Delmark has been putting out high quality music for decades and the variety of jazz styles that get released has always been a tonic for the label. This month's batch of modern jazz is no exception."" />

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Feature Fri Feb 01 2008

6, 9, 12 — New Jazz Releases from Delmark

Venerable Chicago music label Delmark has been putting out high quality music for decades and the variety of jazz styles that get released has always been a tonic for the label. This month's batch of modern jazz is no exception. And in case you missed them live, Delmark has also released DVDs of live sets by Ari Brown (Delmark 1577) and Nicole Mitchell (Delmark 1575 Jazz DVD). While Keefe Jackson's Project Project band doesn't have a DVD out yet, fret not because you can catch Jackson's large ensemble at their CD-release gig on Sunday, February 24th at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont.

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First up is a new live CD by saxophonist/composer Ari Brown and his sextet: Live at the Green Mill (Delmark DE 577). Brown, who penned all six tunes, is the central feature throughout. And why not?— his beautiful Shorter-inspired tenor work and commanding soprano technique are always pleasures; when he plays both horns at once as on "Two Gun V" it's a crowd-pleaser. Trumpeter Pharez Whitted and pianist Kirk Brown also get in some tasty solo time, and bassist Yosef Ben Israel and drummer Avreeayl Ra steer the band throughout the CD.

Brown's songs run the gamut of modern jazz, and while in the classic "head-solos-head" format, unfold unhurriedly: a strutty, swinging vamp ("Richard's Tune"), a ballad ("One for Skip"), and a modal, Elvin Jones-ish Latin tune ("Shorter's Vibes") all clock in at over 10 minutes. But you won't be checking your watch: this is one bulletproof, well-programmed set of jazz.

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Next is a set from flautist Nicole Mitchell and her nine-member Black Earth Ensemble, entitled Black Unstoppable (Delmark DE 575). Mitchell, co-president of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), composed and arranged all nine tunes for her group, which features standouts such as Thrill Jockey artist Tortoise's Jeff Parker on guitar, and Tomeka Reid on cello, along with sterling soloists Mitchell, David Boykin on tenor and David Young on trumpet. Justin Dillard (piano), Josh Abrams (bass) and Marcus Evans (drums) round out the rhythm section, and Ugochi Nwaogwugwu guests on vocals on three songs.

Setting aside the ho-hum funk/swing opening number "Cause and Effect" and a really unnecessary blues vocal tune "Love Has No Boundaries," Mitchell draws out rich colors and adventurous solos from her group in the rest of her songs. In particular, Reid's cello, reminding me of cellist Deidre Murray in Henry Threadgill's Sextett, provides a refreshing contrast to the horns and Parker's ring modulated solos in the title cut and "Sun Cycles" are a nice foil to Mitchell's distinctive flute lines. Closing the set is a solid, catchy vocal number, "Thanking the Universe."

All in all, the Black Earth Ensemble mixes up in and out soloing with crack ensemble passages and injections, providing a thrilling ride for the listener.

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Last is the new release Just Like This (Delmark DE 580) from saxophonist Keefe Jackson's 12 piece group, Project Project. This is clearly the most adventurous of the three discs reviewed here. Jackson corrals some of the area's finest musicians and guides them through five of his original tunes, and includes one penned by drummer Frank Rosaly , "Wind-Up Toy."

Project Project is a small ensemble that's thick in midrange: the trombones of Jeb Bishop and Nick Broste, tubaist Marc Unternahrer, and bass clarinetist Jason Stein provide a warm blend to Jackson's compositions. Other members are Josh Berman and Jaimie Branch on cornet and trumpet, crack clarinetists James Falzone and Guillermo Gregorio, Jackson and Dave Rempis on reeds; also along are Jackson's rhythm section of bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly from his group Fast Citizens [check out their Delmark side Ready Everyday (Delmark DE 571)].

Jackson's high-energy tunes embrace Webern and Feldman as much as Ellington, Mingus and the AACM. In songs like "The Grass is Greener" and "Just Like This," well-crafted free solos emerge from deftly-voiced composed sections. Berman, Falzone, Rolsaly and Jackson are notable soloists and all the while Jackson's big group handles the shifting tempos and rhythms with aplomb. Highly recommended.

Catch Keefe Jackson's Project Project live at their CD-release gig February 24th at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave.

 
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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.

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