SEP 26 10:30PM-? 200 West Superior (Superior and Wells) Third Floor, Suite 310 (312) 850-4906
The Return of The Ascension Loft Series with an After Hours Set with (the appearance of) Ornette Coleman.
An intimate gathering with the legendary Ornette Coleman with performances by Chicago's finest jazz musicians including members of The Experimental Band.
Friday, September 26th from 10:30 PM until???
200 West Superior (Superior and Wells)
Third Floor, Suite 310
Please RSVP at (312) 850-4906
Donations will be accepted
Feel free to pass this on to an interested listener.
Definitions of the word “Ascension” include the act of changing location in an upward direction, a movement upward, and in astronomy, the rising of a star above the horizon. The Ascension is one of the great feasts in the Christian liturgical calendar, and refers to the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven forty days after His resurrection from the dead.
The location change of the series to 200 West Superior on
the third floor was definitely an upwardly directional act. And most assuredly the stars rose above
the horizon to the occasion allowing a great feast in the creative
music calendar of space and time.
A healthy crowd assembled into the new setting and friends exchanged greetings. I was sufficiently geeked for the return of the Ascension Loft Series, since speaking with Kahil at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Tuesdays on the Terrace” program in July. I had been to several of his Loft series since meeting Kahil in January 2002 at Robert Irving’s tribute to Martin Luther King III performance. I love the intimate and relaxed atmosphere the Ascension Loft provides for the showcasing of abundantly talented collaborations.
The Experimental Band led by magistrate El’Zabar was quiescent in my memory. I had once before experienced the assemblage of the band at the conclusion of the sixth annual Marshall Fields Day of Music on September 21, 2002 at Chicago’s Symphony Center. El’Zabar had just been chosen the Chicago Tribune’s Artist of the Year and earlier won his first “Percussionist of the Year” award at the Jazz Journalists Association. Kahil El’Zabar first was featured in a showcase performance with Tri-Factor, joined by violinist Billy Bang and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett. The evening concluded with El’Zabar leading his Experimental Band featuring drummers Dushun Mosley and Avreeayl Ra, bassist Harrison Bankhead, pianist Jodie Christian, saxmen Ernest Dawkins, Duke Payne, Bryon Bowie, and Hamiet Bluiett, trumpeters Robert Griffin and Malachi Thompson, trombonist Ike Jackson, and violinist Billy Bang. Leading may be a bit too passive. Coercively dancing the notes out of the instruments and hearts and souls of the musicians is more fitting. I enjoyed the performance immensely that night and anticipated their return.
Oh, and along with the Experimental Band, the legendary Ornette Coleman was coming to be honored after his earlier performance at the Symphony Center With Greg Cohen, Tony Falanga and Denardo Coleman. The write-up for Ornette included his quote “Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time”, described his “free jazz” style as a break from the established swing and bop of the late 50’s, and encouraged you to experience his exuberant, exhilarating mode of pure creative influencing generations of jazz musicians. Coleman himself called it “harmolodics—where you go directly to the idea”. http://www.harmolodic.com/ornette/
Kahil El’Zabar thanked all us “mellows” and “mellowettes” and announced, “We are just about to get to it”. He said Ornette Coleman would arrive soon and to be sure and give him a warm round of Chicago kudos. He introduced the band:
-“On trombone, from the group the 8 Bold Souls, one of the finest trombonists in the world, Isaiah “Ike” Jackson.”
-“On trumpet, one of the most outstanding, innovating trumpeters in the world, who happens to live in Chicago-- with all kinds of great bands and great records, Malachi Thompson.”
-“On alto saxophone, we call him the horizon—he’s always doing something new—like the New Horizons—the one and only—Ernest “Khabeer” Dawkins.”
-“I think he remembers it, when I was a little younger than I am now, there used to be a club called the Living Room, and he used to let me sit in and play with old Al Brown and the Organizers—he was always a dapper cat that I tried to reflect—he’s a legend--he plays jazz bagpipes, tenor and soprano saxophones—how ‘bout it for the one and only—Duke Payne…Duke Payne.
-“All the way in back, he’s played with everyone, the Ari Brown Quartet; he’s played all over the world, beautiful, beautiful and melodic musician, who happens to play drums, the one and only—Mr. Avreeayl Ra.”
