May 19, 2015
by Howard Reich
What will the ninth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival bring to the city’s stages?
Rare duos featuring visionary Henry Threadgill with rising young pianist David Virelles and MacArthur Fellowship winner Regina Carter with pianist Xavier Davis.
World premieres by innovative trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and admired Chicago musicians Tomeka Reid and Mikel Patrick Avery.
Pairings of dynamic Chicago drummer Dana Hall with alto saxophone experimenter Nick Mazzarella and Chicago guitarist Geof Bradfield with former Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker in music of Thelonious Monk.
Those are highlights of the event, which this year, more than any previous, will be taking listeners into a broad range of unfamiliar sounds.
The event will unfold Sept. 26 and 27 across Hyde Park, including the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and Logan Center for the Arts, with the Willie Pickens Quartet closing the festival.
Following is an annotated tour of the festival’s top events, with commentary from Kate Dumbleton, artistic and executive director. The complete lineup for the festival will be released in early July.
As always, all the performances are free; for more information, visit hydeparkjazzfestival.org.
Regina Carter with Xavier Davis.
One of the anchors of each year’s event is the performance that takes place ’round midnight on the first evening of the festival, featuring a leading jazz musician in an extraordinary space: Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. For all the visual and architectural wonders of the setting, however, its cavernous dimensions can cause unwelcome echoes and distortions of sound. Because of this, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has tended to focus on solo and duo performances here, this time featuring violinist Carter with pianist Davis.
“The Rockefeller Chapel is always for me a place where I start when I think about the artistic direction of the festival,” says Dumbleton, who builds the programming with a committee of jazz aficionados.
“Regina came to mind for a number of reasons. First, we thought it would sound absolutely beautiful. And, also, because Chicago audiences love her.
“I’m really touched that she said yes. We’re not a big festival, we don’t have tons of money,” adds Dumbleton, who notes that festival is budgeted at just under $300,000. Support comes from the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, the Joyce Foundation, Chicago Community Trust and others.
“What I find happens sometimes,” adds Dumbleton, “is that I’ve learned to use the constraints of our budget to get creative.”
Henry Threadgill with David Virelles.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival clearly needed to celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), for the revered organization emerged in and around that neighborhood, with key early events at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall. Signing Threadgill represents a major coup for the festival, if only because of how infrequently the multi-instrumentalist has returned to Chicago from his global travels and residencies.
That Threadgill will be playing with Cuban pianist Virelles only heightens interest in this performance, the two having performed together often in ensemble settings but rarely as a duo.
“I wanted to have Henry Threadgill … and I love David – I was blown away by his first recording” on the Pi label, says Dumbleton, referencing Virelles’ 2012 release “Continuum.”
“So I just wrote to him (Virelles), because I didn’t really think I could get directly to Henry myself. … And they said yes. It was a long process to pull together.”
Anyone who has spent any time listening to jazz in San Francisco has encountered the wonders of singer Stallings, who tends to be more beloved in the Bay Area than she is known nationally.
Randall Kline, executive and artistic director of SFJAZZ, “calls her the most under-recognized jazz singer in the country,” says Dumbleton.
In past seasons, Dumbleton has turned to the great Chicago singer Dee Alexander to provide vocal pyrotechnics, because “with Dee around, she’s so spectacular, it’s hard to do anything else. But this year Dee will be in South Africa, so for the first time she’ll miss the festival. I knew I had to do something good for a vocalist.”
She’ll perform with pianist Bruce Barth.
Tomeka Reid and Mikel Patrick Avery world premieres.
Cellist Reid has been a steadily rising figure in Chicago jazz, equally vital as soloist, composer, bandleader, ensemble musician and jazz advocate. Like flutist Nicole Mitchell before her, she’s emerging as a center of gravity in her own right, and for this occasion she will create a composition inspired by the festival’s ongoing Story Share project, which has been compiling tales of music and life in Hyde Park.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been collecting stories on the Midway during the festival, and we’ve been thinking about this on a number of levels: What do we want to do with these stories?” explains Dumbleton.
“On the one hand, we’re going to build a web platform that will have an archive of the stories, so people can listen to them in podcasts, etc. … But one of the things I wanted to do was to give stories back to the community, not only on web platform or audio, which is great, but actually have artists respond to the stories and make new work.”
Reid will compose a piece for double string quartet with bass and drums, featuring two musicians with whom she has collaborated poetically in the past: violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi.
Drummer Avery, says Dumbleton, is inventing a piece that will open in the form of a parade and likely culminate with a stage performance.
