer Dawkins ? Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Percussion; Ameen Muhammad ? Trumpet, Conch Shell, Percussion; Steve Berry ? Trombone, Percussion; Yosef Ben Israel ? Bass; Avreeayl Ra ? Drums, Percussion; Jeff Parker ? Guitar.