-“The total counter complement, if you dig what I am saying, the counter-complement, from the 8 Bold Souls, the one and only—the great—Dushun Mosley, drums.”
-“On piano and tenor this evening, we call him the Professor sometimes, the wizard, we sometimes call him with all endearment Big Brown, on tenor saxophone and piano, Mr. Ari Brown.”
-“He’s our heartbeat, our root, our foundation, someone who has shown all of us the way to this music, and he’s done it so humbly over the years, he’s a legend, he’s an international phenomena, from the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the one and only--Mr. Malachi Favors Maghostus.
-“This is like my big, big brother, he is actually the one who asked Ornette to come through, he is revered throughout the world as a teacher as well as a great player--all the young baritone saxophonists you hear as well as the older ones--owe a debt to his innovations of his instrument—he is able to play over five octaves on that instrument--He is one of the founders of the World Saxophone Quartet and a very good friend of Mr. Ornette Coleman, he came in ‘specially for this performance, how about it, for the great Bluiett on bari-saxophone.
Then he introduced the first song:
-“We are going to do one short piece and bring the spirit in and then we are going to have a special presentation for Mr. Coleman. Our first tune is called Leave it Like That”…
(Actually Kahil was instructing the sound engineer and told me later the song was called Leave it Right There)
The tune began with Ari Brown’s piano lead, and other percussive instruments. (I will never forget the first time I saw Ari Brown play piano…I told my friend, I know everyone in the band except who is that on piano?) Then Ernest Dawkins blew an energetic alto sax supremacy sustained at patterned intervals by the remaining horn and rhythm sections.
Then Kahil brought up Senator Donne E. Trotter and James Jordan,
to present the proclamation to Mr. Ornette Coleman. Ornette shook hands with each and every band member. Senator Trotter said in addition to Ornette
Coleman, he wanted to pay homage to all the masters. He would be remise not to recognize that on this very stage are
some of the world’s greatest musicians.
To Ornette, he said “They might have had you at Symphony Center or
Copenhagen, but we love you here in Chicago.”
The proclamation was then read, rather quickly:
On this day, the 27th of September in Chicago, the Illinois Senate and Committee recognizes the milestones of citizens
-Whereas Ornette Coleman taught himself how to play the saxophone and read music in 1944
-Whereas Ornette Coleman first burst in the music scene in 1959, his musical concept immersed in jazz structures and blues sensibilities
-Whereas Ornette Coleman is the quintessential voice in what now is known
as avant-garde jazz
-Whereas Ornette Coleman has won several prestige awards including the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Jazz Krona Award from Denmark
Be it resolved by the Illinois Senate House and the Governor of Illinois--that we congratulate Mr. Ornette Coleman on his amazing career as a jazz musician and as our brother.
Then Ornette humbly replied, “I would like to say that everyone in this building and everyone that is here sitting down--has an idea. And I would like to see those ideas--become creativity--that is expressed as sound is. Thank you.”
Yes, I was disappointed that he did not bring his saxophone and play--That I did not get his signature on the jazz calendar and so on. For about a second. Because if you use your brain—which is hardened in this modern society—and look and hear what Ornette had to say…
The next tune played was Opening Out. Bluiett’s bari-sound whaled above the rest of the horns. His solo was high in the upper range, then low, low at the low-end range. The saxes, trumpet and bone joined in with the duo of drummers. Next Malachi Thompson trumpified the stage as lead instrument, followed by Duke Payne on tenor and then the amalgamation of the full orchestra. And all along Kahil danced the entire direction of the orchestration.
Blues Forever followed this song, with a swingin’ (almost beboppin’) bass introduction by Malachi Favors. Ari Brown got up from the keyboard to blow his tenor while the rest of the band gently blended, and Kahil hopped along to the bluesy beat. I was ready to dance myself. After Ari finished his sax solo, he sat back down at the piano, while Isaiah blew the blues on the ‘bone.
After the intermission, Baabe Irving joined the band on piano. I stopped referencing Baabe’s history with Miles years ago. He brings his own very special groove and expertise. You just have to listen to KNOW he has added his talents with the band.
