Drummer and composer Damon Short wrote the extended composition Zones for a 1979 graduate recital at Northern Illinois University and, he says, hasn't performed it since; now, as a 50th-birthday gift to himself, he's bringing it back, having made only a few changes in the score to reflect the instrumentation of his current band. Obviously I've never heard the piece, but I recommend it with confidence; listening to some of his recordings recently (in particular a 1994 limited-release CD called Airplay) reminded me of the virtues that are a constant in his work. As a player Short forgoes bold, oversize gestures for an accumulation of small details and subtle shadings--even at his most explosive, his sensitivity to timbre and balance remains central. His compositions reveal a grander musical presence, as the same traits reappear on a larger scale in the smart formal symmetries, the surprisingly lyrical thematic snippets that shape the mood of the piece and the thrust of the solos, and the complex, translucent textures achieved with a handful of instruments. The sextet's rhythm section includes Short (who also plays marimba), bassist Larry Kohut, and spiky, mercurial pianist Jim Baker; up front reedists Mitch Paliqa, Mark Tuttle, and Chuck Burdelik handle a total of ten instruments. In a strikingly different vein, Dave Onderdonk will perform a set of his introspective, often gorgeous solo guitar music to open this show, which marks the second anniversary of the Chicago Jazz Composers Collective's monthly concert series. Sunday, January 11, 2 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.