The new music of Chicago is gaining higher and higher stratum's. Ending out the decade of the 90s into the 2000s has seen a marked red shift straight upwards going, going, and going! I'd be willing to say it is perhaps stronger than in the 70s when the avant garde legitimized itself across the broad face of jazz in America.
Keefe Jackson is a tall, gangly slight fellow. Soft spoken even. Don't let that fool you. You'd never tell it from his music. Its big, narly, ragged edged. They can be a noisy, snarly bunch. All this stands to reason that Jackson, himself a rather formidable soloist is surrounded by some of the brightest and best musical minds on the scene today. His new disc, 'Just Like This' (Delmark) by his Project Project will make a mark soon enough. If not before!
It still doesn't prevent some writers and pundits from force feeding us before the bands time has sprung.
One of the reasons I tend to stay away from reading into too many liner note assertions are the fantastic claims made by some writers, much to the embarrassment of the unknowing player/artists. Case in point are John Litweiler's wild declarations that, paired trumpeters "Jaime Branch and Josh Berman" (s) work somehow parallels that of (Duke) Ellington's Cootie (Williams) and Rex (Stewart)"!
That's just flat out irresponsible to compare perhaps the best trumpet duo in jazz history to, while awfully good two neophytes barely weaned off the spittle of Don Cherry's plastic toy cornet! Litweiler, who's writing I generally enjoy furthers this outlandish waist bowing by lavishing Jackson's 'Project Project' big band as being, "one of the liberated wonders of our century".
Wait one damn minute!
Somehow I can forgive him for the Williams/Stewart gaff, but one of the "wonders of our century?"
Hyperbole aside let these guys breathe some. Let them live a little of life in the big city. Get their jazzy nails, feet and faces dirty, reasonably gritty making more music before hoisting them unto Valhalla. This isn't to take anything away from Jackson and crew for they are more than able. But this is a work in progress. And they're awfully good, make no blankedy, blank doubt about it!
Jackson's got trombonist Jeb Bishop, who ain't no slouch on that big sliding thang! The aforementioned tandem trumpeters Branch and Berman, keep getting better and better at each hearing. In fact Berman is on the brink of notoriety. Frank Rosaly is the most versatile drum man around, he can go free, play time and swing. Check out the duo between him and altoist Dave Rempis on the cut, 'Which Well', they cut it up something fierce. But the star is the unsung clarinet force in James Falzone. In all fairness he reminds of his AACM counterpart Mwata Bowden. Yet Falzone has a sing song fluidity. A vocal phrasing that enthralls and delights the ear down to the soul. In the final analysis Jackson's writing will ultimately hurl itself around the talents and personalities of each of his players. Let's give them some time.
The disc's six compositions are each mini-travels into the landscape of Keefe Jackson's intellectually driven yet colorful and vibrant canvas of musical conceptions. And I'm more than confident he'll have more in store. A 'live' recording of this band would be hip! But just wait, fruit of the cornicopia is just beginning to spill forth.
Josh Berman - cornet, Jaimie Branch - trumpet and flugelhorn, Jeb Bishop, Nick Broste - trombone, Marc Unternahrer - tuba, James Falzone - clarinet, Guillermo Gregorio - alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Stein - bass clarinet, Dave Rempis - baritone and alto saxophone, Keefe Jackson - tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Anton Hatwich - bass, and Frank Rosaly - drums.