When: Wed., Nov. 6, 8:30 p.m. 2013
When guitarist Raphael Roginski, fiery reedist Mikolaj Trzaska, and drummer Macio Moretti formed Shofar in 2006, the Polish trio took a wiry, free-jazz approach to traditional Jewish music, particularly Hasidic nigunim—meditative expressions of faith that employ the principle of improvisation on a theme within a framework. Most of the group’s early repertoire consisted of songs collected by Soviet musicologist Moshe Beregovski in Ukraine, Poland, and Moldavia in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Shofar’s new album, Ha-Huncvot (Kilogram), contains three traditional Hasidic melodies, but most of the album is freely improvised—remarkably, the new material blends right in with the old, a vivid demonstration of the musicians’ thorough internalization of the modes and forms of Jewish songs. But at the same time, this is clearly contemporary music, marked by quicksilver interaction, meticulously expressed sorrow, and blurts of crushing rage.
Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren released one of my favorite albums of 2012, the buoyant Coconut (Platenbakkerij), made with his long-running quartet of reedist Michael Moore, bassist Wilbert de Joode, and legendary drummer Han Bennink. As usual the specter of Ornette Coleman hangs over Boeren’s folksy melodies and killer front-line interactions, but he and his cohorts also stake out their own turf, injecting the wonderful loosey-goosey approach of the Dutch free-jazz scene into every possible formal element: freewheeling set lists, bleeding one piece into the next, or calling new tunes in midperformance. I’ve memorized most of the sudden twists and turns on the album, so I’m excited to hear its tunes totally reworked onstage—and of course to be introduced to new ones. Both groups perform on opening night of the Umbrella Music Festival, which is also opening night of European Jazz Meets Chicago, the two-day fest within a fest that kicks it off. Also on the program are a trio led by German trumpeter Axel Dörner (with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang) and a quartet led by Lithuanian saxophonist Dovdydas Stalmokas (with cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Tim Daisy). —Peter Margasak Shofar: 8:30 PM, Randolph Street Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center. Eric Boeren Quartet: 9:30 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center.