Bobby Zankel Group | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bobby Zankel Group 

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BOBBY ZANKEL GROUP

While some jazz musicians isolate themselves in small corners of the music world, others, like Bobby Zankel, build bridges between different camps. What an accomplishment, for instance, to use as sidemen both swing-happy boppers like trumpeter Johnny Coles and drummer Ralph Peterson and open-sea adventurers like saxophonist Odean Pope and pianist Marilyn Crispell; but creating contexts to encompass such disparate personalities is just what the Philadelphia-based alto saxophonist did on his first couple of records, Seeking Spirit and Emerging From the Earth (both on the Cadence label). These two early-90s dates, both of which feature largish bands and rather formal arrangements, also reveal his penchant for colorful, action-packed orchestration and intriguing rhythm shifts--the meter constantly changes, offering soloists Latinate, Africanoid, and freer times. Zankel's most recent CD, the excellent Human Flowers (CIMP), is a looser trio outing with Crispell and drummer Newman Baker (best known for his work with alto man Henry Threadgill), and it shows what the saxophonist can do with some elbow room. On the record's longer improvisations, Zankel's slicing tone often recalls Cecil Taylor mainstay Jimmy Lyons (Zankel has also worked in Taylor's orchestra), while his gruff, deep-register sound has the coarseness of Ornette Coleman's lower reaches; his connection to Crispell--his longtime associate and champion--is passionate and empathetic. For his Chicago debut, Zankel will be flanked by the impressive ensemble of Crispell, New York bassist William Parker, and Chicago's own percussion imam, Hamid Drake. Just hearing Parker and Drake hook up should make the evening completely worthwhile. Saturday, 8:30 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Bobby Zankel by Patented Photos.

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