Equal Interest | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Equal Interest


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The name of this trio announces the group's democratic nature in part by concealing the identities of its members: reedist Joseph Jarman, violinist Leroy Jenkins, and pianist Myra Melford, three of the most idiosyncratic improvisers in modern music. These former Chicagoans dazzled a HotHouse audience in November with a performance that was paradoxically chaotic and serene. When they all played at once, they stitched textures thicker than you'd expect from only three instruments, but instead of dissolving into discord, their independent lines conducted a sort of musical interferometry, illuminating the center by dancing all around it. Jarman, who left the Art Ensemble of Chicago some years ago to concentrate on Buddhism and his own music (in that order), has recorded sparingly in the 90s. But he's still rigorously direct and delightfully discursive at the same time, solving each musical puzzle like a cross between Lao-tzu and Hercule Poirot. Jenkins, like Jarman a founding member of the AACM, uses an array of bowing techniques to achieve unexpected dynamic and timbral range, and by downplaying rhythmic variety in his solos he highlights his knotty melodies. Melford led her own exquisite quintet in a Chicago performance last month, but in this group, instead of driving the music, she shades and colors, occasionally abandoning the piano for the harmonium. She uses this 19th-century instrument--a bellows-driven reed organ--to build mesmerizing, even disorienting textures that sound like some acoustic form of amplifier feedback. Preceding Equal Interest's set, poet G'Ra and Chicago bassists Harrison Bankhead and Yosef Ben Israel will present a short tribute to virtuosic AACM bassist Fred Hopkins, who died two weeks ago. This concert is part of the 21st annual Jazz Fair, sponsored by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. The whole event starts at 6 PM; the Hopkins tribute begins around 9. Monday, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-427-1676.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.

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