In terms of momentousness, the 40th anniversary of this unique three-man collective may not rank up there with the centennial celebrations of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. But with an acclaimed recent album, The Long Road, and major performances like tonight’s, trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway are here to remind us of what a prized contribution to jazz they have made over the past four decades.
These highly distinctive artists have forged a rare group chemistry that is invested as much in nuance, texture and spatial dynamics as it is in showstopping solos and group choruses. Think of New Orleans Second Line rhythms being pulled apart in a sonic laboratory to get a sense of their brainy adventures. But with Anderson’s delightfully offbeat solos and vocal effects at the ready, BassDrumBone is a finger snap away from lighting up the surroundings with outsize charm and rarified energy.
Anderson was born and raised in Hyde Park, where he attended school with another great trombonist, AACM luminary George Lewis. And having played with AACM greats including Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams, Helias and Hemingway have their own meaningful ties to Chicago. It’s been a while since BassDrumBone have performed in Chicago. Rest assured, they’ll make their homecoming, and their anniversary, eventful.