Stafford James String and Percussion Ensemble featuring M’BOOM
Evanston native Stafford James got a late start as a professional musician, putting his bass aside while he served in the US Air Force in the mid-60s. When he was discharged, however, he returned to his studies, and by 1969 he’d moved to New York where he quickly found work spanning free jazz to soul jazz, playing and recording with the likes of Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Gary Bartz, Andrew Hill, Andrew Cyrille, Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon, Louis Hayes, Jimmy Heath, and Pharoah Sanders, among many others. James moved to Paris in 1989, during which time he composed for the German radio WDR of Cologne, had his music used in the French film Grand Restaurant by Pierre Palmade, and composed themes for French radio, but his stateside appearances have been rare over the last few decades. Yet the bassist and composer has quite a homecoming devised for this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival.
The heart of the concert promises to be James’ work “A Song for Our Heroes,” which he composed upon the 2007 passing of drum legend Max Roach. For this special tribute James has enlisted the participation of M’Boom, the powerful percussion ensemble Roach formed in 1970: Akira Tana, Warren Smith, Ray Mantilla, and Eli Fountain, along with guest member Geraldo de Oliveira filling in for the recently deceased Steve Berrios. The titular strings will be played by James, fellow bassist Richard Davis, cellist Andrew Snow, violist Vannia Phillips, violinists Becky Coffman and Carol Lahti, and electric guitarist Scott Hesse. The powerhouse lineup is rounded out by reedist Geof Bradfield.