Tenor Madness | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tenor Madness

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The description "Tenor Madness" stems from a famous Sonny Rollins blues of 1956--a recording that paired his saxophone with that of the other major source of inspiration for tenorists of the postbop era, John Coltrane--and ever since it has regularly popped up as a catchall phrase for battle between the saxes. But that original matchup involved stylistic contemporaries; this assemblage, on the other hand, features three generations of Chicago tenor men (and one distinct ringer). Fred Anderson serves as the father figure--not only for this quartet, but also for Chicago's jazz vanguard--with his earthy sound and billowing solo lines; this style, partly inspired by the example of Ornette Coleman in the late 50s, did much to shape and focus the music of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and especially its cornucopia of saxophonists. These include the two Chicagoans who join him onstage for this free-for-all: the somewhat younger Ari Brown, a savvy veteran of a hundred Chicago groups, whose hale tone and simple melodic contours reflect his comfort in mainstream settings, and the still younger Ed Wilkerson, perhaps better known these days for his octet (8 Bold Souls) than for his exuberant, century-spanning approach to the horn. Wilkerson has the most in common with the fourth and most famous member of this horn junta, David Murray, who flies in from New York to lend hyperkinetic expressionism and Day-Glo technique to the proceedings. Wilkerson and Murray will also appear in other groupings earlier in the afternoon; the Tenor Madness set caps off a three-day, 14-band tribute to the AACM, and the concert series itself forms the centerpiece of the inaugural Express Yourself festival, comprising an outdoor gallery that includes the work of some 40 artists, a variety of guest speakers, and a weekend-long "all-star" poetry slam. (The free fest kicks off Friday at noon with the creation of a "public interactive street mural" led by painter Dorian Sylvain.) Sunday, 4 PM, Cityfront Center, 455 N. McClurg; 846-1001.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Marc PoKempner.

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