Building a bridge between Chicago and France, through jazz

Which will not be easy or inexpensive. A Chicago tour, such as this one, carries a cost of about $62,000, "which includes all on-site spending, as well as international transportation … visa costs and so on," says Nader Beizaei, a spokesman for The Bridge, via email. The annual budget for an "ordinary" year, meaning two tours in France and two in Chicago, would be about $260,000, he says.

So far, most of the support has come from France, says Pierrepont, with this year's tours fully supported and Friday's reception and concert doubling as fundraising events.

Chicago Sisters Cities has been helping along these lines, as well as providing the centrally located venue: the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center, which through the years has been home to many experimental musical events.

The Bridge further appealed to Sister Cities, adds Montes, because here in Chicago "we're big into our jazz, we're big into our blues, and Chicago is such a melting pot, that it was such a natural connection.

"We figured it would be well-received here, it would be well-received in Paris. How could we not do this?"

The project launched in February near Paris at the Sons d'hiver festival, where the band Tortoise partnered with additional musicians for three days of rehearsals. "As a consequence," notes Pierrepont in an email, "the music was even more organic and hypnotic, full of layers, twists and switches."

Pierrepont hopes that Friday's concert in Chicago will inspire a wave of American support, because France will not be able to do this alone.

"It's difficult, because Europe is in the middle of an economic crisis," says Pierrepont, who realizes that America is just beginning to tip-toe out of one.

"We have been a great support for this music for the last 50 or 100 years. We're struggling (economically), so we don't know if we'll have the funds to support this.

"It's like building a house in the middle of an earthquake now. But it's so much needed."

For inspiration, Pierrepont looks to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a collective launched in Chicago in 1965 in which ingenious jazz musicians found their own ways of presenting, recording and disseminating their work.

"The Chicago musicians took care of business," says Pierrepont. "They started their own (record) labels, they put on concerts."

Nearly half a century later, that example has given rise to The Bridge, which could be a boon to artists and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Bridge presents Fred Jackson, Frank Rosaly, Stephane Payen and Edward Perraud, with reception at 6:30 p.m., concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the Claudia Cassidy Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; $10-$15 concert; $35 concert and reception; visit acrossthebridges.org.

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich

hreich@tribune.com | Twitter @howardreich

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