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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, December 3

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Artist Sun Jun 10 2007

Rivers Known & Oceans Crossed

This week sees a pair of events celebrating the release of the new album from two Chicago jazz titans, tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and percussionist Hamid Drake. Entitled From The River To The Ocean, the album was recorded by John McEntire at Soma Studios and it's a full-ensemble affair that features outstanding accompaniment from multi-instrumentalist Harrison Bankhead of 8 Bold Souls affiliation, bassist Joshua Abrams, and AACM guitarist Jeff Parker (of Tortoise, Chicago Underground Quartet, et al.) who steps in for three of the album's five tracks. Tuesday night, the full ensemble will be playing at an RSVP event at the headquarters of Stop Smiling magazine. The performance will be hosted by local author, curator, and musician John Corbett, who'll be conducting a public q&a with the band throughout the set. And on Wednesday night, the band will playing a regular evening set at Anderson's Velvet Lounge.

While Anderson and Drake have had a long history of working and recording together over the past three decades, From The River To The Ocean marks a singularly remarkable convergence of talent and mastery. That this is an occasion of no small significance is made immediately clear on the album's opener, "Planet E," which begins as a frenzied interplay of Drake laying into an intricate and propulsive afro-latin rhythm, with Bankhead and Abrams tangling on double bass duty as Anderson and Parker strike out toward the furthermost perimeters. The tune eventually settles down into a more relaxed mode before segueing into the groover "Strut Time."

As if to reflect the combined stylistic range and flexibility of all involved, the mood of the disc progressively shifts and evolves from there on out. On Bankhead's composition "For Brother Thompson," Drake and Abrams lay down some low-level rhythmic rumblings that roll and swell ominously like a gathering storm, like clouds building and darkening over the Plains, as Anderson begins with a doleful lament that gradually changes into a different sort of cry, one that sounds boldly, almost defiantly, determined to pierce the most impenetrable gloom.

As the album heads into the home stretch, the music departs from more traditional jazz formulae and ventures out into more "spiritual" territory. The title track and closer "Sakti/Shiva" are both rooted in more distant, exotic soil. It is here that Drake digs into one of his rhythmic affinities, that being the music of the Gnawa of Morocco—that fusion of the percussive patterns of the Maghrebi ritualistic music with the trance music that hails from deeper down in continental Africa. On these tracks, Abrams sets his bass aside and takes to the guimbri, the three-stringed bass lute that provides Gnawi music with its overwhelming punch and buoyancy.

From The River To The Ocean is an evocative, and multifaceted musical journey from start to finish. Jeff Parker puts his stylistic flexibility and fluidity to optimal use, and Bankhead's work on cello broadens the palette wonderfully. Anderson's playing is unflaggingly strong throughout. His voice on the tenor saxophone is one that, beneath everything, is deeply anchored in blues-rooted phrasing. Forcefully so, at times—but not so much heavy or hard in nature, as more often assertively questioning, questing, contemplative.

And you have two chances to catch the ensemble in action this week. The Tuesday night performance and interview will be at Stop Smiling HQ at 1371 N. Milwaukee from 7-9pm, and those interesting in attending can RSVP here. Wednesday night's show takes place at the Velvet Lounge at 67 E. Cermak. Doors open at 8pm, the show starts at 9.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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