Duke Payne appropriately playing the bagpipes for the first tune of the set, Ode To Bagpipes. The bagpipes are such an amazing instrument! And Duke is such an amazing musician! (I had just told him as he was climbing into the bagpipes, “I love your ‘pipes, has anyone told you lately? Just in case, I love your ‘pipes!”—Keep an eye out for the Jazz Institute saxophone summits that often feature Duke and the bagpipes.) Duke blended changes of various melodies-Afro Blues and We Three Kings- and then squeezed the last of the air manipulating the pipes like an octopus around his neck.
Kahil reverently said, “All Praises to the Spirit, Let the Children Hear It”. He then told the story “for those that don’t know it. One of the things that happened when Ornette first got to New York and he played at some place was, he was accosted by some other musicians because they didn’t understand the new word or the unique approach to life.”
He continued the story of evolution; Ornette Coleman was one of the first people to develop a loft in the lower east side of New York. When you think of Living Colour, of Vernon Reid* and that whole “rock thing”—Vernon Reid played with Ronald Shannon Jackson**, and Ronald Shannon Jackson came through Ornette—“
“On all kinds of levels, there’s artists in all walks of life that have been influenced by Ornette and how he uses space, sound and color and unique ideas…”
“You saw Ornette’s demeanor, very peaceful, soft, just real strong energy. I think he make a better president, you know. He’d be loving and concerned, and not bullsh-t”
He dedicated the next song: Here’s to Loving and Concerned
Kahil scatted the introduction and used his body and voice to emulate a saxophone player—this progressed into a swinging, yet progressive orchestration. The distinct sounds of the alto sax of Ernest Dawkins, the floating keys of Baabe Irving and the drums of Dushun Mosley and Avreeyal Ra were answered with audience applause. Then Avreeyal and Dushun alternated currents of cymbals and snaps and snares. Then Malachi Favors intensely played his “flexible rubberbandish bass, while the rest of the musicians and finally the audience chanted consecutive “AH’s”.
The last piece of the evening portrayed the story about Hermaphrodite—a little bit about love, conquering the world with a smile and being afraid to change, “scream!” Kahil narrated in poetry, while Duke weaved in licks of Body and Soul. Ari played his soprano sax. It was a very cool rendition, with Kahil participating in the sound and continuing the involvement in dance.
A few years ago, I would not have enjoyed this creative music, as I do today. Now I recognize and appreciate what it is (reminds me of a zebra joke), It is so much fun when you understand and hear what they are presenting, taking you on musical journeys, but most the time bringing you back to this planet. And guess what “WE ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE FUN”. We are allowed. Think of how precious that is.
I can’t help it, I just love it – I still have the yearning to hear the classical jazz bebop…but just as “jazz” is the future “classical” music of the century…I believe this segment of “creative music” will be/is the future art of the millennium.
By the way, these creative musicians can and do play classic jazz bebop. It is a how you choose to play (and hear) what you feel. I believe that freedom concept is the fundamental layer of the Experimental band. And no one can deny Kahil has the patent on the freedom jazz dance.
Thankfully I have been guided along a new path, enlightened by some top talent—a plethora of which live in Chicago or have a few roots here. I will continue to attend the Ascension Loft Concerts for the best is yet to come whether or not Joe Blow blows. And yes, Mr. Ornette, I would like to see those ideas--become creativity--that is expressed as sound here, too.
-Rebecca Hope, written Sat, Sept 27, 2003
*About Vernon Reid
Vernon Reid was born in England but spent
most of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up listening to an
electric variety of pop music ranging from Dionne Warwick's hits to the Temptations
"Psychedelic Shack". At the age 15, inspired by the example of
Carlos Santana, Vernon's career as a guitarist began. "He was a guitarist who brought his
ethnic background to rock and roll," Vernon says of Santana,
"He made music that was a distinct hybrid but was accepted as rock
music." Vernon, who attended Brooklyn Tech, had the opportunity to
study guitar privately with jazz masters Rodney Jones and Ted Dunbar.
In the early 1980's while working with jazz drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, Vernon's reputation began to grow.
When Vernon was not busy mastering the harmolodic theories of Ornette Coleman as a guitarist of the Decoding Society, he spent his time gigging with a wide array of artists ranging from pop producer Kashif to the jazz- punk-dance band Defunkt.
