Harrison Bankhead Quintet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Harrison Bankhead Quintet 

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I don't usually comment on music I haven't heard, but the main matchup here--keyboardist Jim Baker and saxophonist Edward Wilkerson Jr. (the original Bold Soul)--holds too much promise to ignore, and so far the band has no other dates scheduled. Baker has worked in several north-side bands, ranging from the open-air trio Caffeine to the postfreedom quartet Steam to the rough-and-tumble electric band Broken Wire; in each of them, his focused nervousness generates a buoyant energy. Wilkerson's small and huge bands have provided some of the AACM's brightest moments over the last two decades, and his ability to sheath his hair-raising melodies in a nearly Ellingtonian sophistication means his solos bounce as well as bite. Baker and Wilkerson have worked together only in jam sessions (primarily at the Velvet Lounge), not within the structure of a band such as this one, assembled by bassist Harrison Bankhead. Bankhead's playing is firmly rooted in a Chicago bass lineage that stretches back to Milt Hinton and includes Wilbur Ware and Malachi Favors; the dry warmth of both his tone and his melodies has proved welcome, even comforting, in the many contexts in which he's performed. In fact few other Chicago bassists could hold together the musical structures Baker and Wilkerson are likely to forge. For this engagement Bankhead has designed an elaborate piece titled "Sketches of Frank Lloyd Wright" in honor of the Wright-wrought venue. It will feature (at times in combination) poetry by the Reverend C. Siddha Webber, a spoken-word recording of Wright himself, and music inspired by the first cello suite of J.S. Bach (Wright's favorite composer). Drummer Vincent Davis rounds out the ensemble. Saturday, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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