Adventurous guitar player and educator Dan Phillips has been living in Thailand since 2001 but that doesn’t mean that this expat doesn’t long for the Illinois where he was raised or the Chicago where he spent several years leading groups. He’s felt that now the time was right to lead another group based in this jazz hotbed and didn’t fool around assembling a stellar band that would continue the city’s strong, AACM tradition of adventurous jazz.
Earlier this month, this band called the Chicago Edge Ensemble issued its opening salvo, Decaying Orbit. Joining leader and composer Phillips is Mars Williams (saxophone), Hamid Drake (drums), Jeb Bishop (trombone), and Krysztof Pabian (bass), all leading lights in a town where there’s an embarrassment of jazz riches. The Chicago Edge Ensemble is not unlike a continuation of the ol’ NRG Ensemble or the Vandermark 5 (Williams and Bishop are both co-founders of the latter group), imbued with that Windy City sense of strident grooves, daunting left turns and really good group improv.
Although Phillips wrote all the songs and put this Chicago avant-jazz supergroup together, everyone lends a big impact on these performances. The title track streamed above follows in the ideal of songs being journeys that are set up like discreet acts in a play. Accordingly, “Decaying Orbit” begins with a decorous opening moving into a contrapuntal groove. What follows, however, is vintage Phillips who put forth an extensive solo that portrays but the depth and breadth of his abilities at jazz guitar that careens in and out. He then tidies it up by transitioning right into the two-chord repeating pattern of the opening.
Decaying Orbit — the song and the album — fulfills the promise of its members’ respective legacies and furthers the legacy of its worldly leader.
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