Sunday, September 27, 2015

Joshua Abrams Quartet | MCA Chicago | Free Jazz Tuesdays

By TOM BOWSER


The Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art hosts "Tuesdays on the Terrace". Free, high quality jazz concerts on Tuesday's, June through September. Food options include a more formal buffet to casual dining including Hamburgers (they looked very good) house made sausage, salads, cold beverages, wine and cocktails. The terrace where the event is hosted is quite nice. Chairs are arranged in front of where the music is performed. There is a grassy area for picnic style seating and eating. It's a nice way to spend an evening! Visit InspiredChicago.com for more information.



I'm not a professional writer, photographer, jazz critic (obviously). I'm a music fan. There are many different styles of jazz each with unique characteristics that influence the final sound. I admit I like some styles of jazz more than others. I do my best to keep my mind open to new things. You never know with complete certainty whether you like something until you try it (maybe a couple of times).

My wife and I had seen David Boykin perform in the Claudia Cassady Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center during the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival. David was playing with a large talented ensemble that was in my opinion to large for the stage of the Claudia Cassidy Theater. The sound system was not adequate for the large ensemble. Feedback was a problem on a number of occasions. The overall volume was to loud for the Claudia Cassidy Theater which is small with a capacity of under 300 people. I think the ensemble would have been better suited to playing the much larger Pritzker Pavilion. I did, however, find David Boykin's playing intriguing. I hoped I would have the chance to see him perform again.



This was the first time I had seen the Joshua Abrams Quartet. I enjoyed the mix of compositions which ranged from what I consider avant-garde to those more grounded in melody. I like experimental music, but I feel contrast between compositions is necessary to keep a live performance in it's totality interesting. I was happy to be able to hear David Boykin play in a smaller ensemble. I found it much easier to focus on what it is that makes him unique as a saxophone player. Each band member was individually talented yet played well as a member of an ensemble. I look forward to seeing the Joshua Abrams Quartet again at some point in the future.


The Band:
Joshua Abrams - Double Bass
David Boykin - Tenor Saxophone
Jason Adasiewicz - Vibraphone
Frank Rosaly - Drums

David Boykin - Tenor Saxophone | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser Joshua Abrams - Double Bass | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser
Joshua Abrams - Double Bass | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser Jason Adasiewicz - Vibraphone | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser
Frank Rosaly - Drums | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser David Boykin - Tenor Saxophone | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser
Jason Adasiewicz - Vibraphone | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser David Boykin - Tenor Saxophone - Joshua Abrams - Double Bass | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser
Joshua Abrams turns the page - Double Bass | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser Jason Adasiewicz - Vibraphone  | MCA Chicago Free Jazz Tuesdays| Photograph by Tom Bowser



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Juan Pastor - Chinchano | Chicago Jazz Festival 2015

By TOM BOWSER


Juan Pastor - Chinchano - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser

NOTE: If you plan to attend a Juan Pastor, Chichano performance be sure to arrive early. The venue was filled to capacity with people standing along the sides the day we saw them.

Day three of the Chicago Jazz Festival at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion (North Promenade). Our exploration of the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival continues. My wife and I saw Juan Pastor perform with James Davis's band Beveled. Juan Pastor's performance with Beveled demonstrated his talent as a drummer. We decided we needed to see him perform in his element as a drummer and percussionist playing Latin influenced jazz.

Juan Pastor is an entertainer as well as a good musician. His enthusiasm for making music propelled the band and enthralled the audience. The band was tight and well rehearsed. I liked the well planned interaction between Patrick Mulcahy on Double bass and Stu Mindeman on Piano. Stu Mindeman's piano playing was perfect to round out Chinchano's sound.

Patrick Mulcahy - Marquis Hill - Rich Moore - Chinchano - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser

I was impressed by Marquis Hill's versatility. He appeared to easily adapt his playing style to Latin influenced music. This was the fourth different group Marquis Hill had played in by this point in the 2015, Chicago Jazz Festival. Marquis Hill and Rich Moore played wonderfully together. I sensed a healthy competition between Marquis Hill and Rich Moore with one musician driving, pushing the other. Rich Moore's sax playing was tasteful and compelling. Good stuff guys!

Marquis Hill - Rich Moore - Chinchano - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Patrick Mulcahy - Chinchano - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser



The Band:
Juan Pastor - Drums &: Percussion
Patrick Mulcahy - Double bass
Rich Moore - Alto Saxophone
Marquis Hill - Trumpet
Stu Mindeman - Piano


The technicians who work behind the scenes to make any live music event happen rarely get the credit they deserve. Producing live sound is a challenging job. The sound company that produced the live sound for the Chinchano show did a good job producing a quality mix at a comfortable sound level. Nice work guys!

