Hecht’s Pyrography Trio takes its name from a poem by John Ashbery, and also from thinking about this ancient kind of “fire writing,” as in the process of inscribing the spirit/flame, but also of taking the inscribed, the coded, and finding ways to ignite it or unlock its inner fire. Both directions are important. The group plays original compositions by Hecht, as well as open improvisations and jazz standards by modern masters.
Pianist Paul Hecht is an emerging figure on the Chicago jazz scene, who has recently moved into music after a career teaching poetry. In addition to his work in this quartet, he also performs regularly with violinist Mark Feldman, including a recent series of performances celebrating the reprinting of Feldman’s recording of 2006 on ECM, What Exit. Other notable Chicago-area collaborators include Ethan Philion, Quin Kirchner, Michael Hudson-Casanova, James Davis, Jeremy Boettcher, John Christensen, Ben Ferris, Rob Clearfield, Matt Ulery, Greg Ward, Daniel Thatcher, Tim Davis, James Russell Sims, Peter Castronova, Al Keeler, Samuel Peters, Harry Tonchev, Neil Hemphill, and Emma Dayhuff. Hecht plans to release his first recording as a leader in late 2023. Hecht’s book about English poetry at the end of the sixteenth century, What Rosalind Likes, was published last year by Oxford University Press.
Drummer, composer, and entrepreneur Gustavo Cortiñas has become one of the most intriguing and prolific forces on the Chicago musical scene. The last year saw the release of two powerful and contrasting recordings which have garnered grants, rave reviews, and much interest in Chicago, nationally, and internationally. Born in Mexico and educated in New Orleans and Chicago, Cortiñas’s music displays his desire to pull together the threads of his history and passions: Latin American folklore, jazz and classical music, philosophy, religion, and the Latin American cry for justice—as he translates the title of his double-album, Desafío Candente, or “incandescent act of defiance,” which has also become the name of his newly-formed record label with pianist and composer Javier Red. That record, with 30 collaborators from 10 different countries, does no less than attempt a traversal of the entire history of Latin America, using as its basis the Uruguayan historian Eduardo Galeano’s famous book, The Open Veins of Latin America. His most recent release, Kind Regards/Saludos Afectuosos, is an intimate collection of 10 songs by a splendid quintet (piano/voice, bass, guitar, trumpet, and drums), five each in Spanish and English, narrating scenes of modern alienation and connection across borders.
Ben Dillinger is an upright and electric bassist, composer, and educator who has been working professionally in Chicago for the past 10 years. His formal training is in jazz performance and composition, but has also performed in many different musical settings including classical, musical theater, rock, and popular music. As an educator he has taught at Roosevelt University, Morton College, and The Chicago High School of Performing Arts.