AIRMW presents Tatsu Aoki’s Sudden Impact Series: catalystic events providing a substratum for Chicago’s musical artists to explore and bring forth different musical experiments.
This December, the closer for the Sudden Impact Series 2020 – presenting Mike Allemana.
Mike Allemana has been a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene since the early 1990s. His first steady gig came in 1995 when local tenor sax legend, Lin Halliday, hired Mike for his quartet. Soon after, Mike joined organist Charles Earland’s Chicago quartet. During these years, Mike was an avid follower of the late saxophonist Von Freeman, sitting in at Freeman’s famous Tuesday night jam session at the New Apartment Lounge, where, in 1997, Von Freeman asked Mike to join his group, a tenure that lasted until Freeman’s passing in 2012. While with Freeman, Mike recorded on Von Freeman’s 2002 release The Improvisor on Premonition Records and toured to Berlin, which was released as Vonski Speaks on Nessa Records in 2009. In 2013, Mike and guitarist George Freeman formed a quartet with organist Pete Benson and drumming legend Bernard Purdie, a band that performs annually at the Green Mill in Chicago and was captured live for the 2017 release Live at the Green Mill on Ears&Eyes Records. Mike has also been awarded several composition commissions. In 2011, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) commissioned Mike to arrange Von Freeman’s original compositions for a 10-piece ensemble for the Made in Chicago concert series at Millennium Park which featured special guests Eric Alexander, Julian Priester, Art Hoyle, and Steve Coleman. The Jazz Institute of Chicago commissioned Mike in 2018 to compose an original work he calls Vonology, an exploration of Von Freeman’s musical and historical legacy, a work that features some of Chicago’s finest improvisers including alto saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield, and cellist Tomeka Reid. Vonology will be released in 2021 on Ears&Eyes Records with the help of a generous grant from DCASE. Mike earned his PhD in Ethnomusicology in 2020 from the University of Chicago for his dissertation, “‘Will You Still Be Mine?’: Memory, Place, Race and Jazz on Chicago’s South Side” which examines the ways in which segregation in Chicago has shaped and continues to shape lived musical experience on the local jazz scene, with particular focus Von Freeman’s South Side jam sessions at the New Apartment Lounge. He is currently a Humanities Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago.