Tony Bevan / Jeb Bishop / John Edwards / Michael Zerang Quartet

Chicago Reader
Wednesday 10/02/02
By Kevin Whitehead

One encouraging trend in jazz and improvised music is a turn toward neglected but useful oddball instruments. (Locally, Aram Shelton’s steaming on the baby E-flat clarinet is a good example.) England’s Tony Bevan started out on soprano saxophone, then added tenor; in the early 90s he took on the huge bass saxophone, a relic of 1920s jazz, when the bull fiddle had yet to assert its dominance over air-bass rivals like the tuba, and bass sax king Adrian Rollini ripped off lines like fast tuned farts. Bevan can harness some of that same plosive energy, but maybe because he started with smaller horns, he resists using the big ax as either bass or bully. Bevan is more interested in its cavernous or gravelly overtones–to judge from NHAM (Foghorn), a quartet CD with bassist and fellow Brit John Edwards and Chicagoans trombonist Jeb Bishop and drummer Michael Zerang, recorded for the BBC during a 2001 English tour. Edwards, who toured with B-Shops for the Poor in the early 90s, now plays with the illustrious improviser Evan Parker. He gets a big natural sound plucking, and likes low groany bowed bits too. The CD has a curious mid-Atlantic accent, sailing in the gulf between English cooperative eggshell walking and roiling American free jazz. Zerang has integrated the rapid rattling metallic continental style of Lovens and Lytton into his arsenal, and can also keep a rolling jazz-inspired free pulse going. Jeb Bishop, who often assumes the lead role by default, has been a good reason to keep an ear on free play in these parts. He’s got a big, assertive sound, and he’s a quick thinker and deep listener, confident and resourceful. Like all good jazz trombonists, Bishop has learned to play well with others–one more legacy of the 1920s, come to think of it.

Wednesday, October 2, 9:30 PM
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