CHICAGO JAZZ ENSEMBLE WITH LESTER BOWIE, FAMOUDOU DON MOYE, & THE META QUARTET
Jazz stays fresh as a matter of course: if you try to reinvent the music every night, as most improvising combos do, you almost can't help but push it in new directions. But a repertory band like the Chicago Jazz Ensemble faces a different challenge: instead of transmuting the music, you're reproducing existing arrangements; to evolve you have to freshen the repertoire itself. This weekend conductor William Russo and his crew make a giant evolutionary leap with the U.S. premiere of Sardinian Suite: compositions by four of Sardinia's best-known jazz musicians--pianist Antonello Salis, reedman Sandro Satta, bassist Riccardo Lay, and trumpeter Paolo Fresu--bundled by CJE trumpeter Scott Hall into a single piece. Salis, Satta, and Lay's Meta Quartet (rounded out by drummer Fabrizio Sferra) makes a rare trek to Chicago to help the CJE perform it; the key man is Salis, who started on accordion and in the late 70s was one of the first musicians to use that instrument in a progressive jazz context. He's told France's Le jazz magazine that he counts the month in 1977 that he spent playing with Art Ensemble trumpeter Lester Bowie as his "most important musical experience"--which makes this lineup something of a reunion, since Bowie will play at the first of these two concerts. (Art Ensemble drummer Famoudou Don Moye appears both nights.) Except for one Italian audience last summer and the musicians themselves, no one's heard Sardinian Suite. But the talents of all the participants, combined with the musical heritage of the isolated island of Sardinia--which includes multiphonic throat singing and dark, distinctive folk melodies--make it too promising (and too odd) to ignore. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Columbia College Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan; 312-344-6245. The Meta Quartet performs a show of its own Sunday at 7 PM at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Meta Quartet photo by Agostino Mela; Lester Bowie photo by Jacques Beneith.