CAP­TUR­ING THE RHYTHMS OF CHICAGO

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - By Chris Bar­ton chris.bar­ton@latimes.com

Makaya McCraven

“In the Mo­ment”

(In­ter­na­tional An­them)

Home to a wealth of riches such as the Jazz Record Mart, the Green Mill and the ever-fer­tile Assn. for the Ad­vance­ment of Cre­ative Mu­si­cians, Chicago’s mod­ern jazz scene con­tin­ues to be one of the most vi­brant in the coun­try.

Steeped in the sound of the city is 32-year-old McCraven, a drum­mer who has worked with a range of artists, in­clud­ing Archie Shepp, Mar­quis Hill and Mar­cus Strickland. For his sopho­more out­ing, McCraven recorded 48 hours of im­pro­vised per­for­mances com­piled dur­ing a res­i­dency at a club called the Bed­ford, call­ing on nine mu­si­cians and an ar­ray of con­fig­u­ra­tions that McCraven stitched to­gether into a sin­gle al­bum-length whole.

Though such a con­ceit could have easily led to a cut-and-paste sort of mu­si­cal col­lage, the record’s head­bob­bing sound re­mains true to its ti­tle. In some pieces, such as the two-minute groove-epic “Gnawa,” the all-pow­er­ful rhythm cre­ated by McCraven and bassist Ju­nius Paul is the star, whereas in oth­ers such as “Fi­nances” and “Lonely,” a tan­gled blend of mod­ern jazz and uniquely Chicago post-rock be­comes the dom­i­nant touch­stone, cour­tesy of f linty melodies from Tor­toise gui­tarist Jeff Parker and vi­bra­phon­ist Juste­fan. Taken to­gether, “In the Mo­ment” cap­tures the spirit of a city while ex­pand­ing on its lin­eage as only the best al­bums can.

Chris Ding­man

“The Sub­lim­i­nal and the Sublime” (In­ner Arts)

One of the ris­ing jazz tal­ents on vi­bra­phone, the San Jose-born Ding­man’s de­but al­bum, “Wak­ing Dreams,” landed on a num­ber of yearend lists in 2011. For the fol­low-up, he’s upped the ante with a suite com­mis­sioned by Cham­ber Mu­sic Amer­ica that was inspired by road trips through North­ern Cal­i­for­nia as well as nat­u­ral won­ders from both coasts.

The re­sults are as evoca- tive as you might hope. With Ryan Fer­reira’s chim­ing guitar build­ing a frame­work around Ding­man’s echo­ing vi­bra­phone, the 17-minute “Voice of the An­cient” co­a­lesces into a grandeur inspired by the band­leader’s trip to the red­woods of Jede­diah Smith State Park out­side Cres­cent City. Drawn as it was from open spa­ces, the piece al­lows it­self room to breathe, tak­ing time for Fabian Al­mazan’s pi­ano to f licker against Justin Brown’s cym­bals as if Ding­man is en­cour­ag­ing the lis­tener to ad­mire the view.

A sim­i­lar sweep rings through al­bum closer “All Flows Forth” and the at­mos- pheric “Pin­na­cles,” which opens with a lin­ger­ing feed­back arc that gives way to Loren Still­man’s slowly un­furl­ing sax­o­phone runs. The record may not be quite as restora­tive as a walk in the woods, but it comes close.

Maria Sch­nei­der Or­ches­tra

“The Thompson Fields” (ArtistShare)

Sim­i­larly col­ored by na­ture, the latest al­bum from New York-based band­leader Sch­nei­der looks to­ward her home state of Min­nesota for in­spi­ra­tion. Part al­bum and part il­lus­trated hard­cover book in a lux­u­ri­ously as­sem­bled pack­age from the crowd-fund­ing la­bel ArtistShare, Sch­nei­der’s latest rests beau­ti­fully along what­ever imag­i­nary line that sep­a­rates jazz from clas­si­cal mu­sic, ris­ing out of evoca­tive big band swells one mo­ment, take-your-breath-away in­di­vid­ual turns in the next.

Trom­bon­ist Mar­shall Gilkes of­fers a stand­out turn in the slow-burn­ing “The Monarch and the Milk­weed,” and sax­o­phon­ists Donny McCaslin and Scott Robin­son glee­fully twist around Sch­nei­der’s im­age of birds at­tempt­ing to court the op­po­site sex in “Ar­biters of Evo­lu­tion,” which churns through a bright, propul­sive melody. Frank Kim­brough’s pi­ano flick­ers along the cen­ter of the al­bum’s ti­tle track, and “Nim­bus” ex­pands from an omi­nous, al­most gyp­sy­like melody to a se­ries of stormy, un­fet­tered runs by Steve Wil­son. Marked by a zigzag­ging turn from trom­bon­ist Ryan Ke­berle, “Lem­brança” even twists through Brazil­ian samba in a nod to­ward her par­ents’ 1950s hon­ey­moon in Rio.

Though ded­i­cated to cap­tur­ing the beauty of where she grew up, Sch­nei­der has also con­jured a sort of artis­tic home here as well, care­fully re­count­ing mo­ments, im­ages and in­di­vid­u­als that fed her craft. No won­der the al­bum took al­most eight years to com­plete; may her next one not take nearly so long.

Zachary Maxwell Stertz

ROAD TRIPS on both coasts helped in­form Chris Ding­man’s new al­bum.

Ar tistShare

HOME inspires band­leader Maria Sch­nei­der.

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