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ears&eyes Records: From Chicago to the World

Jakob Baekgaard By

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MG: I'm really excited, as I always am, about the upcoming releases! Between July and September we've got two new vinyl LPs and one cassette release. On vinyl, Kurt Elling's longtime bassist Clark Sommers is leading a stellar cast with his group Lens that includes folks like Jeff Parker and Kendrick Scott! There's an annual birthday celebration of Chicago legend George Freeman at the Green Mill that includes Bernard Purdie! Guitarist Mike Allemana and I have been working on getting this vinyl LP released to celebrate George's 90th birthday, and it's been some 40 years since George and Bernard have recorded together. It comes out on the opening day of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Humbly the cassette release is my own, Cuentos, Volumes 1 & 2; an ongoing project of me recording musical "short stories" in the various cities I've lived with some close friends and improvisers. When I was living in Oakland, I recorded with ex-Chicagoan Aram Shelton, along with vibraphonist Mark Clifford and cellist Crystal Pascucci as Volume One. Volume Two includes trumpeter and longtime band mate James Davis, guitarist Bill MacKay and bassist Jeff Greene. The rest of year, you'll hear from an amazing guitarist/composer, Dan Bruce and his Beta Collective which includes Clark Sommers, Rob Clearfield, Russ Johnson and Jon Deitemyer, as well as Phil Schurger with Greg Ward, Jeff Greene and Clif Wallace.

AAJ: Finally, how would you evaluate the story of ears&eyes so far and what are your dreams for the future?

MG: What ears&eyes did in the early years was to sort of give a platform to musicians in Chicago to release their music and connect it to the family they were a part of and to encourage them to release the music versus letting it go to the wayside. In that sense, I think it's nice that we were able to preserve those records in physical and digital worlds, as something we can all look back on as important moments in our musical growth.

Over the past couple years, I hope that we've been reaching a much larger audience in that I've dedicated myself to ears&eyes full time, and that we will continue to grow and release music we believe in. I have big dreams for the future as we've been planning most of 2018 already. Living in Buenos Aires now, I'm hoping to expand the TMO and e&e reach to include some of the creatives here as there is a lot going on that should be supported and spread worldwide.

ears&eyes: Selected Discography

Tomorrow Music Orchestra
Neon Jesus Garage (2006)

Matthew Golombisky's Tomorrow Music Orchestra is a meeting of different musical worlds. One of the Orchestra's earliest efforts, Neon Jesus Garage, is a fully realized canvas of sound that incorporates elements of jazz, cinematic soundscapes and modern classical composition. The track "Slakeshore" sounds like Steve Reich playing jazz.

Pedway
Subventure (2006)

Matthew Colombisky is also involved with the eclectic groups Quintopus and Zing! but Pedway, his trio with drummer Quin Kirchner and saxophonist Caroline Davis, is melodic improvisation boiled down to its core. It is a thrill to hear their freewheeling, acoustic improvisations on the album Subventure, a live recording from a concert where they never run out of ideas.

Bill MacKay
December Concert (2014)

Bassist, producer and sound wizard Matt Lux is a prominent figure on the Chicago jazz scene and here is a chance to hear him in an intimate setting with guitarist Bill MacKay. It is all about strings on this release and the sounds and melodies they can make. Lux and MacKay also work together on another release on ears&eyes, Altamira by MacKay's band, Darts & Arrows, with Lux in the producer's chair.

Sun Speak
Sacred Rubble (2015)

The range of musical colors, melodies and textures created by the minimal line-up of guitarist Matt Gold and drummer Nate Friedman is impressive, spanning the acoustic fingerpicking and shuffling drums on "Juno" and the advanced juxtaposition of a distorted stoner rock riff and breezy saxophone from guest Ben Schmidt-Swartz on "Solar Beast."

Caroline Davis Quartet
Doors: Chicago Storylines (2015)

The best jazz records often become a part of jazz history, but it is rare that an album literally writes jazz history. However, this is what saxophonist Caroline Davis does on Doors: Chicago Storylines where she covers jazz in Chicago 1980-2000 through tales from musicians that were there to witness the scene while she adds her own musical interpretation of the Chicago sound. What emerges is an original mixture of oral jazz history and contemporary jazz with a profound sense of tradition.

Dave Miller
Old Door Phantoms (2016)

Guitarist Dave Miller's album Old Door Phantoms steals unashamedly from the great book of rock to create its own brand of dusty, adventurous instrumental rock. The band covers the instrumental classic "Telstar," and "Last Call" echoes Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" while the ragged guitar excursions owes a debt to Neil Young. It is a wonderful psychedelic déjàvu dressed in new, hip robes.

Hood Smoke
Rough Around the Hedges (2016)

It is no wonder that a city that has produced such an elegant art pop outfit as The Sea and Cake could also create a band like Hood Smoke. Catchy Chicago soul pop music in the spirit of Quadron and Rhye that has plenty attention to details and texture. A delightful record for early morning coffee and late night mellowness and everything in-between.

Rob Clearfield
Islands (2016)

Pianist Rob Clearfield plays in Hood Smoke and the emphasis on song-structure is shown in the simple ballad "Child, Awake" from the album Islands. However, complex breaks and straightforward lyricism exist side by side on an album that is an eclectic take on the jazz trio.

Nate Lapine
Quartet: Vortices (2016)

After many years as a sideman, Nate Lapine steps into the spotlight with a quartet where his tenor saxophone is complemented by alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella and the tight rhythm section of bassist Clark Summers and drummer Quin Kirchner. The music is both energetic, swinging, serious and cool, but as the title "Even Yeti's Ready for Springtime" indicates, it has a solid pinch of playfulness.

Matija Dedic
Dedicated (2017)

A fine example of the global reach of ears&eyes, Dedicated is an album by Croatian pianist Matija Dedic. It features saxophonist Chris Cheek, who plays with a fragile, transparent tone. The album is an homage to Dedic's late father, Arsen Dedic, and is filled with gentle balladry, although things heat up on "Afmazur," with soprano saxophonist Jure Pukl.

Ashley Summers
True North (2017)

While her album is called True North, Canadian-born bassist Ashley Summers does not play music that is Nordic in the style of Norwegian saxophonist, Jan Garbarek. Instead, she tells her own musical stories, a brand of modern lyrical jazz, with prominent help from saxophonist Seamus Blake.

Charles Rumback
Threes (2017)

Drummer Charles Rumback's trio with bassist John Tate and pianist Jim Baker creates original music of the highest order that is able to compete with the best piano trios of the past and present. Threes is short on tracks (only four), but contains a wealth of sparkling creativity with the musicians stretching out on epic compositions.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Golombisky

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