Story and Photos by James Walker
What a pleasure to see Corey Wilkes perform again with a group of talented young sidemen. Wilkes is quickly becoming one of Chicago's premier jazz musicians. His absolute command of the trumpet and flugelhorn (often playing simultaneously) is just astonishing.
On Sunday evening, November 15th, before a sparse crowd at The Checkerboard Lounge on the Southside, (apparently Chicagoans were watching the Bears dismantle the N.Y. Giants on national television), Wilkes and his brilliant sidemen were shaking up things at the Hyde park Jazz Society's weekly "CheckerJazz Set" at this famed bluse club. On this night, the atmosphere was far from "blue."
Wilkes, along with a sensational 19 year old saxman, Jabari Liu; bassist Julius Paul; drummer, Frank Parker, Jr.; and piano player Ben Patterson, transformed this room into an oasis of beautiful sounds - something that is becoming habitual with Wilkes. I last saw Corey perfroming with renowned ex-Chicago trumpeter Maurice Brown last August at the Chicago Jazz Festival, in what turned out to be the highlight of that annual lakefront festival. With Corey being in demand nationally, Chicagoans need to take advantage of his local appearances.
The first few songs of the initial set were very mellow, with each musician slowly warming up to what would become a very torrid set. Things got so hot that Paul literally broke a string on his acoustic bass. Corey was astonished: He had never seen that happen during a gig with an upright bass. Perhaps Paul had a premonition that this was going to happen, since he had his bass guitar by his side. Paul also is an accomplished electric bass player.
Special mention is due young Jabaru Liu. Jabari can be seen often, whenever Corey is performing. These two have such a feel for one another, and Sunday night was no exception. Their exchanges are always exhilarating to watch. Observing their facial expressions tells it all: They really enjoy what they are doing!
Keyboardist Ben Patterson was new to this writer, but hopefully he won't be a stranger. This 24 year old pianist is really gifted.
We are very fortunate in Chicago to know that the future of Jazz is in good hands. Any night of the week, one can find a gig in the city with young acconmplished musicians honing their craft. On this night, we all benefited from this youthful exuberance. Don't miss Corey next month when he appears Dec. 8th and 9th at the Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway), and Dec. 12 at Andy's (11 E. Hubbard). Jazz enthusiasts, please take advantage of these opportunities, because I'm not sure how much longer Chicago can hold Corey down.