Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten
When Wed 10/11, 10 PM
Where Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia
When Thu 10/12, 10 PM
Where Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee
Price $10 suggested donation
More As part of the Chicago Ad Hoc Session (10/11) and in a quartet with Evan Parker (10/12); see Critic's Choice for more on Parker
Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten spends most of his time on the road. He plays with half a dozen working groups, including important Scandinavian outfits like Atomic and the Thing as well as a couple bands led by local reedist Ken Vandermark, School Days and Free Fall; he's made six tours of Europe this year alone. And now when it's time to come home Haaker Flaten heads to Chicago--he moved here in January.
Haaker Flaten made the big leap across the Atlantic to be with his girlfriend, Trea Fotidzis. The couple met in summer 2005, when Fotidzis traveled to the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway with her friend Mitch Cocanig--one of the organizers for the local improv collective Umbrella Music--and within months they were certain it was time to live in the same city. When it came down to deciding which city, there wasn't much contest--Haaker Flaten had already developed musical friendships with a number of Chicagoans.
"I thought I knew what America would be like, because we experience so much of it in Norway through television and movies," says Haaker Flaten. "But it's been strange." The bassist says he's inspired by the challenge of adjusting to a new culture, and when he's actually been here--so far his European road schedule has kept him from spending more than the occasional two- or three-week stretch in Chicago--he's focused on that task, putting aside music for the most part. "I really want to experience this for a while," he says. "I think it's important to take your time and get things going." Last week at Elastic he debuted the first band he's formed since the move: a Chicago version of his Norwegian quintet, it includes guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer Frank Rosaly, and reedist Dave Rempis. (Violinist Ola Kvernberg, a member of the original lineup, flew in for a week of rehearsals before the concert.)
Now 35, Haaker Flaten has been one of the most active participants in Oslo's bustling, multistylistic scene since graduating from the prestigious Trondheim Conservatory in 1995, and in the past decade and a half he's contributed to more than 40 albums. He established his international reputation with a ten-year stint in New Conceptions of Jazz, a popular, hard-touring fusion combo led by keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft (infamous here for telling the New York Times in 2001 that he hadn't heard an interesting American jazz record in 20 years). At a Finnish festival in summer 1999 his performance with that group got the attention of explosive Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, and by year's end he was filling in for the regular bassist in Gustafsson's AALY Trio on a U.S. tour with Vandermark. Within months of the trio's stop in Chicago--Haaker Flaten's first visit to the city--he'd joined Vandermark's new band School Days, which also included drummer Paal Nilssen-Love (an old Trondheim schoolmate) and local trombonist Jeb Bishop.
Since then the bassist has performed in town regularly with a number of established ensembles, but he's rarely taken advantage of his time here to explore new groupings with local musicians. The prospect of finally doing so in earnest has him excited, though, and he plans to start several more bands in the coming months. "Here people work with different musicians all of the time, so you have to present your ideas clearly," he says. "It's been inspiring. Even though not all of the musicians have formal training, it's not a problem. I think it lets people have an edgier sense of expression, and people are more aware of the whole tradition than in other places." He's especially appreciative of the deep grounding in jazz history he's encountered in Chicago musicians. "They've been checking out everything from early jazz to contemporary stuff, where all of the players came from," he says. "It's rare to find that in Norway in the same way. People don't always think if what they're doing has been done before. But I think it's important to know the history before you claim something is new."
Haaker Flaten had developed his own catholic sensibility even before he arrived in Chicago. A latecomer to jazz, he didn't start listening to the music seriously until he was 18, but since finishing school he's played a wide range of styles: the rigorous jazz-electronica hybrid of the Wesseltoft band, the postbop of Atomic, the knotty, abstract grooves of Close Erase, the searing electrified crunch of the Scorch Trio, the high-energy, almost thrashy free jazz of the Thing (with Gustafsson and Nilssen-Love), and the gestural, airy free improvisation of the Electrics (who'll tour the midwest next month). This summer the original Norwegian lineup of Haaker Flaten's quintet released its first album on Jazzland, and in many ways it reflects this range: its tight compositions and precise contrapuntal arrangements seamlessly blend rock energy, textural amp noise, raucous free jazz, and swinging rhythms.
Right now Haaker Flaten is in the middle of five consecutive weeks in Chicago--his longest stay so far--and he wants to make his presence felt. He's got two gigs in town this week, including a quartet appearance Thursday at Elastic with locals Kevin Drumm and Fred Lonberg-Holm and legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker. But even more significant, from a certain standpoint, is his show on Wednesday at the Hideout--he's one of ten Chicago improvisers playing two sets in small ad hoc groups. "I'm definitely feeling like I belong here now," he says.
Umbrella's First Fest
Both Haaker Flaten gigs are part of the Umbrella Music Festival, which runs from Wednesday, October 11, through Monday, October 16. The Umbrella Music collective--Dave Rempis of Elastic; Ken Vandermark and Mitch Cocanig, organizers of the "Immediate Sound" series at the Hideout; and Josh Berman and Mike Reed, who book jazz at the Hungry Brain--launched last spring with the aim of pooling resources to cross-promote concerts and bring in more big names for extended engagements. "Things are going pretty well," says Rempis. "I'm seeing a lot of new folks coming out." He adds that the series of four concerts Umbrella began in May at Gallery 37's Storefront Theater was a big success, packing the space (which holds 90) by the end of its run in June. Twenty-five artists, half of them out-of-towners, submitted proposals for the next round--six more concerts, which began last week.
The Umbrella fest--with events at the Hideout, Elastic, the Hungry Brain, Intuit, the Velvet Lounge, Gallery 37, and the Chicago Cultural Center--replaces the Phrenology Festival, held at the Brain every fall since 2001. It's also helping fill the gap left by the disappearance of the venerable Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music. Several strong local groups will be joined by high-profile visitors like the Claudia Quintet, saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Myra Melford, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. See the box on page 34 or go to umbrellamusic.org for details; for more on Parker and the Claudia Quintet, see the Treatment.
Bob Mehr is on vacation.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hayley Murphy.