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Anat Cohen, The Bad Plus lead an exuberant weekend

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Tuesday September 06, 2016

From The Chicago Tribune

Chicago Jazz Fest review: Anat Cohen, Bad Plus lead an exuberant weekend
By: Howard Reich

Pure joy.

How else to describe the sound issuing from Anat Cohen’s clarinet Saturday night at the 38th annual Chicago Jazz Festival?

Playing the penultimate set of the evening in the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, Cohen summed up everything that’s best about this event: soaring music embraced by an attentive audience in the best acoustical environment you could hope to encounter outdoors…

…Cohen began her portion of the night with her aptly named “Happy Song,” the clarinetist slip-sliding around the melody, subtly bending pitches for expressive effect, unreeling one jubilant phrase after another…

…This set proved an elegant prelude to the most audacious music of the evening, a reappraisal of Ornette Coleman’s landmark “Science Fiction” album performed by the Bad Plus and guests. Recorded in 1971, “Science Fiction” conveyed ferocious energy but also a keening lyricism at its core, largely in the form of Coleman’s heady saxophone improvisations. No one can replicate that singular sound, nor the ferocity of drummers Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell, the tonal resplendence of Charlie Haden’s bass and others on the album.

But the Bad Plus didn’t try, instead reconceiving “Science Fiction” on the band’s own, profoundly personal terms…

…That a huge audience stayed to hear music as daunting (in parts) as “Science Fiction” said a great deal about the sophistication of the listeners and the allure of the performance.

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