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The Simmer Before The Boil

As the songwriter, visionary force, and de facto leader of the Chicago octet 8 Bold Souls for over fifteen years, Edward Wilkerson, Jr. has earned a place among the great tenor saxophonists of that city's tenor royalty- Von Freeman, Ari Brown, and Fred Anderson. Although a member in good standing of the south side collective Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Wilkerson's talent for improvising gets lost in the shuffle of the compositions of the Souls and his larger big band, Shadow Vignettes. A wonderfully expressive performer, Wilkerson tends to play with a throaty, R&B spiced growl, similar to Freeman, but he can sustain extended solos without signs of fatigue, a la Anderson.

With the Souls taking a bit of a break, the opportunity for Wilkerson to spread his wings came via an invitation from drummer Michael Zerang. The versatile percussionist and experimental music stalwart recently opened his own performance space, the Candlestick Maker, in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. In recent months Zerang has invited some of the top musicians in Chicago and the world to perform at the space: Mwata Bowden, Jeff Parker, Ernest Dawkins, Leroy Jenkins, and Peter Brotzmann. The pairing with Wilkerson, talked about for years, bacame a reality Saturday night.

For a duet partner, Wilkerson could not have chosen better than Zerang, a gifted player who knows when to stoke a colaborator. Zerang set the tone early with low rumbling tom rolls, allowing Wilkerson to work through his initial nervousness with short squawks and muted bursts from his saxophone. Wilkerson followed Zerang's lead until finally removing the towel from the bell of his sax and letting loose with a flurry of scales and notes that hung like smoke rings in the balmy, unseasonably warm night.

From that point, the two players established a rapport that was almost telepathic. Zerang utilized a wide (and odd) array of cymbals placed on the drum skins, while Wilkerson alternated between tenor, clarinet, and alto clarinet to find the perfect complement for Zerang's persussion.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ed Wilkerson, Jr. and Michael Zerang
  • Concert Date: 2/23/2001
  • Venue: Candlestick Maker
  • City State Country: Chicago, Illinois, US
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