Geof Bradfield Septet Member Picks Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Sat., June 1, 8 p.m. 2013

Four years ago Chicago reedist and composer Geof Bradfield premiered the poignant, stately suite African Flowers, whose peripatetic and stylistically rich pieces he wrote after a State Department-sponsored tour of Africa with pianist Ryan Cohan. With his latest album, Melba! (Origin), Bradfield proves that this success with long-form, programmatic writing was no fluke. The six-part opus pays tribute to Melba Liston, a virtuosic trombonist who was one of jazz’s great female instrumentalists in an era when women rarely appeared on the bandstand. Her greatest legacy, though, remains her masterful arranging: She worked for pianist Mary Lou Williams (an even earlier pioneering woman in jazz), settled in Los Angeles in the 40s to collaborate with bandleader Gerald Wilson, and composed for and played in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in the 50s. She did her most enduring work as an arranger for pianist Randy Weston, a partnership they maintained off and on from the 60s through the early 90s, and in the 70s she was an arranger at Stax and Motown. Bradfield’s new work touches on every part of that time line—as well as Liston’s stretch teaching and writing for film in Jamaica—without baldly aping any style. He tosses in flashes of old-school bebop on “Central Avenue”—named for the bustling epicenter of LA’s early jazz scene—as well as Latin flourishes on “Dizzy Gillespie” and Moroccan modes on “Randy Weston,” but the music transcends place and time, allowing Bradfield’s melodic elegance and deft arrangements to shine through. Five-sixths of the killer band from the record—Cohan, trombonist Joel Adams, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer George Fludas—will perform tonight, with trumpeter Tito Carrillo replacing Victor Garcia; all but Adams and Carrillo are veterans of the African Flowers project. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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