Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fast Citizens

Keefe Jackson's Fast Citizens
Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge - Hyde Park, MA
Thursday, September 6th

I finally made it up to Boston for one of the Music Workshop shows. The workshop is organized by at least some of the same people who ran the artists-at-large series a few years ago. I didn't know much about the Fast Citizens going into the concert. Being a Chicago-based group, I was familiar with a number of the musicians, but I had never even heard of the band leader and with the exception of cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, I had never seen any of the musicians play live in concert.

The first thing that struck me about this group was their age. Most of the guys in the band looked pretty young. With the exception of Lonberg-Holm, who has been on the scene in Chicago since before I started following it, all of these guys are part of the new generation. The "young lions" of the Chicago free improv scene, if you will.

I was very impressed with the rhythm section, especially the drummer, Frank Rosaly. I was most impressed with the way he accompanied the soloists during their improvisations. It was very subtle, but he seemed to have a real knack for working with the soloist. His ensemble playing was superb as well. His playing exuded an obvious enthusiasm that was immediately discernible to anyone listening to him or watching him. Anton Hatwich was a formidable presence on the bass. He takes a very aggressive approach to his playing, equally comfortable playing a bass line or a melodic line. Rounding out the rhythm section was the aforementioned Lonberg-Holm on cello, who played some incredible solos with some remarkable interplay with Rosaly and gave the sound a neat electronic edge with some of his sound effects.

I was also very impressed with the compositions that this band played. I tend not to pay as much attention to composition when listening to music like this since the majority of time is devoted to improvisation, but this band is more of an even mix of composition and improv. Keefe Jackson, the bandleader and tenor saxophonist, writes most of the tunes. This was my first exposure to Jackson and I was as impressed with his composition as I was disappointed with his improvisation. His solos primarily used short, clipped phrases that didn't really fit together and never went anywhere. I was disappointed with the entire horn section's solos to a certain degree. Most of the solos were lacking in direction. A number of solos simply trailed off instead of building to a conclusion. The horn section definitely sounded better in the second set, so perhaps it was just a matter of getting warmed up.

It seems odd that I would enjoy an improvised music show where the improvisation was only so-so, but I really did enjoy this show. It was my first exposure to a bunch of the newer faces on the Chicago scene and I really did enjoy the compositions and Frank Rosaly completely knocked me out on a couple of the numbers. If this group can stay together, I think it has the potential to become a really solid ensemble.

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