Colour began as a trio in 1984. Around the same time, Reid
and journalist Greg Tate formed the Black Rock Coalition. In many
ways, Living Colour is the embodiment of the coalition's stated goal: a
new freedom of expression for black musicians. Living Colour has
released four albums: the ground breaking 'Vivid', released in 1988, the
critically acclaimed follow-up, 'Time's up', in 1990, the 1991 Ep, 'Biscuits',
and the latest LP,'Stain', released in 1993.
Living Colour has sold over four million records worldwide, they have won numerous awards including, two Grammy Awards, two MTV Music Video Awards, two International Rock Awards and several New York Music Awards.
Since the formation of Living Colour, Vernon has appeared as a guest guitarist on the records of a many diverse artists: Jack DeJohnette, Public Enemy, B.B. King, The Ramones, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger, Tracy Chapman, Eye & I, Family Stand, Carlos Santana, and others.
Vernon has also composed music for the Marlies Yearby Dance Co., and choreographer Ralph Lemon. Recently, Vernon scored the music for the film "Fresh Kill", directed by Shu Lea Cheang, which premiered this year at the Berlin Film Festival. He has composed for the upcoming film by Robert Longo, starring Keanu Reeves, "Johnny Nmemonic". Vernon has also composed "Here", a piece for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, which was presented at the Next Wave Festival at BAM in November 1994.
January 1995, Vernon disbanded Living Colour in order to pursue
several new projects. He has been working with some of the most exciting
musicians in New York in a band he calls Masque, which Vernon
describes as "the place where rock, jazz, hip-hop and technology
Most recently Vernon has begun working on a multi-media presentation titled, "My Science Project", which debuted at the Knitting Factory in July 1995.
In December 1995, Vernon completed work on his first post-Living Colour record, tentatively titled "Mistaken Identity," which he co-produced with the renowned jazz producer Teo Macero, long associated with Miles Davis among many others, and Prince Paul Houston, one of the premier producers of hip-hop and rap music, who has worked with De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and The GraveDigga's.
In January 1996, Vernon received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental for his composition 'Every Now & Then,' which appeared on the Santana retrospective box-set 'Dance of the Rainbow Serpent' in 1995.
**About Ronald Shannon Jackson
**Drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and his Decoding Society of the 1980s learned from the example of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time and are a logical extension of the group. They featured colorful and noisy ensembles; were not afraid of the influence of rock; and their rhythms were funky, loud, and unpredictable.
Shannon Jackson & the Decoding Society
Montreux Jazz Festival
Knit Classics Many thanks to onetime UW law student Michael Dorf and his indefatigable New York club, the Knitting Factory, for including this exceptionally intense live date in the list of reissues brought out by the new Knit Classics imprint. Local jazz followers with long memories may recall postmodernist drummer/composer Ronald Shannon Jackson's transcendent performance at the Barrymore Theatre, a typically under attended concert that consisted of one set of guitar-fueled themes that brought new meaning to the concept of tension and release.
Despite the participation of Vernon Reid, this 1983 Montreux date isn't quite as powerful, but it does illustrate Jackson's talent for expanding the ideas of his old employers Ornette Coleman and James "Blood" Ulmer. Together with bassists Melvin Gibbs and Rev. Bruce Johnson, Jackson provides the sort of aggressive, implacable pulse that lead players dream about, and Reid, trumpeter Henry Tony Scott and saxophonist Zane Massey know enough not to waste an opportunity for polymorphous blowing. "Gossip," a fast-then-slow gloss on Coleman's discombobulated "harmolodic" approach to soloing, forms the compositional apogee of the disc, but the freewheeling Afro-rock vamp "Alice in the Congo" is also interesting for the way it showcases Jackson's penchant for playing complex rhythmic figures at impossibly fast tempos.
Clearly Wynton Marsalis and other committed neo-classicists would peg Montreux as an example of everything that went wrong with jazz in the late '60s and '70s. Which, of course, is one more reason for open-minded folks with a taste for cosmic boogie to snatch it up before it goes out of print. **Zebra Libra note – Wynton Marsalis’ septet played some creatively progressive weaves in and out in the 2003 Ravina Jazz Festival. I listened to the young Englewood musicians sitting around me exclaim “I’ll never Dog Wynton again”
…and so I kidded with Wynton afterwards and said “You were playing rather “out” tonight, weren’t you?” And he replied, “I always play that way!” I thought about it and I suppose he was accurate in his assessment.