Hamid Drake’s Chicago Trio with Ernest Dawkins and Harrison Bankhead
One might detect a note of hubris when a group names itself Chicago Trio, as this excellent combo featuring this year’s artist-in-residence Hamid Drake has done, but the moniker is more about reflecting the city’s rich jazz tradition than it is about proclaiming itself official representatives; this is no ego trip. Drake has played with bassist Harrison Bankhead and saxophonist Ernest Dawkins (New Horizons Ensemble) in many shifting combinations, but the sole recording by the group—Velvet Songs: To Baba Fred Anderson (Rogue Art)—was a live ad hoc gig until its release made it clear that this combo deserved greater status.
That recording was cut in 2008 at the Velvet Lounge, the South Loop temple of free jazz owned by the legendary Fred Anderson, but when it was finally released in 2011, it was presented as an homage to the late saxophonist, a musician who vitally nurtured all three members of the Chicago Trio. As the Chicago Reader wrote of the release, “All three participants have their feet planted among jazz’s roots in blues and swing, so even though the music is entirely improvised, it invariably gravitates toward familiar tropes—Dawkins even quotes from ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ on ‘Down n’ the Delta.’” This combo presents Chicago jazz both muscular and freewheeling, with a degree of intuition and rapport that requires years of hard work, yet despite the shared histories of Drake, Bankhead, and Dawkins, the trio convenes rarely. Don’t miss this special treat.