Re-BOP-becca Rave Review

2128 1/2 S. Indiana Avenue Chicago 312-791-9050
Malachi Thompson and the Free Bop Band with

it is always special for me to celebrate artist’s birthdays live. 

And New Yorker Billy Harper choosing to spend his special day in 2003 in Chicago, at one of the favorite locales of the Zebra Libra-the Velvet Lounge was icing on the cake. 

Speaking of the cake, there was this question-mark candle lit for Billy to blow out.  But if you turned the candle upside down, you could see that it was shaped like a six.  And the dot could be a zero.  Saxty, sexty, and sixty are just some of the things Billy Harper is.  The cake was super sweet, but that did not stop Harrison and I (after several others) from eating it!  Hah!

I asked Billy to sign this year’s calendar…because it is extra cool to have a birthday signature on that person’s birthday, and even more so if they are playing live jazz.  “What birthday is this for you?” I asked.  Billy looked a little anxious and said,  “Sixty.”  I know that anxious look—my older brother gets it when he talks about how old he is and he is not sixty yet!

Malachi Thompson’s Freebop band with Malachi blowing on trumpet, Dennis improving and improvising more every time I see him on alto, Kirk providing the underlying melody enhancers on piano, Harrison bump, thump, steady blending on bass, and Leon never to be out classed in the rhythm department on drums, sounded wonderful as always.  

With the complement of saxtagarian Billy Harper blowing his black and gold tenor, in his classic black leather pants, it was a visual and audible pleasure, in-dee-dee-do-bop.

Hmmm…wonder if Gary Bartz will join the band in Chicago for his b-day.

Malachi’s Freebop Band Reminder
Delmark Records recording artist and his critically acclaimed Freebop Band will perform January 17 & 18, Friday and Saturday at the Velvet Lounge. The Freebop Band features Thompson on trumpet, the talented Billy Harper on tenor saxophone (Friday night only), Dennis Winslett on alto and soprano saxophone, Kirk Brown on piano, Harrison Bankhead on bass and Leon Joyce on drums. The first set begins at 9:30 PM and admission is $12. The Velvet Lounge is located at 2128 1/2 S. Indiana in Historic Bronzeville. Call the Velvet Lounge at 312-791-9050. Call Malachi at 773-536-6555 for interviews.

The Freebop Band will begin its 25th season this spring. The band had its origins as part of the so-called loft jazz movement in NYC circa 1978. Thompson's Freebop band has changed in direction, size and personnel over the years, but has always been on the cutting edge, while keeping his roots firmly planted in the Chicago jazz tradition.

Known for his work with Lee Morgan and McCoy Tyner, saxophonist Billy Harper did his first tour with the Freebop Band in 1987.  Mr. Harper will also conduct a jazz saxophone workshop for the Kenwood High school concert band on Friday, January 17 at 2:30 PM.  Don’t forget, come out and celebrate Billy Harper's birthday on Friday night at the Velvet Lounge!!

The 25th season promises new recordings and special projects to commemorate this musical milestone.

Other Rave Reviews of the Malachi Thompson FREEBOP BAND
“...among the next wave of jazz innovation.” - Robert Palmer, New York Times
“ of the ageless innovators of jazz...(Thompson has) a gift for conceiving arrangements and solos of stunning
technical and emotional range.” - Rueben Jackson, Washington Post
“...universally recognized as one of Chicago’s most innovative, insightful and colorful musicians.” - Arts Midwest
“ choosing to advance jazz, both structurally and compositionally, rather than dwelling within the safe confines of bebop,
Thompson has pushed jazz forward into the new millennium.” - Fred Jung, L.A. Jazz Scene
“...trumpeter Malachi Thompson long ago established himself as one of the more innovative composer-bandleaders in jazz.”
- Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
THE FREEBOP BAND with Billy Harper and Gary Bartz
“...Thompson leads his small band through some innovative turns on standards and originals.” - Rapport Magazine
“...Thompson’s Freebop Band from Chicago begins about 10 steps ahead of most jazz ensembles.” Lazaro Vega, Grand Rapids Press
“ intellectually probing and viscerally exciting as anything in jazz today.” - Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
“...This is hard bop like it ought to be but is seldom heard.” - Village Voice
“...literally sent chills down my spine. This is powerful stuff indeed.” - Dave Wayne, Jazz Weekly