Big John Patton | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Big John Patton




The pantheon of 60s organ heroes cleaved into two distinct camps: the more conservative wing stuck like glue to the tried-and-true devices of blues and balladry that were the mainspring of soul jazz, while the more progressive types made forays into modal and free jazz. Big John Patton's 1968 trio outing Understanding (Blue Note), featuring Harold Alexander's expressionist tenor saxophone, connected as easily with the screaming free scene as with grease-streaked, hot-skillet soul jazz. Patton was no dabbler when it came to the latter--for proof, check out Let 'Em Roll, his funky record with guitarist Grant Green and vibist Bobby Hutcherson, or his Crescent City strut on Boogaloo and Memphis to New York Spirit. But he could swing both ways, plunging deep into harmonic territory tested by only a few daring organ-grinders (like Larry Young) and surfacing into southern-fried blues. Since he returned to recording and performing in '83 after a long hiatus, Patton has made some equally adventurous music, including a cameo on Spillane, the montage-based record by New York outcat saxophonist John Zorn. Zorn returned the favor, playing on Patton's 1993 release, Blue Planet Man (Evidence), and on the excellent quartet disc Minor Swing (DIW) from '95. At this show Patton will be accompanied by the crack "Heroes of the Hammond" team, Robert Shy on drums and George Freeman on guitar; guest saxophonist Ken Vandermark will reach into the impressive bag of blues and soul tricks he's collected with Baxter and the Crown Royals. Saturday, 10 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln; 312-409-0099 or 773-549-5549. John Corbett

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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