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For bassist Harrison Bankhead's sophomore project, $8 will do the trick

Harrison Bankhead
Harrison Bankhead
Michael Jackson

If you’ve got the price of two beers and can find five minutes at your computer before midnight Friday, I have a Kickstarter campaign for you.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh great; another week, another Kickstarter campaign.” True, they’ve become a ubiquitous presence on the independent jazz landscape; every week, it seems, someone asks for more money for another worthy project. But I wouldn’t bother you with this one if it weren’t (a) worth the $8 they’re asking; (b) a little different; and (c) close to completion, making it short, sweet, and swift.

This campaign aims to raise a total of $1500 to pay the musicians making a new recording under the direction of Chicago bassist Harrison Bankhead. Steven Walcott launched the effort; he runs a tiny record label out of Brooklyn called Engine, and in 2011 he released a yin-yang album by Bankhead called “Morning Sun Harvest Moon” (which you can listen to here) – alternately lovely and raucous, and innovative in its assemblage of musicians from several of the city’s discrete music scenes.

Walcott wants to record another Bankhead disc this spring, featuring a killer quartet with drummer Avreeayl Ra and saxists Ed Wilkerson and Mars Williams. To pay the artists’ (quite minimal) fees, he’s using Kickstarter to pre-sell the album: pay $8 now and receive a completed copy later. “I look at this campaign as trying to do something that is equally good for musicians and for music,” Walcott explained to me, and so far, it seems to be working: he’s raised over $1100 so far. But with about a day left in the campaign, he needs another $356 – the price of 45 albums – to make the goal.

“Morning Sun Harvest Moon” was Bankhead’s debut as a leader – a surprising fact in light of his several decades working in Chicago and a resume that spans a significant portion of the Chicago genome: AACM free jams with saxist Fred Anderson and flutist Nicole Mitchell; mainstream(ish) music with vocalist Grazyna Auguscik and trumpeter Malachi Thompson; sumptuous comp work in a variety of projects led by vocalist Dee Alexander; and comping for Asian-jazz fusion projects under the aegis of Asian Arts Improv Midwest. I for one would love to hear a follow-up.

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the money only vests once the goal has been met; if Walcott fails to raise the $1500 total by the deadline (midnight Friday), the money goes back to the investors. But also, as with all Kickstarter campaigns, any extra contributions can still go to support the project – so if the total tops $1500, it means a little more cash to help publicize and distribute the finished album. (“Basically,” Walcott said, “this is where free jazz is at.”)

You don’t even have to think of it as charity; rather, it’s a chance to ensure a copy (at a discount) of an upcoming album led by one of the city’s livelier musical characters. And if enough of you come through, and they sell more than another 45 albums; and the musicians make a little more than the pittance they’re willing to work for on this – well, where’s the harm in that?

You can purchase Harrison Bankhead's upcoming and as yet untitled album here.


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