Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chicago Jazz Festival 2008 Pt. 2

Saturday we took the day off from jazz since Evan's not really a fan and he hadn't enjoyed Sonny all that much (I would've liked to see Dave Douglas's set, but you have to make some compromises, y'know?), but Sunday I made him go down early with me to make sure we got a space for Ornette. Didn't get to connect with Michael and Eva unfortunately, but my friend Mary joined us in some good seats. We got there as Ron Dewar was wrapping up his set and waited for the terrific Dutch ICP Orchestra to come on. I'd seen them before here in Denver when they got trapped by a huge snowstorm traveling between gigs. They played then in a rehearsal room at Denver Univeristy where players could sweat right on you or you could reach out and touch them if you wanted. This time in the giant Petrillo Music Shell was quite a different experience for music of some subtlety. Three strings (vln, clo, bs), four horns (trumpet, trombone and two reedsmen), plus of course Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg made up the group and it was interesting to compare this large group mixing traditional and avant-garde styles with the AACM group I'd seen doing something very similar two nights before. Almost all the charts these guys played sounded out of the 1920's or 30's, though they opened with a loud, dissonant blare from the entire band to grab the audience's attention and slowly worked their way into a trad-sounding tune. (I didn't recognize any specific songs they played, though I'd swear there was something by Porter or Lerner-Loewe in there.) Anyway, exuberant playing a definite sense of humor (not just in Bennink's playing either, though he got a good laugh by starting his solo on one number in a bop style and then shouting "Salt peanuts, salt peanuts" once he'd moved sufficiently far away from that style). Good stuff.

Between ICP and Ornette came 8 Bold Souls, featuring at least two of the players from the AACM show I'd seen, but as much as I thought it was a good group, they were overshadowed on both sides by some real titans. I'll have to check out their CDs because it certainly sounded good (any recommendations?). Oh yeah - they had Dee Alexander perform two numbers with them as well. She sounded and looked great, but I could not take my eyes off the sign language interpreter on the side of the stage offering lyrics when she sang and gestural interpretations when she scatted, which was often. Marvelous.

Best for last - Ornette Coleman. Two basses plus Ornette and his son Ornette Denardo Coleman, but instead of his usual recent bass duo of Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga it was Falanga and Al McDowell (on electric), which was fine with me since McDowell has logged plenty of time with Ornette since he worked in Ornette's Prime Time in the 1980's. Unlike Rollins, no excessive time was given over either to sidemen (everyone soloed and supported more or less constantly, just like they say about Weather Report) or tunes (average song length was probably under 6 minutes, unlike Sonny's 15-20 minutes per song). Most of the tunes were on Sound Grammar (which I absolutely love) plus one reinterpreted Bach piece from Tone Dialing, and most of those were re-workings/re-titlings of older numbers anyway. I didn't recognize about three tunes, but it hardly mattered. Once the head has been played it's anybody's game after that and all about the real-time interplay, which sounded great to me. Evan and Mary also enjoyed it, more than ICP or Rollins or 8 Bold Souls (possibly combined, though I'd have to ask). For me, it was the best music I heard all week, though the total experience of the Velvet Lounge - ambience, music, etc. - was probably the best evening for me.

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