Chicago Trio | Hideout | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Chicago Trio Recommended Soundboard

When: Wed., July 18, 9:30 p.m. 2012

Drummer Hamid Drake isn't just a remarkable musician and improviser with vast technique, huge power, sensitive intuition, and an encyclopedic rhythmic vocabulary—he also makes anyone he plays with sound better. With his percussive muscle and ear for groove, he can prevent a wayward performance from collapsing, and when things are going well he drives his collaborators to even greater heights. Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins is one of Chicago's best players, and he sounds as good as I've ever heard him on the Chicago Trio's Velvet Songs: To Baba Fred Anderson (Rogue Art), a remarkable double CD cut live in 2008 at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge with Drake and bassist Harrison Bankhead. (It was released last year, and because Anderson died in 2010, the group chose to frame it as a posthumous homage.) All three participants have their feet planted among jazz's roots in blues and swing, so even though the music is entirely improvised, it invariably gravitates toward familiar tropes—Dawkins even quotes from "When the Saints Go Marching In" on "Down n' the Delta." Though each CD is divided into tracks, the performances are largely continuous, with one groove or motif flowing organically into the next. Dawkins switches among soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, Bankhead occasionally puts down his bass to add lyrical or coloristic cello, and Drake displays his frame-drum mastery between trap-kit workouts. Anderson was a mentor to all three musicians, and in many ways this group embodies the late saxophonist's brand of Chicago free jazz—full of soul, grit, and swaggering grace. Because Drake is in such high demand elsewhere, any local combo that includes him rarely plays live—don't skip this one lightly. —Peter Margasak

Price: $10

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