Daniel Levin's Black Bear at Chicago Cultural Center | Concert preview
Strings are becoming a stronger presence in the flaky provinces where jazz, chamber music and sound-art overlap. Why? Is it because the players insist on asserting their choice of instrument in a more creative environment with greater leeway for a personal voice? Or because audiences are growing more receptive to jazz that isn’t dominated by reeds and keys? Rhetorical queries go out the window when Daniel Levin takes up his cello. It’s just good music.
The young composer and bandleader kicks off the Cultural Center’s smartly curated New Millennium/New Music series (which continues Wednesday 20 with the duo of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and ubiquitous Chicago multi-reedist Ken Vandermark). Levin’s long association with guitarist Joe Morris, with whom he has worked both as a sideman and a leader, has given him a highly attentive ear. And his albums, recorded for such labels as Firehouse 12 and Hatology, tend to mix up the tones and textures in playful ways, allowing Levin to exploit technical agility and imaginative notions that set him apart from more blatantly strident peers.
Levin’s new album, Blurry, features a quartet with Morris (on bass, rather than guitar), Matt Moran (on vibes) and Nate Wooley (trumpet), an airy consort that floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. The Black Bear quartet is, natch, a bit burlier—with Nate McBride (bass), Frank Rosaly (drums) and Greg Ward (saxophone)—but don’t expect the performance to be any more conventional.