The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the largest, high quality, FREE jazz festivals in the United States. For a listing of other great free things to do while you visit Chicago go to InspiredChicago.com


Monday, September 21, 2015

Ben Waltzer | Chicago Jazz Festival 2015

By TOM BOWSER


Ben Waltzer played the first show held in Preston Bradley Hall during the 2015, Chicago Jazz Festival. Preston Bradley Hall is located in the Chicago Cultural Center. It is a spectacular looking room with a beautiful dome made of Tiffany Favrile glass. The dome is one of the largest of it's kind. The stunning chandeliers suspended above the main seating area are also made by the Tiffany Glass company of New York. The walls consist of hand inlaid tiles that form intricate mosaics. It has been an especially beautiful room when lit for evening events I've attended, example, "Ragamala" held during the Chicago International Music Festival.

The construction materials used for a room ultimately affect and help determine the acoustics of the room. The acoustics of Preston Bradley Hall are bright/live which makes it one of my least favorite venues in which to listen to amplified music. Performances (sound) within Preston Bradley Hall can become loud in part because of the many hard, reflective surfaces. I prefer Preston Bradley Hall for quieter unamplified/acoustic instruments.

Ben Waltzer assembled a talented crew of musicians to work with for this show. Marquis Hill won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition. He is also the bandleader of a talented group of musicians, "The Blacktet". The Marquis Hill Blacktet is well worth adding to your must see list. Yosef Ben Israel plays with Chicago's own Ari Brown Quintet. Bill McHenry and Gerald Cleaver are both jazz veterans who are currently part of the New York jazz scene.


Bill McHenry - Tenor Saxophone - Ben Waltzer - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser Yosef Ben Israel - Double bass - Ben Waltzer - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser


Marquis Hill - Trumpet - Ben Waltzer - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser Gerald Cleaver - Drums - Ben Waltzer - Chicago Jazz Festival 2015 | Photograph by Tom Bowser


I grew up listening to Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Jan Hammer on keyboards. Ben Waltzer introduced me to a new realm of jazz for piano than I had previously listened to. I liked what I heard. After the show I became motivated to discover more about Ben Waltzer and the music he plays. A crowd favorite (and mine) was Ben Waltzer's interpretation of Chicago pianist Art Hodes composition “Clark and Randolph.”

The Band:
  1. Bill McHenry - Tenor Saxophone
  2. Marquis Hill - Trumpet
  3. Yosef Ben Israel - Double bass
  4. Gerald Cleaver - Drums

NOTE: Unfortunately, where I was sitting made it difficult to take photos of Ben Waltzer (sorry Ben!). I did manage to take a few pictures of the other band members during the show. I'm NOT a professional photographer (barely a hobbyist) but, hopefully the images help chronicle an enjoyable event.

The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the largest, high quality, FREE jazz festivals in the United States. For a listing of other great free things to do while you visit Chicago go to InspiredChicago.com


Friday, September 18, 2015

Makaya McCraven Quartet | Chicago Jazz Festival 2015

By TOM BOWSER


It was day 3 of the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival in the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion. This was the first time my wife and I had the opportunity to see Makaya McCraven's Quartet. We had seen Makaya as a member of the Marquis Hill Blacktet when they performed for the Chicago Sound Pallette III. Marquis Hill and the Blacktet gave a fantastic performance that night. My wife and I were both impressed with Makaya McCraven's precision and attention to detail as the drummer of the Blacktet.

Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Makaya McCraven's Quartet included two familiar and talented players from the Blacktet including trumpet player Marquis Hill (winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition) and Justin Thomas on vibes. Marguis Hill plays with an intensity that makes him one of my favorite trumpet players in the Chicago area. Justin Thomas was killin it even more than usual on the vibes during this show. Justin will be playing at the upcoming Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 26th, 2015 here in Chicago.

Justin Thomas - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Junious Paul - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

The quartet also included bassist Junius Paul and guitarist Jeff Parker. The addition of Junius and Jeff added a different vibe to the groups sound from that of the Blacktet making it worthwhile to see both bands if you have the chance. My wife and I enjoyed the show!

Marquis Hill - Jeff Parker - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Justin Thomas - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
Makaya's drum solo toward the end of the show demonstrated why he is one of the top drummers in Chicago. Make time to see Makaya McCraven's quartet when you have the opportunity.

