Gig review: 'Mosaik' at The Jazz Showcase, Chicago, 27 June 2012

Review by Rob Mallows, organiser, London Jazz Meetup

The Jazz Showcase is in many ways Chicago's answer to Ronnie Scott's. Its been going for over sixty years; it's still owned by the same man - musician Joe Segal, who's run the place since 1947 but now leaves it to his son to manage day to day.  It is home to both national touring acts and local jazz musicians and has a reputation to die for.

Just a look at the bill posters on the wall of its pleasant new venue in the former parcels office of the old Dearborn Station tells you all you need to know about it's status as one of the great homes of jazz: Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie to name just a few of the names I read.

Unlike Ronnie's, however, the Showcase retains old-school jazz club elements that the former has left behind: $10 (£6.75!) entry, for a start; no pre-booking or dining; tables and chairs, and sofas, instead of benches; and no chuck-outs between sets. And it's all the better for it. Feels like what Ronnie Scott's must have been like thirty years ago.

As such, it gives as great a prominence to local acts as the star names. I went to see two differing sets from local group Mosaik. Playing their own compositions, a set at The Showcase is a chance to play the music they like and, in the words of drummer Nils Higdon, 'take a break from playing weddings and teaching.'

Led by guitarist Kevin Brown, the band plays fusion jazz that evidently seems to draw heavily on Coltrane, Montgomery and Hubbard while being equally comfortable skirting the shores of swing and rock. New bassist Alex Wing - an obvious boon to the band - provided the electric bass groove and chops that we're complex but didn't over-egg the pudding. His sound worked well with Brown's fretless guitar, their tones at times suggesting two bass players workings together in different octaves, such was the absence of high-end timbre and bite that one would expect from a fretted guitar.

Drummer Higdon threw together some great drum sounds, leading the band into some heavy-duty rhythmic changes and complex 12:4 passages. At times, head turned to the side and eyes closed, he was like an engineer listening intently to a finely tuned jazz-fuelled engine. Sax player Andy Schlinder took on the task of the heavy lifting when it came to the melody and power, combining hard blowing and gripping runs with an easy tone on the quieter ballads. An element that set the music apart for me was Preyas Roy's vibe playing which was blisteringly fast but without overpowering the group's overall sound.

On compositions like 'Monsieur Gauthier' and the Samba-influenced 'El Gato' in the second set - both Brown compositions from their album Integral Decomposition - the band went up a gear and skirted the freer end of the jazz spectrum, but all the while still retaining a central core of strong melody and tight interplay that retained the interest of a small, but enthusiastic Wednesday evening crowd.

Upon leaving the venue at midnight, having listened to three hours of great jazz from a young band clearly destined to go beyond the metropolitan Chicago area and - as I suggested to Brown - perhaps join the burgeoning scene in London and Europe at some point - I knew this was a special place.

I'm in Chicago for two things: Cubs baseball and jazz. Earlier in the day, the Cubs lost 17-1 at home to the Mets. At least I could rely on Chicago's jazz scene to deliver a better result.

Find out it more about the band and the album on Kevin's website: http://www.kevinbrownguitar.com/integral-decomposition.php

Venue info:
Jazz Showcase
Dearborn Station
806 S. Plymouth Ct.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 360-0234

Website: www.jazzshowcase.com
 

Make a Free Website with Yola.