A 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival preview: Ghost Train Orchestra


This Is Jazz Today: A 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival preview, in sound & vision.


Ghost Train Orchestra

Ghost Town Orchestra - "Hot Town"There’s a spellbinding quality to the 2015 release Hot Town from the Ghost Train Orchestra that grows stronger with successive listens.  Brian Carpenter‘s arrangements of hot jazz compositions from Roaring Twenties Chicago and Harlem is warm sunshine given sonic form.  The up-tempo nature of Hot Town, even at the peak of its velocity, possesses the casual ease of a Summer day in the shade.  And it’s that friendly handshake of easy-going enthusiasm and abounding good cheer that makes return visits ever more compulsory.

Baritone and bass saxophones are as light on their feet as banjos, clarinets and drums.  The de facto triangulation of tuba, viola and banjo create appealing contrasts of tone as accompaniment to an otherwise straight-ahead traditional sound.  Some vocals maintain the album’s galloping cadence and lazy river ambiance without stifling the vocalist’s emerging presence.

It’s pretty hard not to fall for this album once you’ve accepted its invitation.  In a live setting, the effect is likely to be amplified.  This is old-school jazz for those who don’t require an updated sound or modern techniques for their daily jazz fix.  The new-school fans, too, are gonna feel plenty at home with this music, because really, the echoes of jazz past reverberate through much of the music of the modern scene, no matter how tenuous its connection may seem at first blush.  But it’s how someone like myself who is as immersed in the modern jazz scene as anybody can still become immediately transfixed when a McCoy Tyner or a Red Garland or a Charlie Christian recording pops up in the digital shuffle.  That sense of time travel along the jazz lineage, of joyful sound the result of the collision of past and present, it’s as compelling as anything gets.

They’re scheduled to perform at 3:30pm on Friday, September 2nd in the Von Freeman Pavilion.

According to the schedule, it appears the Orchestra will consist of most all of the album’s personnel, minus a string or two and the guest musicians (sorry, Colin Stetson fans, but he’s off touring with Sarah Neufeld these days).

Your album (and mostly your CJF) personnel: Brian Carpenter (trumpet, harmonica, arrangements), Dennis Lichtman (clarinet), Andy Laster (alto & baritone saxophones), Petr Cancura (tenor & alto saxes, clarinet), Curtis Hasselbring (trombone), Mazz Swift (violin, vocals), Jordan Voelker (viola, musical saw), Cynthia Sayer (plectrum banjo), Ron Caswell (tuba), Rob Garcia (drums) and guests: Colin Stetson (bass sax) and Andrew Stern (tenor banjo).

Read more about the band and their upcoming performance on the Chicago Jazz Festival site.

And here’s a nifty video of the GTO performing live…


The 38th annual Chicago Jazz Festival is taking place in (and around) Chicago’s Millennium Park, Wednesday August 31st – Sunday September 4th.

Read more about why you should be a part of the audience by visiting the official Chicago Jazz Festival site

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