Jazz Institute of Chicago

JazzCity 2014 Season Finale: Cultural Crossroads: Miyumi Project Meets Great Black Music Ensemble

Garfield Park Conservatory | 300 N. Central Park Ave. | FREE
East Meets West Meets Midwest
There are jazz events that cross over into pop, ones that cross over into classical music, and then ones that cross entire cultures with all that implies in terms of tradition and ritual. If ever a show fit that third category, it is this rare meeting of the Miyumi Project, led by bassist Tatsu Aoki, and theGreat Black Music Ensemble, an assemblage of ferociously talented all-stars from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians led by baritone saxophone and flute virtuoso Mwata Bowden.
 
Named after one of Aoki's daughters, the Miyumi Project blends traditional Japanese sounds and instruments (including the Taiko drum and three-stringed shamisen) with blues, folk and modern jazz – a genre Aoki, who founded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, knows well. He regularly accompanied the late tenor great Fred Anderson. Bowden, a regular member of the Miyumi project, which also will feature Anderson-influenced saxophonist Jeff Chan and members of Tsukasa Taiko, is no newcomer to its sound.
 
The Great Black Music Ensemble is as advertised: a big band powered by stalwart AACM improvisers including saxophonists Ernest Dawkins,Douglas Ewart and Edwin Daugherty, cellist Tomeka Reid, singers Dee AlexanderAnn Ward and Saalik Ziyad– all leaders in their own right. The ensemble also includes saxophonists Edward House and Fred Jackson; trumpeters Ben LaMar Gay, Leon Q and Jerome Croswell and percussionists Dushun Mosley and Art Turk Burton, It’s massed sound can be electrifying.
 
Rhythmically, the groups dance to different drummers. "Our approach to rhythm is to fill the spaces," said Bowden, former chairman of the AACM and an integral part of such bands as Wilkerson's 8 Bold Souls. "The drummer fills them up in a continuous flow. The Taiko sound, on the other hand, reverberates in silence. But we've found a way to alternate approaches." There are also times when the artists' mutual interest in microtones puts them on the same page.
 
The bands have other traits in common. Both the Asian tradition that the Miyumi Project draws upon and the African traditions at the heart of the Great Black Music Ensemble are centuries old. Both ensembles project a strong spiritual element. In the end, it's the coming together of spirits that makes this collaboration so rewarding and cross-culturally fulfilling.
 
JazzCity is a free concert series initiated in 1997 by the Jazz Institute in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, now in its 16th season of bringing people together from across the city to listen to Chicago’s top jazz musicians. JazzCity is sponsored by WDCB 90.9 FM and WHPK 88.5 FM Radio and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit www. Jazzinchicago.org or call 312.427.1676

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