“What he came up with is exactly why I wanted to pick him” for a commission, says Dumbleton. “He’s going to have this crazy parade – really connected to the neighborhood a lot of fun. …
“Mikel really has a social practice – he’s very interested in education,” says Dumbleton. “And his work is really organic: It’s based on where he lives. He’s a chronicler. He makes films, he’s really an observer of where he is.
“Tomeka, with her real interest in the politics of the South Side and what’s happening there … cares a lot about the neighborhood,” and will articulate that in her composition.
Ambrose Akinmusire world premiere.
The brilliant trumpeter-bandleader has been enjoying a banner year, having won a Doris Duke Artist Award and a commission by the Kennedy Center for a forthcoming work.
For the Hyde Park Jazz Festival he’s creating a piece titled “banyan,” exploring the role of mentorship in jazz and in society. He plans to interview noted jazz figures such as Jack DeJohnette, Archie Shepp, Geri Allen and others, folding their thoughts into an hour-long composition commissioned by the festival.
This venture, too, reflects the Story Share theme of the festival, says Dumbleton.
“He’s going around and interviewing some of the people who have influenced his work,” says Dumbleton, “with the idea of (exploring) original history and mentorship and these informal learning environments that jazz historically has been so much about.”
Exactly how Akinmusire will use his recorded material remains to be heard.
Why is the art of storytelling to so important to Dumbleton?
“I think sometimes jazz can get stuck in this loop of trying to define itself,” says Dumbleton, alluding to the endless arguments over what is and what isn’t jazz.
“For me, what the storytelling does is it allows (jazz) to belong to everyone in its own way. … Sometimes I think we let the formal infrastructure and all the formal stuff take over what the music actually means to people.
“So when we have the storytelling booth and people come back and laugh or cry or remember hearing Johnny Griffin for the first time or remember listening to the music from outside the window of a club, these are really beautiful memories.
“To me, part of sustaining jazz is allowing it to just be these stories.”
And that’s a large part of the narrative that the Hyde Park Jazz Festival will tell this year.
The Victor Goines Quintet will play the Hyde Park Jazz Festival Benefit from 6 to 8:30 p.m. June 25 at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave.;
April 24, 2015
December 2, 2014
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 7:30pm
Logan Center, Screening Room 201
915 E. 60th St.
For more details on this rare screening event click here.
For Howard Reich’s review of this fabulous film in the Chicago Tribune click here.
Click here to view the official film website.
October 21, 2014
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 7PM
Logan Center Penthouse
915 E. 60th St.
In partnership with the University of Chicago, Hyde Park Jazz Fest brings you the ListeningSession series, in which headliners play, discuss, and interpret recordings of their own choosing in intimate settings.
In October, join us for a session with virtuoso violinist REGINA CARTER. Preview what this wonderful artist has to offer on her website and then come out and come see her in person! More information on this listening session here.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 3PM
Logan Center Performance Hall
915 E. 60th St.
In partnership with this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival, themed Journeys, HPJF presents The Mutations of Vijay Iyer, bringing the renowned jazz pianist and classical violinist VIJAY IYER in for a lively session on music theory and practice. Monica Hairston O’Connell, executive director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College, joins him in conversation.
For more information on The Mutations of Vijay Iyer and this year’s CHF, visit their website.
October 10, 2014
by Michael Jackson
Perfect fall weather further sugared the already sweet experience of the 8th annual HydePark Jazz Festival on Chicago’s South Side on Sept. 27–28. Under the creative leadership of artistic director Kate Dumbleton, the event has consistently presented choice collaborations and original concepts from local musicians and those from further afield.
“An important thing we launched this year is the beginning of an effort to support artists developing new projects or wanting to present something special for the festival,” said Dumbleton. Drummer Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement, cellist Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now string trio and saxophonist Geof Bradfield’s “Our Roots: The Music of Clifford Jordan and Lead Belly” were all examples of this, as was vocalist Dee Alexander’s planned collaboration with veteran reedman Oliver Lake, who ultimately couldn’t make it because of travel problems caused by a fire at an air traffic control center in the Chicago area.
“We will do more of this in the future,” Dumbleton continued, “the idea being that local artists have support to develop ideas that include guest artists from out of town or explore new material.”
Another initiative has been to expand the Story Share Project via a booth where the festival records testimony from the public about their experiences and relationships with jazz. The recordings are being made into an online audio-video platform.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival attracts about 12,000–15,000 attendees annually. Jazz fans from all over the Chicago area make it a destination, whether to stroll between the two stages on the grassy Midway, seek outlying venues such as Kenwood Academy, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, the Smart Museum or Oriental Institute Gallery, or enjoy key concerts at Logan Center Performance Hall.
