Summer Solstice Percussion Concert

June 18, 1999
Section Three
Critic’s Choice
By Neil Tesser

Their mutual fascination with the drum first brought Chicagoans Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang together; their mutual fascination with its long cultural history likely helped inspire the series of two-man percussion concerts with which they’ve marked the last eight winter solstices. At these events, which now routinely sell out long in advance, Drake and Zerang combine art and ritual into performances of solemnity and celebration – and if you don’t think the second two can go together, it’s because you’ve never bid good-bye to the last night of autumn by candlelight and frame drum. This year the dynamics duo will inaugurate a parallel warm-weather series with a sunset show that uses full drum kits, shakers, gongs, and more to build in intensity as daylight fades; the next morning at dawn they’ll focus on willowy-sounding frame drums for a more monochromatic and meditative improvisation, reversing the order of the sets at their winter shows. Recently the New York Times remarked on what locals have known about for years, lauding Drake for his ability to incorporate pattern-based drumming into free jazz. But this skill probably isn’t as important to his success (he’s worked with Yusef Lateef, Don Cherry, Peter Br√∂tzmann and dozens of others) as his deep swing and extraordinary ear for shading and color. He plays with a flowing, loping stride that dovetails with Zerang’s spiky, clipped phrases and mock-martial rhythms; Zerang also draws on his experience as a composer (he’s scored several Redmoon Theater productions) to help structure and balance the duo’s lengthy tone poems. They’ll perform as part of the MCA’s summer solstice celebration; other acts include Boukmon Eksperyans, Oval, Robbie Fulks, and DJ Derrick Carter. Drake and Zerang play Friday at 8 PM (inside the museum facing west), and Saturday at 5 AM (outside the museum, facing east), Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-280-2660.

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