Available Jelly | Randolph Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Available Jelly Recommended Free All Ages Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Tue., Feb. 22, 12:15 p.m. 2011

The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, led by pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, has stood as the epitome of freewheeling Dutch jazz for more than four decades, but Available Jelly, a group dominated by American expats, proved long ago that ICP's brand of wild cross-stylistic experimentation could arise in other countries too. The musicians first came together in the mid-70s as the band for a Utah mime troupe, but on a tour of Europe they stayed behind, eventually taking root in Amsterdam toward the end of the decade as an unhinged jazz band. The Americans in that early lineup included drummer Michael Vatcher and brothers Michael and Gregg Moore; Michael played reeds and piano and Gregg played trombone, tuba, and bass. The raucous, nonhierarchical sprawl on the group's self-titled 1984 debut interrupts original tunes with a Nino Rota theme, a Rolling Stones classic, traditional music from Serbia and Italy, and South African township jazz by Abdullah Ibrahim. In the decades since, the group has thrived (albeit in fits and starts, with multiple shufflings of personnel), and even though it's among the less celebrated combos on the Amsterdam scene, its influence has been far-reaching: Chicago players like drummer Mike Reed and cornetist Josh Berman cite it as a key influence. On Available Jelly's latest album, Bilbao Song (Ramboy), cut in 2004, all of the group's virtues are on full display—Ellingtonian reeds, Mingus-like brass, strong original tunes, improvisational gambits that work like two guys playing chicken in cars, and eclectic source material (traditional music from Myanmar, the title track by Kurt Weill, "Little French Boy" from Burt Bacharach's score to Casino Royale, Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole"). The current Available Jelly lineup features both Moores (Gregg, returning after a long absence, will play tuba for this tour), Vatcher, cornetist Eric Boeren, and trombonist Wolter Wierbos. The first Chicago stop on this rare stateside trip is part of the Hungry Brain's ten-year anniversary series. See also Tuesday and Wednesday. —Peter Margasak

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