Junious Paul - Makaya McCraven - Jeff Parker - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Justin Thomas - Marquis Hill - Junious Paul - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


The Band:
Makaya McCraven - Drums
Marquis Hill - Trumpet
Jeff Parker - Guitar
Justin Thomas - Vibraphone
Junious Paul - Bass


Marquis Hill - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Makaya McCraven - Junious Paul - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


Junious Paul - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Marquis Hill - Makaya McCraven Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the largest, high quality, FREE jazz festivals in the United States. For a listing of other great free things to do while you visit Chicago go to InspiredChicago.com


Monday, September 14, 2015

Chad McCullough | Spin Quartet | 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival

By TOM BOWSER


The Spin Quartet played the Chicago Jazz Festival on Friday, September 4, at the Jazz Heritage Pavilion (North Promenade). The Jazz Heritage Pavilion was a large tent with bench seating close to the stage and chairs positioned further back from the stage. The sides of the tent were fully opened to let the summer air blow smoothly and comfortably through the tent. It was a perfect summer day to listen to great jazz music.

Chad McCullough - Trumpet and Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Unfortunately like most people my wife and I had a limited amount of time we could spend at the Chicago Jazz Festival. My wife and I had seen Chad McCullough and Geof Bradfield when they played with James Davis and his band Beveled. We liked what we heard, but wondered if The Spin Quartet would differ enough from Beveled to warrant seeing both bands.

Chad McCullough - Trumpet - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

We were both pleasantly surprised. The musical compositions were unique between bands. Geof Bradfield played tenor saxophone instead of the bass clarinet he plays with James Davis. Geof is also a talented sax player. Chad played trumpet most of the time which gave the Spin Quartet a different sound and feel from Beveled in which he played flugelhorn. Add the lively double bass playing of Clark Sommers and solid drumming of Kobie Watkins. My wife and I were happy we added The Spin Quartet to our Chicago Jazz Festival schedule.

The Spin Quartet currently has 2 different CDs available for purchase. In 2015, the CD " Starting from Zero" was recorded at a live performance in Chicago. It features Chad McCullough – trumpet/flugel, Geof Bradfield – tenor sax, Clark Sommers – bass, Kobie Watkins – drums. The CD " In Circles" (Origin Records) was recorded in 2014.

The Band:
  1. Chad McCullough - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
  2. Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone
  3. Clark Sommers - Double Bass
  4. Kobie Watkins - Drums
Chad McCullough - Trumpet and Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Chad McCullough - Trumpet - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Clark Sommers - Double Bass - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
Clark Sommers - Double Bass and Kobie Watkins - Drums | Spin Quartet | 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Clark Sommers - Double Bass and Kobie Watkins - Drums - Spin Quartet- 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone and Kobie Watkins - Drums - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Kobie Watkins - Drums - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone and Kobie Watkins - Drums - Spin Quartet - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the largest, high quality, FREE jazz festivals in the United States. For a listing of other great free things to do while you visit Chicago go to InspiredChicago.com


Friday, September 11, 2015

James Davis - Beveled | Chicago Jazz Festival 2015

By TOM BOWSER


James Davis and Chad McCullough | jazz flugelhorn | Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Thursday, September 3, 2015 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., the first day of the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival. James Davis and his band Beveled was the second act of the day at Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center. This was the first time my wife and I had the opportunity to see James and Beveled perform. We will definitely make time see them again in the future.

The instrumentation the band uses is interesting. James Davis and Chad McCullough both play the flugelhorn as lead instruments. I first became aware of the flugelhorn when Chuck Mangione released his album "Feel So Good". For those of you who are not familiar with the flugelhorn, it looks similar to a trumpet or coronet, but is a bit larger and mellower sounding. Mike Salter and Geof Bradfield added rich bottom end to the bands musical arrangements playing bass clarinets. Forming the bands solid foundation were Dan Thatcher on double bass and Juan Pastor on drums.

James and Chad played wonderfully together. They took the flugelhorn in a different and worthy direction from how I've seen it previously used in jazz. The band was tight and well rehearsed. The bass clarinet is an instrument I've rarely seen used in jazz. It definitely has a home in jazz and the bands compositions.

The cool thing about James Davis's band Beveled is it's depth of talent. Chad McCullough and Juan Pastor both front their own talented bands. Look for Geof Bradfield in Chad's band where he plays the sax instead of the bass clarinet. He is also a talented sax player.

James Davis and Beveled has a new CD available (at the time I wrote this article) entitled "Beveled". See the James Davis Web site for more information.

The band:
  1. James Davis - flugelhorn
  2. Chad McCullough - flugelhorn
  3. Mike Salter - bass clarinet
  4. Geof Bradfield - bass clarinet
  5. Dan Thatcher - double bass
  6. Juan Pastor - drums
James Davis - flugelhorn - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Chad McCullough - flugelhorn - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
Mike Salter - bass clarinet - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Geof Bradfield - bass clarinet - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
Dan Thatcher - double bass - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

This image below of Juan Pastor was taken later in the day when he played the Jazz and Heritage Pavillion (North Promenade) at the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival.

Juan Pastor - drums - Beveled - 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival  | Photograph by Tom Bowser

The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the largest, high quality, FREE jazz festivals in the United States. For a listing of other great free things to do while you visit Chicago go to InspiredChicago.com