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Chicago’s Iconic Experimental Jazz Scene

I was recently attending the annual conference for the International Society for Improvised Music and I got into a conversation with trombonist, Jeff Albert.  First of all, Jeff is a pretty awesome dude: he is currently working on his Ph.D in Experimental Music, experimenting with the possibilities of computers and improvised music, and was recently named a Rising Star in the Trombone category for Down Beat Magazine… plus, Jeff is such a picture-perfect New Orleans musician that he makes you feel like every word that comes out of your mouth is uptight and completely lame.

Anyway, Jeff was telling me about some of the experimental gigs that he has played in Chicago, and I realized that I have not written a blog about Chicago’s remarkable avant-garde scene.  The first thing that one must realize is that Chicago’s music history is rich in cutting edge, modernistic greatness.

Of course, there is the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the non-profit organization that was founded by Muhal Richard Abrams, Jodie Christian, Phil Cohran, and Steve McCall.  The AACM helped to catalyze the careers of many experimental jazz musicians associated with Chicago such as Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Chico Freeman, Hamid Drake and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, to name some.  Saxophonist Fred Anderson, who we lost two years ago, maintained The Velvet Lounge as a top club for modern musicians for years.  Recently, there was a wonderful tribute to Fred Anderson at the Jazz Showcase entitled “The Brotherhood of Fred”.

Fortunately for Chicago fans of free jazz, avant-garde, experimental music, there are still many great practitioners, as well as excellent venues for eager listeners.  Although many of these musicians tour around the country frequently, guitarist Jeff Parker and saxophonist Ken Vandermark (see photo of Vandermark 5 above) have received national acclaim and are at the forefront of Chicago experimental jazz.  Umbrella Music (which is featured on our web site) is a wonderful organization which presents hundreds of events at affiliated Chicago venues such as the Hideout, Hungry Brain, and the Elastic Arts Foundation.  Featured musicians on the web site include Jason Roebke, Jeb Bishop, Jason Stein, Keefe Jackson, Dave Rempis, Matt Schneider, Mike Reed, Joshua Abrams, Frank Rosaly, Jim Baker, Avreeayl Ra, Tim Daisy, Dave Gordon, Brian Sandstrom, Jack Gallagher, BJ Cord, Brian Gephart, Dushun Mosley, and John Herndon, to name just a few.

Upcoming Shows:

Jeff Parker (Solo Guitar) – The Hideout – 4/6/12 – 10PM – $8

Marquis Hill (tpt)/Greg Ward (sax)/Jake Vinsel (bass)/Ted Sirota (drums) – Elastic – 3/29/12 – 10PM – $8

“Ballister” – Dave Rempis (sax)/Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello)/Paal Nilssen-Love (drums)- Hungry Brain – 4/1/12 – 10PM – $10

Mike Reed (drums)/Jeb Bishop (tbn)/Matt Bauder (reeds)/Matt Schneider (guitar) – The Hideout – 4/4/12 – 10PM – $7




Hungry Brain

2319 W. Belmont Ave.

Chicago, IL 60618


The Hideout

1354 W. Wabansia Ave

Chicago, IL 60642



2830 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor

Chicago, IL 60618