The sound of Chicago native and alto saxophonist Mike Smith has changed over his weekly engagement at Andy’s—which began a staggering 31 years ago, on Thursdays. Back then he was a devoted acolyte of the soulful Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, but over the years he’s shed bald influences and developed his own hard-swinging sound marked by fast gliding phrases, a gorgeously shimmering tone, and a deep melodic generosity—qualities that in part led him to be lead alto saxophonist in the orchestra behind both Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Jr.
Superb Chicago alto saxophonist Christopher McBride has been slowly but steadily turning heads with his ubiquitous work as an invaluable sideman since the mid-aughts. But the time has come for him to take a bow as a bandleader, and his 2012 debut album Quatuor de Force certainly establishes his ability to front a group and write his own soulful, melodically indelible tunes.
Philadelphia native Ben Paterson moved to Chicago in 2004 and a year later he’d enrolled in the city’s greatest academy of higher jazz learning: Von Freeman’s band. Until the saxophonist’s death in 2012 Paterson played piano with the master at venues like Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill, Symphony Center, and occasionally at his weekly jam session at the New Apartment Lounge. He’s made a pair of luxuriant trio albums where his fluency in bluesy bebop couldn’t be more clear or profound. Vonski taught him well.
Artist-in-residence Hamid Drake and fellow Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang have a long history together, whether playing in the original lineup of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet to their long-running duo which has played a series of pre-dawn Winter Solstice concerts December for the last 22 years. Their collaboration with Eigen Aoki and the Tsukasa Taiko youth unit only began last year with a thunderous, evocative concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Aoki, the son of Chicago bassist and filmmaker Tatsu Aoki (who directs the group) has emerged as a muscular virtuoso of the traditional taiko drum from Japan.
This combo was thoughtfully assembled by the jazz fans behind the venerable Hyde Park Jazz Society and is led by the stylistically flexible, deeply melodic composer and pianist Miguel de la Cerna—a former music director the great Oscar Brown Jr. and a crucial sideman with singer Dee Alexander—who’s as equally fluent in 12-tone music as he in Latin Jazz styles. The lineup is rounded out by veteran saxophonist Ari Brown, bassist and frequent collaborator Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Avreeayl Ra.
Last December Chicago lost one of its greatest and most beloved jazz artists in pianist Ken Chaney. Naturally, his music will live on and this evening another of his band mates from the Awakening, trombonist and arranger T.S. Galloway—a veteran of the Count Basie Band who’s been based in Europe for nearly three decades–will pay tribute to Chaney leading a talent-packed Chicago big band.
Geof Bradfield shares his latest suite—one he composed for the criminally overlooked trombonist and arranger Melba Liston, who died in 1999 at the age of 73. Melba!, captured on a superb 2013 recording for Origin Records, includes original pieces that reflect all of these chapters in Liston’s colorful career, with evocative heapings of old-school bebop, Latin jazz flourishes, and the Moroccan modes explored by Weston–who joins in on several pieces as a special guest.
Mississippi native, trumpeter, and composer Wadada Leo Smith, a key early member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, completed a monumental piece of work in 2011, an elaborate suite of compositions he calls Ten Freedom Summers. The powerful music avoids easy categorization. In fact, much of it is fully composed, yet Smith’s resourceful collaborators imbue every note and rhythm with individuality. The compositions don’t explicitly feel programmatic, but Smith’s writing absolutely draws ideas from the era he’s writing about.
In March he turned 75 and his touring in 2013 is marked by special birthday celebrations, including this visit to Chicago. Lloyd will perform with his long-time rhythm section with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland—two players who’ve fully absorbed and reflect the liquid mutability, serenity, and concentrated power of the leader’s music—but they’ll be joined by special guest Bill Frisell.
Jay Pritzker Pavillion
Preston Bradley Hall
Jazz on Jackson
Jazz and Heritage Stage
The Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Stage