Made in Chicago was made at the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival. Five veterans of the scene on Chicago’s Southside united after fifty years travelling the globe in their own and other bands to open the thirty fifth edition of the Windy City’s annual parkland jazz jamboree.
Jack DeJohnette accepted an invitation to put together a group entirely of his choosing to play music of his/their choosing. The legendary drummer made a few calls to friends and the project was on.
The album marks the half century of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) founded by Muhal Richard Abrams and is released on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. In 1962 Jack DeJohnette’s college class mates included Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill. One of DeJohnette’s first professional jobs was to work with Abrams in the pianist’s Experimental Band. Bassist Larry Gray first worked in DeJohnette’s company in the 1990s and although several years junior, he too qualifies as a veteran performer.
The concert begins with Abrams’ piano and reeds developing a simple motif. DeJohnette builds momentum with mallets, Abrams sketches a dream sequence until Roscoe Mitchell takes command with a furious Eastern-influenced melody (the title – Chant). DeJohnette hammers toms and crashes cymbals for all he is worth until Mitchell, the composer, calls a sudden halt. Jack 5 (comp. Abrams) surely references the on-stage quintet. Larry Gray lays down a walking-pace bass line right out of Dave Holland’s Bitches Brew tenure with Miles. Stately horns have their say, DeJohnette roams across his kit (distant applause can be heard from the ten thousand strong festival crowd). Composer Mitchell’s baroque flute has a whispered conversation with Gray’s cello on This. Piano and drums attempt to fill a void at a masterly slow tempo.
DeJohnette’s Museum of Time maintains the downbeat, ‘new music’ thread. The straining horns of Mitchell and Henry Threadgill step aside as Abrams’ ruminating piano coaxes a final, rolling flourish from DeJohnette topped-off by A-grade fizzing sticks-work around the hi-hat. Abrams’ dazzling, dense piano playing on Threadgill’s Leave Don’t Go Away threatens a full-blown free piece only to be hijacked by a drum and bass master class and a grateful composer weighs in with a robust coda. The Made in Chicago concert ends on a high. Ten Minutes (a group composition) blows away any wannabees. The five master musicians go for it, hell for leather, in the style of ACV’s Without Bones.
Jack DeJohnette’s Made in Chicago is available on ECM (catalogue no. 378 0935).