Chicago’s master percussionists greet the sun on the shortest day of the year | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Chicago’s master percussionists greet the sun on the shortest day of the year 

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click to enlarge Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake

Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake

courtesy the artists

As befits a pair of master percussionists at the height of their powers, Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang often play abroad. In recent months Drake has toured Europe with Joe McPhee and the DKV Trio, and played an incendiary duet with Malian xylophonist Aly Keita at the Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia. Zerang has performed gigs in Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates with Karkhana, an electric jazz band that includes musicians from Cairo, Beirut, and Istanbul. But no matter what else is on their schedules, every December since 1990 the two men convene at Links Hall to perform as the solstice dawns. While the format is always the same—surrounded by percussion instruments from around the world, they begin the concert in candlelight and finish it with the winter sun streaming through the windows—the music is quite varied. Drawing on their collective understanding of drum traditions from numerous cultures, they might mix Middle Eastern rhythms, wreath the room with bell tones, or bear down on savagely swinging jazz grooves (last year my favorite passage was the ten minutes where together they played a frame drum they’d balanced across their knees). This year the duo will play three successive early-morning concerts. Then, tonight, Trio WAZ, Zerang’s group with bassist Tatsu Aoki and saxophone-didgeridoo player Edward Wilkerson Jr., will be joined by cellist Tomeka Reid; they’re followed by Drake’s Indigenous Mind, with bassist Joshua Abrams, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, trumpeter Jaime Branch, and tenor saxophonist Ari Brown, playing music by Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane. Finally, on Friday night Drake will lead another group that mixes musicians, dancers, and storytellers.   v

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