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Fri, Sep 23


Merrimans' Playhouse

Darren Johnston's Life In Time

Chicago-based quartet, Life In Time, is decidedly a “jazz” project, prone to swinging hard and staying true to predetermined song forms. That said, they do tend towards the rowdy side of things at times, and are not afraid to bend the ear a little.

Registration is Closed due to COVID. ALL cancelled concerts will be rescheduled.
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Darren Johnston's Life In Time
Darren Johnston's Life In Time

Time & Location

Sep 23, 2022, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EDT

Merrimans' Playhouse, 401 E Colfax Ave, Suite 135, South Bend, IN 46617, USA


About the Event

TICKETS are $10 General/$5 Student. Concert end time is only an estimate.

Life In Time

Darren Johnston - trumpet

Geof Bradfield - saxophone

Clark Sommers - bass

Dana Hall - drums

Canadian born trumpeter/composer Darren Johnston has been visiting Chicago to perform and record on a regular basis for many years now, initially from the Bay Area, where he lived for twenty-one years, and more recently from his new hometown of Brooklyn NY. Since 2018 this has often meant performing in a quartet including local titans Geof Bradfield, Clark Sommers, and Dana Hall. Unlike many of the more avant, purely improvised or free jazz projects he had participated in before while in town, this quartet, Life In Time, is decidedly a “jazz” project, prone to swinging hard and staying true to predetermined song forms. That said, they do tend towards the rowdy side of things at times, and are not afraid to bend the ear a little. 

It was established from the first meeting that the four of them greatly enjoyed playing together, so eventually plans were hatched for a tour, to be concluded with a live concert recording at Pro Musica in Chicago. When March 2020 hit of course, all of these aspirations were put on hold. Thankfully things opened up enough in May of 2021 to allow them to reunite and record six of Johnston’s compositions, and four of Bradfield’s. The result is a brand-new release on Origin Records. This show will mark their first reunion since then, as they celebrate both the new recording, and the ability to play in front of a live audience once again.

Darren Johnston

Canada-born trumpeter/composer/educator Darren Johnston’s interests rotate primarily between performing all styles of jazz, purely improvised music, new music, and various other traditional musics, especially that of the Balkans, Greece, and Macedonia.  He is especially drawn to music that tends to defy categorization and is also generally open to further suggestions.

After twenty one years in the Bay Area, Johnston recently relocated to Brooklyn, NY in 2019. In the time since moving there, he has played and/or recorded with Ches Smith, Dayna Stephens, Carmen Staaf, Michael Formanek, Tony Malaby, Michael Attias, Slavic Soul Party!, Raya Brass Band, The Peter Hess Quartet, Michael Vatcher, and many more.

As a composer he has written for ensembles ranging from small jazz groups, to big-bands, brass bands, string quartets, choirs, rock bands, and countless combinations thereof. He has been commissioned to write for dance, dance film, theater, video games, and by museums such as San Francisco’s De Young Museum, and other presenting organizations such as the Yerba Buena Garden Festival, and Intersection For The Arts.

He has performed and/or recorded with luminaries such as Marshall Allen, Gerald Cleaver, Fred Frith, ROVA Sax Quartet, Ben Goldberg, Allison Miller, Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, Marcus Shelby, Pete Escovedo, Erik Jekabson’s “Electric Squeezebox Orchestra,” and many others, across the USA and around the world.

As a bandleader, past projects include The United Brassworkers Front, The Nice Guy Trio, The Darren Johnston Quintet, The Pipes, Broken Shadows Family Band, Trans-Global People’s Chorus, and innumerable one-offs. Current projects include the Chicago-based Life In Time, featuring Geof Bradfield, Clark Sommers, and Dana Hall, a NYC-based trio, Breathing Room, featuring Carmen Staaf, and Michael Formanek, and the NYC-based Wild Awake quintet, featuring Dayna Stephens, Jacob Sacks, Sean Conly, and Ches Smith. An all-Canadian collective quartet, temporarily put on hold by the pandemic, is now preparing to pick up where it left off, featuring Anna Webber, Michael Bates, and Toronto-based Nick Fraser.

