Live at Pro Musica was recorded just over a year ago on March 1, 2020. While it seemed almost routine at the time to gather together in a small space for an intimate afternoon concert, this recording soon stood as an artifact of a very different time. Each one of the musicians involved has since remarked on how great a memory the show has become, and it has helped us all get through a troubling year to be able to look towards the future with hope for more experiences just like it on the horizon. LONG LIVE LIVE MUSIC!
This concert was the first-time meeting of this particular quartet, a group of musicians who until then had all played together many times in various settings but never in this configuration. Ward and Kirchner having worked together for over a decade, first in the group blink. and then in Ward's first Quartet, Fitted Shards, continued to share stages regularly. Ulery and Kirchner had played together for years in Kirchner's long-working 5 piece as well as in countless other bands, including Ward's latest project, Rogue Parade, and Ulery's own Delicate Charms (with Ward). Bedal had joined Ulery and Kirchner as the main house pianist at their weekly jam session for over 2 years while also choosing Ulery for his own Quartet and joining Kirchner in Ulery's brass band project, Pollinator. And yet, even with all of those connections and many more to list, the performance in this recording was and remains to be an entirely unique experience for everyone.
It was the final concert in a week-long Chicago festival called Chopin In The City, curated by singer and presenter Grazyna Auguscik. While the festival invites musicians from across various stylistic genres to present their own original music, it also aims to honor the legacy of the great pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, native of Auguscik's home country of Poland. It was for this reason that Kirchner decided to bring arrangements of two Chopin Nocturnes to the band, and attempt to showcase the great composer's work through a context of their own.
On the afternoon of Sunday, March 1st, 2020, an enthusiastic and attentive audience packed into the intimate surroundings of the Pro Musica showroom in Chicago, completely unaware of how unusual such an act would soon become. Revered audio specialist and recording engineer, Ken Christianson, the owner and founder of Pro Musica, arranged his trademark AKG stereo pairs in front of each member of the band to capture every moment in startling detail, especially the house grand piano which has been played and recorded countless times in the space by many of Chicago's greatest pianists. The results are an incredibly dynamic and detailed reproduction of the performance allowing the listener to feel as though they might be inside that very space sharing in every moment with both the band and the audience.
In addition to the two Chopin arrangements, the group presented a varied repertoire that included extended renditions of both David Murray's tribute to Albert Ayler, "Flowers for Albert," and the meditative piece "Ababcas," by Paul Motian. Alongside those stand a fiery version of Ward's "We Are Still Here" and a delicate rendition of Kirchner's "Lucid Dream" from his latest album, The Shadows and The Light.
released March 5, 2021
Greg Ward - Alto Saxophone
Paul Bedal - Piano
Matt Ulery - Bass
Quin Kirchner - Drums
Recorded live at Pro Musica in Chicago as part of the 4th Annual Chopin In The City Festival. March 1, 2020 at 3pm.
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Ken Christianson
Photograph by Mattias Launois
Extra special thanks to Grazyna Auguscik for presenting this concert, and for always being an exemplary artist and advocate for the arts. Eternal gratitude to you, Graz.
Flowers For Albert - David Murray
Nocturne 20 in C-Sharp Minor - Frédéric Chopin
Abacas - Paul Motian
We Are Still Here - Greg Ward
Lucid Dream - Quin Kirchner
Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1 - Frédéric Chopin
supported by 87 fans who also own “Live at Pro Musica”
So happy to see a new album from this band. I've long been a fan of Mazurek and Parker's work in Tortoise, on top of the CUQ... Anyhow, if you're curious about contemporary jazz, this is a terrific place to start.