Saturday, November 06, 2010

Umbrella Music Festival - Day Three: Witness to Legends

Friday, November 5, 2010
Set 1:
Slow Cycle @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
Josh Berman: cornet
Jason Stein: bass clarinet
Nate McBride: bass
Frank Rosaly: drums

Set 2:
David S. Ware Solo @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
David S. Ware: sopranino saxophone, tenor saxophone

Set 3:
Mark Helias' Open Loose @ Elastic, Chicago, IL
Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Mark Helias: bass
Tom Rainey: drums

The Umbrella Music Festival folded into one of its regular venues after whetting the appetite with two nights of free music. The packed house listened attentively as an astonishing array of legends of improvised music provided the strongest evening yet for the festival.

Slow Cycle brings a stripped down approach toward its mining of the free jazz vein opened up by Ornette Coleman more than fifty years ago. Frank Rosaly's drum kit consisting of little more than a kick, snare, high hat and one cymbal. A physical manifestation of the essence of this group aesthetic. And they attack their craft with a passionate aggression that places these players solidly on the spectrum of Coleman, Cherry, Haden and Higgins. Complete with a renewed sense of energy as this quartet brings its own sense of individuality and timbral variation to a sound that remains the shape of things to come.

This was followed by the almost indescribably moving force of David S. Ware's solo performance. Sitting in the front row, literally at the feet of this master musician was an experience of surprisingly mystical dimensions. His first piece thoroughly explored the startling range of the sopranino saxophone with a sound that occasionally climbed just within the ear drums. He then turned his attention to the tenor saxophone for an even more impressive improvisation.

Then came the trio of all-stars known as Mark Helias' Open Loose with a music that exuded that great New York sound from every possible angle. From Helias' compositions and creative direction to the always stunning playing of both Tom Rainey (a long time favorite drummer at this blog) and Ellery Eskelin. Eskelin's playing seemed to have impossibly evolved even beyond his high level of playing from the last time I heard him play live. He has become a real stand out on the tenor.

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