Two improvised saxophone-drum duos show that age is nothing but a number on the Chicago jazz scene | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Two improvised saxophone-drum duos show that age is nothing but a number on the Chicago jazz scene 

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click to enlarge Keefe Jackson

Keefe Jackson

Frank Rosaly

These two sax-percussion duos represent several generations in Chicago improvised music—saxophonist Gerrit Hatcher is 26, while drummer Steve Hunt is 63—but all the musicians share an exploratory curiosity, and both pairs engage in fascinating modes of communication. Reedist Keefe Jackson and Hunt—a perpetually overlooked titan in the city’s jazz scene who’s played in NRG Ensemble, Caffeine, and Extraordinary Popular Delusions, among others—are celebrating the release of The Long Song (1980), a succinct cassette featuring three feverish pieces of bob-and-weave interplay, aerated friction, and surprisingly bruising onslaughts that reveal less common sides of each musician’s personality. Jackson deploys a deeply striated tone marbled with upper-register squawks in serving up visceral, gnarled flurries. There are also passages of marked restraint, where Hunt produces nicely curdled bowed cymbals, irregularly unspooling scrabbles, and nuanced scraping sounds across the surface of his drums.. On the new self-released Five Percent Tint, Hatcher and drummer Julian Kirshner—part of an exciting new crop of players who've brought an electric energy to the local community in the last few years—engage in a driving, forward-motion attack, Kirshner issuing gruff, paint-peeling riffs and cycling licks with improvisational patterns that frequently veer into keening high-end cries. There are also moments of repose when he spreads objects across his kit—dragging, abrading, and dropping things to generate an intimate little mini-performance of texture—allowing the saxophonist to embrace a conversational flow, albeit one that eventually becomes extroverted and explosive.   v

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