Chicago Jazz Festival: Magic Carpet


Magic CarpetThere were times that Pharoah Sanders seemed to connect with the lifeblood of the universe.  That tranquil melody of “The Creator Has a Master Plan” and how Sanders’ sax parted the sea of dissonance on Karma or the rising tide of intensity on “Hum-Allah” and how Lonnie Liston Smith both spurred it on and tamed it by the way he wielded that melody… up to the point when Sanders lit the whole thing on fire for the gigantic climax before the gentle comedown.  It was so full of power, resonating like crazy in all directions, and all of it was as easy to accept as inhaling the air surrounding us all.  The sextet Magic Carpet tapped into Sanders’ source and they didn’t turn it off for the entirety of their Saturday Chicago Jazz Festival performance at the Von Freeman Pavilion.

But while this music resonates with that lifeblood energy of Pharoah Sanders, the way Magic Carpet expresses it is quite different.  A far more relevant comparison would be the geographic influence crossfading of Goran Kajfeš, and how time and distance induce no limitations on the span of his music.  Magic Carpet wavers hypnotically between Indo-jazz, funk, soul jazz, reggae, Afro-jazz and Middle East folk music, and despite the many influences, the group achieves a unison that brings the most tuneful, enchanting music.  But make no mistake, this music grooves hard, and while it’s plenty easy to just kick back and let it wash over you, the impulse to move the feet is gonna be tough to deny.

Fred Jackson Jr. is on alto and soprano saxophones, Timuel “Cream” Jones on guitar, Makaya McCraven on drums, Ryan Mayer with the percussion, Parish Hicks on electric bass and Tracy King with vocals and dance.  For this performance, everybody stood out from the crowd on more than one occasion… individual voices were heard loud and clear even in the seamless group dynamic.  But on a personal note, I was absolutely thrilled with Tracy King’s contributions.  Her vocals came into play only occasionally, but they were heartfelt and full of warmth and energy and sincerity… actually, not unlike Leon Thomas’s on Karma.  But it was her dance that totally set things off.  King dances like so much of this music makes me feel inside.  I know I can’t be the only one who has all these emotions that get bottled up by the joyfulness of all this music we encounter, and to actually see someone physically expressing what I feel inside was a massively cathartic experience.  With some notable exceptions, if a music performance brings on dancers, I just view it as a distraction from the music.  When King briefly left the stage during a song, I felt the air go out of my heart.  Just outstanding.

The electricity in the Von Freeman Pavilion that day was palpable.  It flowed from the stage to the back of the room and the tides carried it right on home.

Here’s some of what went down…

I am certain that this will not be the only time this band sees print on this site.