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In today’s New York Times critic Nate Chinen wrote a familiar story about musicians without health insurance. He focuses on the New York jazz community, which is rallying behind cancer-stricken bassist Dennis Irwin and reedist Andrew D’Angelo (pictured), whom I wrote about here a couple of weeks ago. Countering the heartwarming outpouring of support for these guys is the fact that even for musicians who can afford health insurance, like the pianist George Cables, the coverage won’t handle the potential loss of income when you’re stuck in a hospital bed. (Check it out, Barack.)
On Sunday the Chicago jazz scene is holding one of more than a dozen benefits for D’Angelo, including ones in locales as far-flung as Spain, Iceland, Norway, Italy, Belgium, and Holland (they're all listed on D'Angelo's home page). What's amazing about this is how it reveals the impact a musician most people have never heard of has made all over the globe. The local gig, at the Green Mill at 1:30 PM, will include performances by Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls and an exciting quartet led by Jeff Parker featuring bassist Josh Abrams, drummer Mike Reed, and cornetist Rob Mazurek. Sirota and Parker got friendly with D’Angelo in the early 90s, when they were
all studying at Berklee, but the reedist subsequently worked with many of the folks on the bill. And all it takes is a few minutes to be touched by D’Angelo’s energy and humor.
When I wrote that initial blog post, D’Angelo was about to have a biopsy on the tumor found on his brain. Analysis has revealed that it's a particularly aggressive form of cancer and that without any kind of treatment D’Angelo might survive for five years—he’s 41 now. He plans to begin radiation therapy soon. (He's been blogging about his ordeal with disarming candor and detail here.) As Chinen’s story points out, a gig on Friday at Brooklyn’s Tea Room was originally intended to be a release party for D’Angelo’s excellent new trio album Skadra Degis (Skirl); instead it will be a benefit, with many of his superb cohorts--drummers Matt Wilson and Jim Black, reedists Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega, bassist Trevor Dunn-- performing.
Skadra Degis provides a succinct statement on D’Angelo’s appeal. Supported by Black and Dunn, he opens the record (on "Lame") with a mixture of fierce swing, hard angles, and grainy texture. His alto-saxophone sound veers from post-Ornette puckishness to puckering tartness to caterwauling causticity, and he's a master of sonic striation, bringing a subtle depth and physicality to each tone. No matter which direction the trio takes, from splintered and abstract to full throttle, his frenetic lines are profoundly connected to the rhythm section’s activity and vice versa.
Dennis Alcapone, Forever Version (Heartbeat)
Angel & Hildur Gudnadottir, In Transmediale (Oral)
Néma Mint Choueikh, Mauretanian Music From the Trarza Region (Popular African Music)
KTL, KTL (Editions Mego)
Stanley Turrentine, The Spoiler (Blue Note)