Dana Hall's Black Fire | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Dana Hall's Black Fire All Ages Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Thu., Aug. 15, 6:30 p.m. 2013

At last year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival, drummer Dana Hall led a quartet that played the music of composer and pianist Andrew Hill, who died in 2007. Hall has since expanded the original lineup—reedist Geof Bradfield, vibist Justin Thomas, and bassist Clark Sommers—into an octet, which is better equipped to interpret Hill’s layered, contrapuntal music. The new members are Chicago reedist Nick Mazzarella, Milwaukee trumpeter Russ Johnson, and two New Yorkers, tubaist Jose Davila (also in Henry Threadgill’s Zooid) and underrated pianist Orrin Evans. When I e-mailed Hall about the project, he wrote back, “The material is unique, interesting, and challenging enough that it does not require any significant amount of ‘re-imagining’ by me as an arranger or composer.” Even entirely unaltered, Hill’s pieces would be unlikely to sound stale—only some of his oeuvre, such as the mid-60s Blue Note albums Black Fire, Judgment, and Point of Departure, has been assimilated into jazz’s mainstream repertoire, and the density and complexity of his work makes it difficult to digest as an influence. A Chicago native whose mercurial but lucid creativity, lyric romanticism, and experimental impulses were only occasionally appreciated during his lifetime, Hill doggedly looked forward—writing new music, forming new bands—and this makes his substantial oeuvre ripe for reinvestigation. Hall ought to bring to this project the scholarship, passion, and skill it deserves; at press time he’d chosen more than 20 of Hill’s compositions, spanning the pianist’s entire career. I don’t envy him the task of narrowing down his list for tonight’s set, but I can’t wait to hear how this killer band will bring the music to life. —Peter Margasak

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