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  • Live Performance:
  • with Josh Abrams, Jeff Parker & Harrison Bankhead
  • 06.12.2007
    Stop Smiling Storefront

sponsored by:

  • Thrill Jockey

On Tuesday, June 12th, STOP SMILING hosted the first live performance from what might well be one of the all-time great modern jazz quintets in Chicago. Earlier this year, the legendary saxophonist Fred Anderson (owner of the Velvet Lounge, one of the last authentic Chicago jazz clubs) and iconic percussionist Hamid Drake assembled a group to record From the River to the Ocean on Thrill Jockey Records. Ubiquitous multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams laid down the bass tracks and played guimbri on the album, while guitarist and longtime Tortoise member Jeff Parker soulfully laced the tracks with dynamic fretwork and Harrison Bankhead showcased his skills on the piano, bass and cello.

On the eve of this release, the quintet gathered at the STOP SMILING storefront in Chicago and performed this material for the first time. All of the members have played with each other in different permutations — some for decades — but this was their first live appearance in this configuration. With the room packed to capacity, the group eased into a set with influences ranging from Middle Eastern music to free jazz and everything in between (and beyond). After a short break, John Corbett, journalist and co-owner of the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery, moderated a Q&A with the group, touching on topics from the creation of the music on From the River to the Ocean to Fred and Hamid growing up in Louisiana. Overall, it was one of the most impressive nights of music any of us have witnessed — at our space or at any venue.

Check out Chicago Amplified to listen to select STOP SMILING programs.

photography by: Patrick Lorenz

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