Geof Bradfield
"African Flowers"

Room 43, Chicago, IL

African Flowers
Geof Bradfield's "African Flowers" live

Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr., Copyright 2010

Inspired by his journey to Africa several years ago as part of pianist Ryan Cohan's State Department sponsored tour, multi-reedist Geof Bradfield used Hyde Park Jazz Society's (HPJS) weekly Sunday set to highlight his African Flowers CD. Bradfield, one of Chicago's premier reedist was accompanied by a few of the City's finest musicians that included keyboardist Ryan Cohan, trumpeter/percussionist Victor Garcia, guitarist Jeff Parker, drummer George Fludas and bassist Clark Sommers.

In addition to the exceptional music that was on display, this occasion was also marked by the temporary entertainment license extension by State Representative Will Burns and Mae Wilson representing Alderwoman Toni Periwinkle. This has been an issue for Room 43 and HPJS for the past eight months with the City with this outstanding venue being left "dark" on several occasions.

But on this night, Geof and his band mates were certainly in "top shelf" form as they wowed this sophisticated South Side crowd primarily with originals from this critically acclaimed suite of music. They opened the program with "Butare," a mid tempo number with that recognizable African beat that featured Geof on the soprano sax, Garcia on trumpet and congas and Cohan on keyboards. As was the case throughout this set, bassist Sommers was on point with his deep bass tones as he seemed to be working overtime in the background.

All of these numbers reflected a certain region of Africa with "The Children's Room" being dedicated to the children of Rwanda. This beautiful hymn-like ballad featured Geof on the seldom used bass clarinet while Parker's guitar solo reflected his soft picking of the instrument which allowed one to meditate about the genocide these children experienced.

Geof followed up with the upbeat number, "Lubumbashi" which showcased "double duty" Garcia on both the trumpet and congas. This fine musician was quite capable handling both while working up a mild sweat. Parker again took advantage of his solo opportunity to the pleasure of the audience.

"Mama Yemo" was another nice ballad that allowed Geof to stretch out on the tenor, while again taking advantage of guitarist Parker' s ability to paint a picture with these soft chords. He's such an outstanding guitarist who probably is under appreciated in the Chicago jazz scene. He just simply sits back and makes it happen.

Perhaps the highlight of the first set was "My Brother I Am I" with Fludas opening solo on the drums as Geof on tenor and Garcia on trumpet "battled" back and forth at breakneck speed with Sommer's bass very discernible in the background. The crowd was very appreciative of this selection.

They concluded the first set with a Charlie Parker selection entitled "Milestone." This was a recording that Parker played the tenor sax along side Miles Davis on the trumpet. Ironically, it was guitarist Jeff Parker who "stole" the moment on this piece as he again played as if he was in a "zone".

What an exceptional set of music by a group of awesome musicians. This CD is highly recommended and can be obtained through Origin Records.

On Halloween night, HPJS will present the Three Ellas: Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, and Spider Saloff. For details about this and other HPJS evens, refer to their website at www.hydeparkjazzsociety.com.

Geof Bradfield

Ryan Cohan

George Fludas & Clark Sommers

Victor Garcia

Jeff Parker

Clark Sommers

Will Burns, Mae Wilson, Judith Stein, Almarie Wagner & Charlie Thomas

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