One of the outstanding sets this year featured flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal at International House. Since she moved to California to teach at University of California, Irvine, Mitchell’s appearances in Chicago are not taken for granted, and her enthusiasm to be back in town was explicit. “This is still my home, and I know you can feel that,” she said warmly. “This is where it all started.”
With the latter statement, she not only referred to her apprenticeship at the late saxophonist Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge but to the historically important role the South Side played in the development of jazz in Chicago. She cautioned that despite the appearance of new venues such as the 50 Yard Line, a sports bar that has taken on the legacy of the New Apartment Lounge’s Tuesday-night jams, the absence of the Velvet as a progressive forum was still being felt.
“But I am not trying to make a political statement today … I rebelled against my own self,” she said coyly, summarily nixing the advertised premiere of a new suite called Water Walker, set to address environmental issues. “Despite the continuing problems of drought, pollution, racism in Ferguson [Missouri] and violence on the streets … we are just gonna play some tunes today. Is that OK?”
Some of Mitchell’s technical developments with the flute—her lines, compelling enough from a jazz standpoint, are peppered with triple-tonguing, melismatic growls, curious massaging of the tone holes, split tones and vocal gasps—have become more subtly integrated. Her mastery of cycle breathing was almost imperceptible; her vocalizations across the headjoint like the nominal exhalations of a goldfish, except during “Changin’ The Same,” when she called out the title while blowing (à la Roland Kirk).
Meanwhile, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz balanced an extremely forceful attack on his non-aggressive ax with limpid contributions in quieter moments. The quicksilver interplay of the lead soloists in Ice Crystal would be like two kittens playing with a ball of string if not for the deep tone and swing of bassist Joshua Abrams married to the choke-time tension and clickety-clack precision of drummer Frank Rosaly.
In contrast with Mitchell’s skills at drawing the audience in, tenor saxophonist JD Allen barely spoke a word during his headlining slot at Logan Performance Hall. Segues between tunes are a feature of Allen’s style, and they have the effect of obviating chitchat. After an introduction linked him with the legacy of John Coltrane, Allen launched into a textured modal holler reminiscent of Coltrane’s more imploring manner yet somehow refined and chiseled into shape. Although passages in Allen’s adroit solos specifically parsed Coltrane’s harmonic syntax—and pianist Orrin Evans’ driving left hand recalled McCoy Tyner—it was the influence of Dexter Gordon (an acknowledged influence on Trane) that rang out at least as clearly.
Tadd Dameron’s ballad “If You Could See Me Now” was implacably delivered Dexter-style midway through the set. Despite unabashed adherence to the rhapsodic traditions and turnarounds of Gordon’s approach, Allen’s restrained manner paradoxically affected a postmodernism that remained emotionally sincere.
Such matters were much less complicated to decipher en route to pianist Craig Taborn’s 11 p.m. grand finale solo set at Rockefeller Chapel, as the sound of Houston Person’s tenor billowed “The Masquerade Is Over” across the Midway from the West Stage. Person, in the company of drummer Ernie Adams, pianist Jeremy Kahn and bassist Stewart Miller, rendered chestnuts “Take The ‘A’ Train” and “What A Wonderful World” with impeccable timing and little pretense, signing off with a blues pregnant with swagger.
Taborn’s hour-long soliloquy was entirely devoid of cliché. As remarkable as previous midnight concerts at this spectacular chapel have been during previous versions of the festival (including star turns by saxophonist Miguel Zenón and clarinetist Anat Cohen), Taborn’s effort seemed the least preconceived, as if he were genuinely permitting the vaulted acoustics and sanctified surroundings to cast their spell. His initial half-hour improv eschewed attempts to wow the crowd with gymnastic batteries of abstraction, though abrupt stomping of the dampening pedal as a percussive device was unusual. What Taborn achieved in that echoing nave was a heightened level of integrity and meditative focus.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is helping to incubate new levels of self-expression and conceptual acuity from musicians within the supportive community it serves. Its programmers make carefully considered choices as to which artist best fits a particular venue. This fest is getting better every year.
September 28, 2014
by Howard Reich
A single neighborhood became the jazz nexus of the city over the weekend, as the eighth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival swung into churches, galleries, the Midway Plaisance and more.
The event, which ends Sunday, drew enormous crowds and showed Chicago what a great jazz festival is all about. Following is a diary of Saturday’s indelible music-making:
1:45 p.m.: Ari Brown Quintet at Wagner Stage on the Midway. You could hear Brown’s steeped-in-blue tenor saxophone from blocks away. It was an ideal sound to open the fest, for Brown practically embodies the Chicago tenor tradition, though reconsidered through the aesthetic of John Coltrane. Sure, Brown was playing an ancient standard, “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” but, as always, he transformed it with seeming effortlessness. So, too, the subsequent tunes in his set, Brown offering characteristic grandeur of tone, expansiveness of gesture and deliberation of tempo.
