Darren Johnston; Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Rooms | Concert previews
Bay Area trumpeter plucks a backing band from our own backyard, while Sun Rooms serves up a second album in short order.
As a jazz hub, Chicago’s not unsung, though it’s fair to say our fertile backyard remains undersung. Sure, we’ve got bragging rights—the AACM started here, and the ascent of Ken Vandermark and Kurt Elling speaks to the potential for breakout success while continuing to maintain local ties—but most improvisers would tell you that the real work is found abroad. Our bustling underground functions as an incubator, providing an intimate setting for a pool of players to share and workshop ideas.
The newest wave of musicians coalesced around the Hungry Brain’s Sunday weekly a decade ago before forming the collective Umbrella Music, and it seems fitting that a celebration of the series’ 10th anniversary wraps up with an outsider who got wise to the Umbrella scene: Darren Johnston. The San Francisco trumpeter’s The Big Lift, the debut album from his aptly named quintet Gone to Chicago, is composed of collaborations and untethered explorations with some of our city’s strongest players. Trombonist Jeb Bishop’s robust tone glides in tandem with Johnston, harmonizing flawlessly on the pulsating “Two Ways of Running.” Bassist Nate McBride, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer Frank Rosaly forage for clues amid free-jazz riddles. The Sunday 18 date at the Brain is a record-release gig, and Johnston smartly takes advantage of his time here, appearing in assorted ad-hoc combos across town.
Two members of Gone to Chicago, Adasiewicz and McBride, log more hours on the bandstand together in Sun Rooms, the malleteer’s relatively new three-piece with drummer Mike Reed that in short order has established itself with a concise repertoire and sparse arrangements. Adasiewicz, a ubiquitous presence in town, booked a weekly residency at the Whistler last winter, the fruit of which is Spacer, the group’s second album for Delmark. A sly variation on the piano trio, the resonance of the vibes keeps a warm aura around hard-swinging originals that would be ominous were they not so curious. It’s a heartening reminder to any improv warrior that while the city may be short on funds, there’s no shortage of forums.