When: Fri., Dec. 11, 9 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 12, 8 p.m. 2015
Reedist Geof Bradfield is a student of jazz history whose big ears and broad knowledge channel his insatiable curiosity. And he’s recently developed a string of creative projects yoked to unobtrusive concepts—he might draw inspiration from regional styles he encountered during his State Department-organized tour of Africa, or his tunes might convey developments over the career of masterful arranger and trombonist Melba Liston. His latest project is an homage to a favorite recording: the 1966 album These Are My Roots: Clifford Jordan Plays Leadbelly. In celebration of the work, Bradfield put together a group in late 2013 to cover the classic in full for the cool Jazz Record Art Collective series at the Fulton Street Collective (2000 W. Fulton). The endeavor was so rewarding it took on a life of its own. Our Roots (Origin) mixes four Leadbelly tunes interpreted by Jordan with a pair of Blind Willie Johnson songs, a couple of spirituals collected in the Georgia Sea Islands, and three originals dedicated to living figures who have influenced him: pianist Randy Weston, Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi, and bassist and singer Meshell Ndegeocello. Still, it’s the blues that pulse at the heart of this agile quintet with trumpeter Marquis Hill, bassist Clark Sommers, trombonist Joel Adams, and drummer Dana Hall, who injects serious propulsion. “Meshell” has a slick modern R&B feel, but more often than not the group stays gritty and direct without being reductive. The arrangements for “Before This Time Another Year” and “Dark Was the Night Cold Was the Ground” thoroughly reinvent the pieces and create the impression of timelessness while sounding utterly contemporary—a nutshell encapsulation of Bradfield’s aesthetic.