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Chicago Jazz Festival 2013

Mark Corroto By

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Next up was last year's Pulitzer Prize finalist Wadada Leo Smith playing selections of his Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012). The music detailing the Civil Right struggles in America, beginning with Emmett Till and concluding with the 9/11 attacks, was presented by Smith's Golden Quartet of Anthony Davis (piano), John Lindberg (bass), and Pheeroan AkLaff (drums) and the Pacifica Red Coral string quartet. Presented without announcements, the audience was cued by the video artist Jesse Gilbert's images projected on the large Pritzker screen. Smith's dramatic and stirring sounds deserve to be presented over multiple nights and with detailed program notes, but for a festival with an estimated budget of only $200,000, the one hour of music was a godsend.



Friday night was capped off by saxophonist Charles Lloyd's acclaimed quartet of Jason Moran (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Eric Harland (drums) with guest guitarist Bill Frisell. The 75 year old saxophonist strolled out playing "Let My People Go." The band parted the musical waters for Lloyd, whose tone is as strong and enduring as ever. Frisell was satisfied to accompany him all night, and the Moran and Harland combination could barely be contained.

Saturday morning found firebrand Chicago saxophonist Nick Mazzarella incinerating the north pavilion with his updated version of Ornette Coleman-meets-Jackie McLean post bop. His music could only be contained by way of bassist Anton Hatwich and the muscular drumming of Frank Rosaly. The Mazzarella Trio performed music like an angry punk rock band, if the punk rock band were also young masters of their instruments.

Next up was a curious quartet of Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan (saxophone), William Parker (bass), and Cooper-Moore, who doubled on the piano and his creation, the electric mouth bow. The spontaneously composed music surged and occasionally collected itself, each master adding ingredients. Jordan referenced John Coltrane, Cooper-Moore the energy of Cecil Taylor, while Parker and Drake maintained the spark. They were followed by Satoko Fujii's Orchestra Chicago performing a lengthy piece she wrote for the festival. Her Midwest group is just one of five big bands she juggles along with her Quartet Kaze, a trio, and multiple duos. The sound was big, muscular, and fitting for this city. Let's hope she records with this lineup soon.

Nighttime performances found Rudresh Mahanthappa's Gamak (ACT, 2013) bursting out with his version of prog-rock jazz played with a post-M-BASE sound. Mahanthappa's incorporation of the intricacies of Indian music with jazz is completed with the musical rantings of guitarist David Fiuczynski, bassist Francois Moutin, and drummer Dan Weiss.

Then there was the Fats Waller Dance Party, an updated (can you say hip-hop) version of music from the 1920s and 30s. Jason Moran has pushed modern jazz way ahead of the curve. His cover of "Jitterbug Waltz" referenced none of Eric Dolphy's accent, sampling (like a DJ) pieces and parts of the original. The show included dancers—four of them professional, and many selected from the audience. When the band struck up "This Joint Is Jumpin,'" they certainly weren't kidding.



The final day stretched the elastic elements of jazz. The Scandinavian band Atomic with Fredrik Ljungvkist (reeds), Håvard Wiik (piano), Magnus Broo (trumpet), and superstar rhythm section of Ingebright Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) navigated an ocean of sound that cued off both European and American concepts of jazz. At times their music threatened to explode on the bandstand, but incredibly they maintained a close interplay and tight energy.

Saxophonist Dave Rempis brought his band the Engines with Tim Daisy (drums), Jeb Bishop (trombone), and Nate McBride (bass) to the north pavilion, playing a brand of tight compositions that unfurled into intense passages and tricky improvisations. Rempis, who apprenticed in the Vandermark 5, is a solid leader with multiple projects and a great jazz vision.

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