NYC Meets Chicago | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

NYC Meets Chicago 

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NYC MEETS CHICAGO

Jam sessions can be dicey propositions: They're inherently disorganized, musicians can hog the stage, and inspiration is often missing in action. But the one set to follow this year's Hyde Park/Kenwood Jaaz Fest '96 looks plenty promising. (The one-day fest, with groups led by Malachi Thompson, Rita Warford, T.C. Carson, and Bobby Irving, takes place Monday at the DuSable Museum of African American History.) The New York contingent consists of tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, trombonist Frank Lacy, and alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, all of whom will perform at the fest as guests of Thompson's Africa Brass. Harper, who frequently performs in Thompson's groups--he'll join his Freebop Band at the Bop Shop on September 14--is one of the country's most underappreciated saxists. As last year's Somalia (Evidence) attests, Harper wields significant power both as a soloist and as an arranger and writer. The album's sweeping compositions settle into deep rhythmic pockets, African-tinged grooves that allow Harper's solos to work his sophisticated melodic ideas into ecstatic post-Coltrane expressionism. With his new album, Dedicated to Dolphy (Black Saint), Oliver Lake (best known for his charter membership in the World Saxophone Quartet) pays tribute to one of his long-admitted influences. His alto softens Eric Dolphy's trademark zigzagging lines, but the legacy of Dolphy's angular phrasing endures in Lake's playing. Lake's mastery in a variety of idioms--from the blues to reggae--should make for any number of compelling gambits in a jam-session situation. In bands led by David Murray and Henry Threadgill 'bone-slinger Lacy has proven himself a master of off-kilter lyricism, braiding muscular but rich, melodic lines with coloristic smears. Trumpeter Thompson will lead the Chicago faction, which also includes pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Dana Hall. Monday, 9:30 and 11 PM, Velvet Lounge, 2128½ S. Indiana; 791-9050.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos of Oliver Lake, Billy Harper; photo of Lake by Ira Berger.

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