Extraordinary Popular Delusions - Apocryphal Fire In The Warehouse And Other Explanations [LP]
In 2005, when Richard Syska offered Jim Baker and his trio a weekly gig at Hotti Biscotti, a neighborhood bar in Logan Square, little did the pianist, bassist Brian Sandstrom, and percussionist Steve Hunt know that they would still be at it more than five years later. Things have changed since that first performance on May 24, 2005. It didn't take long for saxophonist Mars Williams to join, expanding the trio into a quartet. And in September 2010, after Hotti Biscotti was sold, the band moved their weekly gatherings from Tuesdays to Mondays and relocated to the Beat Kitchen in Roscoe Village.
The quartet adopted the moniker Extraordinary Popular Delusions after the release in 2006 of their debut on Okkadisk, an album titled after Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, a treatise on popular folly written by Scottish journalist Charles MacKay and published in 1841 - a book still relevant today as it addresses economic bubbles and mass hysteria, among other topics.
Economics, though, could not be further from the band's motives and raison d'e?tre (however, Baker suggested they are reserving judgment on the subject of mass hysteria). Their weekly performances have now become an intricate part of their lives, almost a necessity, which is why their music is so personal. As Hunt puts it, ''I learned that life can drive your approach to the music and make you dig deeper in what you can bring to the collective.''
The improvised music catalogue is populated with countless one-off projects and chance encounters, but EPD make a serious case for the benefit of building long-term musical relationships. Williams, Sandstrom, and Hunt have been playing together since the early days of Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble and Baker has crossed their path on many occasions in the past 25 years. Because they are not looking at proving anything, there is no unhealthy competition. They're simply in it for the love of creating music. As Sandstrom explains, ''trust, respect, and friendship'' are at the core of their unit.
EPD's creative process regularly reaches an apex, a magical moment that ineluctably occurs every time. Mars Williams calls it the ''fifth sound''; it could be the fifth member of the band, an offspring of their polyphonic approach, an improbable and elusive sound that no one in particular-but everyone-is responsible for. This is likely to be the primary reason why a group of aficionados and friends (they know who they are) comprise a kind of core audience for the weekly series.
As the band members will tell you, putting out a recording that can present a faithful portrait of such an organic band in constant evolution is a daunting task. The fact that the majority of their output was recorded by either the late Malachi Ritscher or Brian Sandstrom means that they also have a vast library to draw from, which inevitably leads to agonizing decisions. On Apocryphal Fire in the Warehouse, and Other Explanations, the live tracks are complemented by studio recordings that provide a rare opportunity to hear Baker on a real piano, an event their regular audience does not get to experience.
Although recognition and commercial viability are not at the top of EPD's priority list, this release is nonetheless an opportunity to share their unique ''sound manipulations'' with a wider audience and to reach out beyond the Chicago confines - to the unlucky crowds, hopefully more irked than madding, who live too far to pay them a weekly visit. - Alain Drouot