Veteran Chicago bassist Junius Paul celebrates the release of his first album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Veteran Chicago bassist Junius Paul celebrates the release of his first album

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The band is already midflight as the sound fades up at the beginning of “You Are Free to Choose,” the opening track of the Junius Paul double LP Ism (International Anthem). Perhaps unintentionally, this parallels his career, which has also been in motion for some time. The Chicago-born-and-raised bassist first performed in 2002 at Fred Anderson’s legendary Velvet Lounge, and his early experiences in the club’s storied jam sessions led to an enduring relationship with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Paul has since performed with the AACM’s big band and celebrated Anderson’s legacy in a quartet led by AACM elder Roscoe Mitchell, and he’s now a member of the reconstituted and upsized Art Ensemble of Chicago. He’s also laid down the root notes for ensembles led by peers such as trumpeter Corey Wilkes and drummer Makaya McCraven, both of whom appear on Ism. The double album, which was recorded mostly live between 2016 and 2018, encompasses hurtling proto-fusion in the vein of Miles Davis’s lost late-60s quintet, spacy excursions reminiscent of Sun Ra’s mid-1970s small groups, and intricate acoustic improvisations with cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Isaiah Spencer. In all of these settings, Paul’s intricate, visceral solos and aggressive grooves lead from the front. Lengthy stretches of the album are audio verité, but McCraven also cut and re­ordered some improvised passages to turn them into big, bold grooves (much as he’s done for his own records). Paul leads several ensembles on Ism, but for both of these shows he’ll play acoustic and electric basses with just one lineup: Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Justin Dillard on keyboards, and Vincent Davis on drums.   v

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