As an educator Johnston has taught at Stanford Jazz Workshop’s summer program and throughout the year in their “Giant Steps” program, Jazz Camp West, The Jazzschool, and as an adjunct at UC Berkeley. As a guest lecturer he has been invited to present master classes on improvisation, “a holistic approach to music theory”, and “compositional approaches to daily practice,” at institutions such as Sonoma State University, Cal Arts, and others.

Geof Bradfield

Born in Houston, TX, saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield has shared the stage throughout North America, Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East with jazz luminaries such as Randy Weston, Carl Allen, Brian Blade, Rodney Whitaker, Etienne Charles, Joe Locke, and Orrin Evans. He also performs and records regularly with fellow Chicago artists including Dana Hall, Clark Sommers, Jeff Parker, Matt Ulery, Marquis Hill, and Ryan Cohan, to name a few. His work is featured on 50+ CDs, including seven albums as a leader that have garnered critical accolades from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Downbeat, the Chicago Tribune and NPR. Bradfield has been recognized in Downbeat Critics Polls as a Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist and Arranger. Birdhoused, recorded live at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill jazz club and released on Vancouver label Cellar Live in 2017, garnered 4 ½ stars from Downbeat. His most recent large scale work Yes, and…Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark Records 2018) was commissioned by Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program with the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and features a nonet of top-flight Chicago and New York artists.

A committed educator, Bradfield is Professor of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University and has given master classes and lectures at the Brubeck Institute, the Manhattan School of Music, the Jazz Education Network conference, and numerous other national and international venues.

Clark Sommers

Bassist, Composer and Educator, Clark has toured and performed extensively throughout the world. He has had the privilege of performing with Cedar Walton, Darrell Grant, Brian Blade, Ernie Watts, Bennie Maupin, Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson, Peter Bernstein, Lin Haliday, Dana Hall, Jodie Christian, Bobby Broom, Jeff Parker, Ron Perrillo, Geof Bradfield, Michael Weiss, George Fludas, Kevin Mahogany, Eden Atwood, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, The Mighty Blue Kings and The Chicago Jazz Orchestra among others.

Clark completed his undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies and World Music at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with bass masters Charlie Haden and Darek Oles. While living in Los Angeles, Clark performed with Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, The Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra, Joe La Barbara and Larry Koonse. He continues to seek expansion of his craft by pursuing his musical studies with masters such as David Grossman of the New York Philharmonic, Mike Longo and Stefon Harris. He recently completed two residencies at the Brubeck Institute in Stockton California.

Clark is proud to be at home in the bass chair with vocalist Kurt Elling, with whom he tours the globe bringing jazz to everyone from Istanbul to the Canary Islands. Thus far he has been privileged to play on two GRAMMY nominated recordings with the band, one of which won the GRAMMY for best vocal jazz album in 2009.

When not on the road with Kurt Elling, Clark enjoys leading his own group “Ba(SH).” The group includes long time friends Dana Hall and Geof Bradfield. The groups first CD was released in August 2013 and has received critical acclaim. It was acknowledged on the “notable and not to be missed” list by All About Jazz in 2013.

Clark can also be heard performing with Portland’s Darrell Grant in his “Territory” ensemble which includes Brian Blade, Joe Locke and Steve Wilson. Other groups that Clark performs regularly with include Dana Hall’s “Spring” and “Black Fire,” Geof Bradfield’s “African Flowers Ensemble” and “Melba,” Chicago Yestet, Dan Cray Trio, Spin Quartet and many other musicians.

Dana Hall

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Fargo Philanthropic Services Private Trusts and Foundations, through grants provided by the Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation (2020-2021 season), the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation (2021-2022 season), and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust (2021-2022 season).

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Philanthropic Services provided by grants from the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation, Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation, and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust, The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County's ArtsEverywhere initiative, and the Arts Project Support Grant and Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission. Concert support provided by the Arts Midwest Grow, Invest, Gather (GIG) Fund grant (2022-2023 season).


  • General

    General Advanced or Door

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  • Student

    Student Discount - College students please have ID.

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