Michael Zerang & Hamid Drake | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Michael Zerang & Hamid Drake 

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MICHAEL ZERANG & HAMID DRAKE

Whether powering the Brotzmann Chicago Tentet as that free-jazz jumbo jet gets airborne or entangling themselves in long, loose saxophone lines as two-thirds of a trio with tenor hero Fred Anderson, percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang have spent the last decade forging an extraordinary understanding of one another--the sort of working friendship in which music has created a deeper kind of communication than conversation ever could. Zerang and Drake have released only one album as a duo, the wondrous Ask the Sun (Okka Disk) in 1996--a great studio version of their suite dedicated to Edward Blackwell has been sitting in the can for a few years now. But throughout the 90s their annual winter solstice percussion concerts have just about made up for the shortage of recorded material: warm, celebratory, and reflective, they've become something of a pilgrimage point, even drawing folks who don't listen to Drake or Zerang in any other setting. Sometimes the duo plays worked-out pieces, engaging in impossible tandem rhythms on Middle Eastern dumbek and African djembe; sometimes they do without a score, trading solos on trap sets or roving around makeshift percussion stations loaded with bells, scrapers, gongs, and shakers like famished guests at a buffet. Interest in the event has grown steadily, so that what was once a single set now consists of four concerts spread out over a weekend: Saturday at sunset and after dark, and Sunday at dawn and sunset. This year the late show on Saturday is a trio set with flutist Nikki Mitchell featuring a shadow-puppet prelude, The Black Bird, by Redmoon Theater founder Blair Thomas, but the dawn concert has always been my favorite. Advance tickets are required, and can be bought through Bookworks; call 773-871-5318. If you've missed the solstice celebrations in the past, now's the time: the duo plans to close out the series next winter. Saturday, 4 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday, 6:30 AM and 4 PM, Link's Hall Studio, 3435 N. Sheffield; 773-281-0824. John Corbett

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.

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