Chicago Time Code

Francis Wong

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Chicago Time Code Review

by Alex Henderson

When tenor saxophonist Francis Wong teamed up with pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow and bassist Tatsu Aoki for Chicago Time Code, the musicians all had excellent resources to draw from. Wong was the cofounder of Asian Improv Records, a significant player in the Asian-American jazz scene, while Sparrow owned the Chicago-based Southport label and the studio Sparrow Sound Design (where this avant-garde session was recorded). Aoki, meanwhile, was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and had been quite active in Chicago's avant-garde jazz scene. In fact, the strong influence of the AACM is impossible to miss on Chicago Time Code, which, like many avant-garde recordings made in the Windy City, is reflective rather than confrontational. Play Chicago Time Code next to the blistering free jazz of Charles Gayle, Albert Ayler, or late-period John Coltrane, and you'll notice a world of difference. While Gayle and Ayler favor density and a lot of atonal, in-your-face screaming, Wong uses space and silence extensively, and isn't nearly as harsh. Also, Wong provides emotional outbursts after a lot of spacy, eerie reflection, while Gayle is known for starting out intense and staying that way. Those with a taste for AACM-type jazz will find Chicago Time Code to be pleasing, if less than essential.

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