One of the ensembles I admire most is the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Obvious, of course, but having both written about it as a journalist, and having been invited to perform with ICE on occasion in Chicago, the group’s artistic integrity has proven itself to be unquestionable. Founder Claire Chase creates an inviting atmosphere for ICE’s excursions to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and even the most cerebral composers are given emotionally engaging performances in the hands of the ICE performers. If a particularly gnarly Varèse or Xenakis score suddenly becomes relevant to a newcomer, it is undoubtedly because what is seen onstage is genuine belief in the music.
Most of us that called a dormitory home at one point or another flirted with a Sun Ra record or two. We gingerly placed one foot in the door of experimental jazz, but kept the other safely on the other side of the vestibule. If you doubt the genre’s legitimacy, watch the opening credits of Funny Games and tell me the John Zorn track didn’t melt your face. One of Zorn’s collaborators, and a highly esteemed composer in his own right, George Lewis is being honored by ICE in the February 5th “George Lewis and Friends on the MCA Stage”, and this is one concert Chicago would be idiotic to miss.
Below is my TimeOut Chicago preview of the concert, but first, let me say that George Lewis, with his staggering résumé is one of the most generous and brilliant musicians I have ever interviewed. He is a champion of new works and young composers…even in a cutthroat environment like NYC…and is unapologetic in his disregard for marketability. The likelihood of his selling out to ephemera such as marketability is akin to the likelihood that I will ever knowingly purchase a record by Lang Lang.
Here is the lede, unfortunately cut by editors at TOC:
“Top 10 lists are inane and reductive. Nevertheless, that New York composer/trombonist George Lewis is coming to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and that his music is being performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will result in at least this writer having only to locate nine other entries for 2012.”
Next, let me include a link to the Zora Neale Hurston essay referenced in the article. It is one of the most compelling pieces on dialectics I have ever come across: http://www.l-adam-mekler.com/
Composer Nicole Mitchell and her piece “New Work (2012)” were inexplicably deleted from my copy in the editing process. Apologies to Ms. Mitchell, whose inclusion is an integral component of the concert.
Do yourself a favor and go purchase Lewis’ “Sour Mash” before going to the show on Sunday. If ever there was an experimental record to squelch the contention that experimental music is inherently off-putting, this is it. Also, Sunday will sell out, so get those tickets STAT.