Chicago Jazz Festival: James Sanders Proyecto Libre


If they could bottle this show up, it’d get served in bars all across this country.

James Sanders Proyecto Libre put on a powerful show at the Von Freeman Pavilion.  Along with Sanders and his violin were saxophonist Ed Wilkerson, the double bass duo of Harrison Bankhead and Joshua Abrams and the double percussion duo of drummer Avreeayl Ra and Jean-Christophe Leroy, and together they were a band that lived in that moment between light and day.

When Wilkerson’s sax brewed intensely meditative passages, crying out languorously up to the sky, the haunting beauty of Bankhead’s and Abrams’ bass arco settled in over everything.  And when Sanders’ violin was streaking across the scene like lightning unbottled, it was Ra’s sympathetic cymbal crashes that kept things grounded… no different when Ra and Leroy drew some thunder of their own when Sanders’ violin settled into a state of tranquility.  This was a performance where the gentle comedowns of melody behaved as a sunrise quietly dispelling the long night’s madness.

But it wasn’t all moody intensity.  The encore, a Sanders alternate take on Orquesta Aragon‘s classic Cuban tune “Pare Cochero” spurred much of the crowd out of their seats and onto the dance floor, roped into the playful groove and inviting melody.

Still plenty of time and plenty of performances before this year’s Chicago Jazz Fest wrap on Sunday evening, but I already know this is gonna be one of the shows that leaves the biggest imprint on my memory.

CJF James Sanders