Beginning with 2001’s The Philadelphia Experiment, then moving onto editions inspired by Detroit and Harlem, producer Aaron Luis Levinson and his local casts (?uestlove, Christian McBride, Uri Caine, Pat Martino, Geri Allen, Carl Craig, Steven Bernstein, Don Byron, Taj Mahal, Olu Dara) fused tasteful (and tasty) improvisation with city-specific twitches for an explosive series of progressive jazz/art-funk fantasias. Fifteen years since the last edition, Ropeadope continues its local line of artist-controlled improvisations, this time with Chi-town in its sights. Onboard are Spirit Fingers pianist/producer Greg Spero and friends Jeff Parker (guitar), Darryl Jones (bass), Irvin Pierce (tenor sax), Makaya McCraven (drums), Marquis Hill (trumpet), and Joel Ross (vibraphone).
Four days of working collectively through fresh studio improvs and several then-newly penned Spero compositions have yielded results that vary from twinkly, Miles-esque balladry (“The Chant”) to quiet storming soul (“Sizzle Reel”) to silvery smooth surfaces best imagined as a Mark Isham soundtrack (“Always Be”). Then there’s “Cloud Jam,” whose skittering drum-and-bass pulse calls to mind the melt-morphing Chicago free style made famous by Parker’s Tortoise ensemble. The solos are as squiggly and taut as the tracks are short, and the whole of this “experiment” is more textural than testy.