Chicago jazz musicians have been creating exotic worlds of sound on record during the past several months, and a few stand out for inventiveness and originality.
The greatest revelation comes from Juan Pastor's "Chinchano" (ears&eyes Records), which merges music of percussionist Pastor's Peruvian heritage with the syntax of contemporary jazz. Or perhaps "merges" doesn't quite do justice to what Pastor and colleagues have achieved, since the two idioms become one throughout this mesmerizing album. In essence, Pastor has built performances on rhythms and melodic cadences of Peruvian folkloric music, developing them through jazz improvisational methods. In a way, he follows in the footsteps of work by MacArthur Fellowship winner Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Danilo Perez and other fearless souls, who during the past couple of decades have been at the forefront of weaving the sounds of their native cultures into jazz. Joined by trumpeter Marquis Hill, reedist Rich Moore, pianist Stu Mindeman and bassist Jorge Roeder (plus organist Paul Mutzabaugh on one track), Pastor has created a music of considerable textural complexity, but also unmistakable lyrical grace. At once complex and accessible, "Chinchano" announces Pastor as a potentially important new voice in music in Chicago. Visit earsandeyesrecords.com or juanpastormusic.com.
No one in America champions Third Stream music – which embraces both jazz and classical languages – more determinedly than Chicago trumpeter-bandleader Orbert Davis. He has been performing one of the landmarks of this literature, Miles Davis and Gil Evans' "Sketches of Spain," for roughly two decades, both with William Russo's sadly expired Chicago Jazz Ensemble and with Davis' own Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble. Now Orbert Davis (no relation to Miles Davis) has documented his thoughts on this music in the aptly named "Sketches of Spain (Revisited)" (3Sixteen Records). Rather than try to re-create the Miles Davis/Gil Evans classic, Orbert Davis has dramatically reconceived the work on his own terms. By re-orchestrating two movements of the original and inserting two movements of his own (plus his string-quartet arrangement of a piano composition by Isaac Albeniz), Davis has developed rhythms and colors that are only implied in the original. The end result sounds both familiar and fresh, respectful of jazz history but eloquent in rewriting it. In all, a great achievement for both Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Visit chijazzphil.org or orbertdavis.com.
Jazz listeners already know that saxophonist Pat Mallinger offers plenty of virtuosity and emotional intensity, thanks to his prolific work in Chicago clubs and concert halls. His "Elevate" (PJM Records) manages quite a feat, capturing the fervor and drive of his live performances in a studio album, in effect offering listeners the best of both worlds. Playing alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, as well traditional Chinese flute, Mallinger reaffirms his position as a master improviser whose ideas emerge and develop so naturally as to seem inevitable. His serenely sensitive ballad playing on "Sunshine Rollins," big-and-broad statements in "Ho-Ho-Kus Blues" and steeped-in-bebop syntax on "Copacetic" (all original compositions) attest to Mallinger's versaility within mainstream jazz idioms. Assisted by longtime collaborator Bill Carrothers on piano, plus bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas, Mallinger in "Elevate" has turned in some of the best work of an already distinguished career. Visit patmallinger.com.
Every city tends to take its own jazz treasures a bit for granted, notwithstanding the respect they generate across the country and beyond. With "My Shining Hour" (Origin Records), to be released Aug. 19, guitarist Bobby Broom reminds us of his stature as soloist and bandleader. Fronting a trio with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven, Broom stands front and center – and benefits enormously from this high exposure. Rarely has the understated elegance, tonal warmth and melodic poetry of Broom's work been rendered more apparent to the ear. Playing as if he has nothing to prove (which he doesn't), Broom focuses on the meaning of the music rather than matters of virtuosic display. Thus "Sweet and Lovely" thoroughly lives up to its name, "The Tennessee Waltz" inspires Broom to lyrical flights of improvisation and the title track points to a technically accomplished soloist unafraid of simplicity. Because of this recording's sonic transparency and all-standards repertoire, it's poised to heighten the global profile of a Chicago guitarist richly deserving of it. Visit bobbybroom.com or origin-records.com.
Guitarist Peter Lerner hasn't reached Broom's level of recognition, but he surely has outdone himself with his newest release, "Continuation" (Origin Records). Though he sounds strong in solo passages, it's the band he leads and the strength of his compositions that make the deepest impression here. With pianist Willie Pickens playing a leonine role throughout the recording and Robert Irving III serving as producer, "Continuation" unfolds as a tour de force of ensemble playing. From the driving power of the opening "Willie n Me" to the rhythmic sway and translucent textures of "Once Upon a Chance Encounter" to the pastels Lerner and Pickens achieve in "When Sunny Gets Blue" (in Pickens' deft arrangement), "Continuation" moves from strength to strength. Joined in various combinations by bassist Marlene Rosenberg, drummer Charles Heath, saxophonist Geof Bradfield, flugelhornist Victor Garcia, trombonist Andy Baker and percussionist Joe Rendon, Lerner has made a formidable and lasting statement with "Continuation." Visit peterlerner.com or origin-records.com.
Jazz accordionists always have been an endangered species, and those who have taken up the instrument have not always argued persuasively for its virtues. Paul Betken, who grew up in Chicago and studied here with the accordion master Leon Sash, delivers standards with plenty of finesse and driving swing rhythm in "Paul's Turn." Leading a nimble jazz quartet, he finesses Gerry Mulligan's "Line for Lyons" with lithe phrasing, flies through Sash and Ted Robinson's "Robinsonia" and finds new mysteries in Astor Piazzolla's "Oblivion." With drummer Rusty Jones, bassist Sean Brogan and guitarist Stan Sorenson at his side, Betken suggests there's hope yet for the mighty jazz accordion. Visit cdbaby.com.
Finally, former Chicago violinist Zach Brock provides characteristically intelligent playing and sinewy tone in "Purple Sounds" (Criss Cross). With the similarly creative guitarist Lage Lund as his primary foil, the violinist crafts lines of considerable ingenuity, as in the title cut and Django Reinhardt's signature "Nuages." Brock's fascination with music of the Polish violinist Zbigniew Seifert is well known to those who have followed Brock's work, and Brock attains some of his most harmonically audacious, structurally unpredictable, melodically questing music in Seifert's "Quo Vadis." More proof, if any were needed, that Brock could be one of the future stars of the jazz violin.
To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.
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