Reviews that mention Ernest Dawkins

May 9, 2014

Artist Feature

Greg Ward
By Ken Waxman

Back in the heyday of vaudeville, answering affirmatively the question “Will It Play in Peoria?” meant that if an act could impress the audience in that small Illinois town, it was good enough to work nationwide. Ironically enough alto saxophonist Greg Ward embodies that maxim. Before moving to NYC, after maturing his career in Chicago, Ward, 31, spent his teenage years playing every gig he could in his home town of Peoria.

“At that time between Peoria and Chicago there was lots of work for a young player, which was very important,” the saxophonist, explains. Today he’s still kept busy gigging in larger centres, but he doesn’t deny his roots or early associations. On May 16 and 17 at the Jazz Gallery, a septet will premiere his series of composition honoring the 70th birthday of one of his long-time mentors, Preston Jackson. Jackson who is professor emeritus of sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago’s school, as well as a semi-professional guitarist, first played with Ward when the latter was 14. That was three years after Ward had made up his mind to become a musician, despite family pressure to become a doctor. That too was ironic, since both his father and uncle were professional gospel musicians and Ward had been singing gospel music as a three-year-old and studying violin from the age of nine. By the fifth grade he began playing alto saxophone using his father's old Conn. MORE

July 26, 2012

Chicago Trio

Velvet Songs: To Baba Fred Anderson
Rogueart ROG-0030

A tribute disc without including any of the dedicatee’s music, this two-CD set was actually recorded almost two years before the death of Chicago tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson in 2010. But these uncompromising, heart-felt performances captured at the Velvet Lounge, the south-side club Anderson ran for many decades, are more meaningful tributes to the musician and his abiding influence than any lachrymose song recreation.

That’s because, before a late career re-discovery in the 1990s that saw Anderson record dozens of CDs before his death, he was best-known as a club owner – the Birdhouse was his previous venue – and a bandleader who encouraged young talent and gave experimental musicians, mostly, but not exclusively from, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a regular place to play. Each of the Chicago Trio members benefitted from Anderson’s counsel in different ways. Now in-demand for a multitude of gigs in Europe and North America, Hamid Drake was a teenage percussionist given his first professional experience in Anderson’s band. Bassist and cellist Harrison Bankhead, a confrere of the tenor saxophonist in Anderson’s later bands, also worked with other committed improvisers like flautist Nicolle Mitchell and trumpeter Malachi Thompson. Meanwhile Ernest Dawkins, who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones plus percussion here played his first gig at the Birdhouse and often played with his New Horizons band at the Velvet Lounge. MORE

November 8, 2007

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Hot ‘N’ Heavy: Live at the Ascension Loft
Delmark DE 574

lo

Groove is the one word you associate with most of the endeavors of Kahil El’Zabar. Yet while the Chicago-based percussionist has had past experience playing R&B and African music, his rhythmic mobilization is overt, but never simplistic. That’s because as a long-time member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), he has also absorbed the concepts of such cerebral thinkers as pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. Taken in their entirety therefore, the sounds of El’Zabar’s many bands meld elements of both impulses. What results is a POMO variation that unites the sacred and the secular, a concept which has long characterized Black Vernacular Music. MORE

November 8, 2007

Kahil El’Zabar’s Infinity Orchestra

Transmigration
Delmark DE 576

Groove is the one word you associate with most of the endeavors of Kahil El’Zabar. Yet while the Chicago-based percussionist has had past experience playing R&B and African music, his rhythmic mobilization is overt, but never simplistic. That’s because as a long-time member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), he has also absorbed the concepts of such cerebral thinkers as pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. Taken in their entirety therefore, the sounds of El’Zabar’s many bands meld elements of both impulses. What results is a POMO variation that unites the sacred and the secular, a concept which has long characterized Black Vernacular Music. MORE

November 10, 2006

Hamid Drake & Bindu

Bindu
RogueArt ROG-0001

With the ensemble and the CD entitled Bindu, an Indian concept that signifies action as in worship or prayer, you know that this almost 75-minute, eight-track CD is not going to be a standard blowing session.

A further look at the personnel confirms this. Leader Hamid Drake plays drums, percussion and tabla, while the other participants are four saxophonists – Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen from New York; and Greg Ward and Ernest Dawkins from Chicago –

plus Windy City flautist Nicole Mitchell. The reason why the CD is not wholly satisfying however is that the date is segmented: harder, fast-paced riff pieces featuring the reed players and two devotional pieces, the lengthiest of the set. MORE

September 7, 2005

Ernest Dawkins’ Chicago 12

Misconceptions of a Delusion, Shades of a Charade
Dawk Music Release #04

Designed as a celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Chicago Seven trial, this nearly 80-minute slice of agitprop avant-garde is as much forward looking as backwards glancing.

Recorded live in Paris in early 2004, the narration voiced by “disco poet” Khari B. recalls the repressed radical anti-war and anti-racist sentiments of the late 1960s, which strike a responsive chord in an audience familiar with similar situations involving the Iraq War. At the same time, composer Ernest Dawkins, who directs but doesn’t play in the 12-piece band, uses this expanded version of his usual quintet to show off some of Chicago’s emerging improvising talents. Considering the AACM, with which all the musicians here are affiliated, was also established in the mid-1960s, the link seems appropriate and apt. MORE

March 7, 2005

ERNEST DAWKINS’ NEW HORIZONS ENSEMBLE

Mean Ameen
Delmark DE-559

ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO
Sirius Calling
Pi Records Pi 11

An organization’s influence is reflected in how well it continues to evolve after it becomes old enough to become established. So it is with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. Heading into its fifth decade, its membership has dispersed away from Chicago -- though the majority of AACMers, young and old, continue to reside in the Windy City -- and some of its more prominent members are starting to die. MORE

June 3, 2003

ERNEST DAWKINS’ NEW HORIZONS ENSEMBLE

Cape Town Shuffle
Delmark DG-545

Rollicking as only a live date by saxophonist Ernest Dawkins’ ensemble could be, the happy grooves established by the five Chicago musicians here are tempered by an incident that happened six months later. Trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, Dawkins’ closest confrere, who had been part of the New Horizons Ensemble from its beginnings, died at 48 in February, of apparent heart failure.

Luckily there are plenty of examples of Muhammad’s literally larger-than-life character on the four long tracks that make up CAPE TOWN SHUFFLE. What the audience at Hothouse saw in August 2002, and we hear on the disc is a portrait of a broad-chested brassman who had the power to twist his trumpet lines every which way to do his bidding, whether he was playing the blues or exploring the stratosphere. MORE

January 1, 2001

ERNEST DAWKINS

Jo'burg Jump
Delmark DE-524

Although many jazzers pay lip service to African influences, very few have actually experienced the music of Africa on that continent. Saxophonist and bandleader Ernest Dawkins is one of that small number, having jammed with musicians both in South Africa and Mozambique.

Significantly though, this CD is so convincing because of more than Dawkins' on-site anthropology -- the discipline, not the Charlie Parker tune. JO'BURG JUMP is a joy because the New Horizons Ensemble know one another so well, having been together in one form or another since 1978. Plus, as members in good standing of Chicago's Association for the Creative Musicians, the musicians can produce riffs that draw as much from that city's polyglot South Side as South Africa and create Jump Jazz from Joliet, Ill. as easily as Jump Ups from Johannesburg, South Transvaal.

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