3:30 p.m.: Dee Alexander at Wagner Stage. The largest outdoor crowd I’ve seen at the festival since its inception converged here more than half an hour before the set. This amounted to a reaffirmation of singer Alexander’s stature as a top Chicago jazz artist with a perpetually growing fan base. Alexander was in sumptuous voice, her sound radiant in the middle register, beautifully rounded on top and evocatively husky down below. She showed suppleness of voice and a blues-swing sensibility in “Now or Never,” high-flying scat singing in “Perdido” and tragicomic drama in “Guess Who I Saw Today,” all from her new “Songs My Mother Loves” album. Alexander had been scheduled to share the stage with saxophonist Oliver Lake, but the weekend’s mess at O’Hare and Midway airports prevented his appearance. No matter. Chicago saxophonist Irvin Pierce had plenty to say, and pianist-arranger Miguel de la Cerna consistently found the right tempos for a singer of uncommon versatility.
4:05 p.m.: Art Hoyle at Hyde Park Union Church. Another Chicago treasure, trumpeter Hoyle recently turned 85, but you wouldn’t know it from the buoyancy of his rhythms or the exuberance of his spirit. Hoyle focused on traditional and bebop-era tunes, two of several realms in his wide artistic vocabulary. Much of the appeal of this quintet owed to the interaction between Hoyle and reedist Eric Schneider, Hoyle’s lithe trumpet lines jubilantly answered by Schneider’s arabesques on clarinet. And who could resist the musicians’ account of “I Thought About You,” Hoyle unspooling silken phrases on fluegelhorn and Schneider evoking an earlier, more romantic era on tenor saxophone.
5:20 p.m.: Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now at Logan Center. This one-of-a-kind trio packed Logan Center’s Performance Hall, with additional listeners waiting to get in. Joined by violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi, Chicago cellist Reid unfurled music that blithely ignored walls typically separating jazz, classical, avant-garde and other idioms. Moreover, because violinist Swift often sang wordless lines in unison with her fiddle, Hear in Now produced four-part counterpoint rich in musical incident. The trio performed original compositions by each of its members, the repertoire ranging from densely written works to warmly lyrical pieces, the set combining high sophistication with easy accessibility.
6:45 p.m.: Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal at International House. The protean flutist, who flourished in Chicago until accepting an academic appointment in California three years ago, had been scheduled to premiere “Water Walker,” contemplation on her environmental concerns. But “I rebelled against myself,” she told a capacity audience, deciding instead to write and perform new tunes addressing the tumult of violence and other urban strife in Chicago. Perhaps only Mitchell knows the explicit connections between her scores and the real-life topics she explored, but on purely musical terms her work with Ice Crystal proved gripping in content and fluid in delivery. Mitchell layered her legato lines, quicksilver figures and novel sonic effects above Jason Adasiewicz’s vividly ringing vibraphone, Joshua Abrams’ robustly stated bass lines and Frank Rosaly’s crisply articulated drum work.
8:10 p.m.: Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement at Logan Center. Each season seems to bring an unexpected new venture from Chicago drummer Hall, director of jazz studies at DePaul University. He unveiled his latest project, Black Ark Movement, which he has conceived to explore the landmark collaboration of reedist John Carter and trumpeter Bobby Bradford. In “Scramble,” clarinetist Ben Goldberg and trumpeter Russ Johnson improvised nimble, cat-and-mouse duets. In “Seeking,” John Wojciechowski’s expressively bent notes on flute, Robert Hurst’s sonorous sliding pitches on bass and Hall’s delicate, hand-held percussion yielded an austere sonic beauty. The tour de force arrived with “Sticks and Stones,” the entire ensemble finessing mercurial, ferociously syncopated rhythms.
9:30 p.m.: J.D. Allen Quartet at Logan Center. The tenor saxophonist came on strong from the start, his sound immense, his tone penetrating, his gestures broad. Allen’s colleagues ramped up the intensity still further, with particularly striking work from pianist Orrin Evans, his solos as expansive as his accompaniments were hard driving.
11 p.m.: Craig Taborn at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Many artists have given late-night festival performances at Rockefeller through the years, but none has used the acoustically challenging space as effectively or dramatically as pianist Taborn did in a stunning solo set. The solemn chords of his opening essay in sound resonated majestically in this hyper-reverberant room, while his pianissimo single notes floated into the ether. Evoking the rapid-fire staccato chords of Myra Melford at one moment, the across-the-keyboard flights of Cecil Taylor the next, Taborn set off an avalanche of ideas, all cogently expressed.
September 26, 2014
by Matt Pollock
Dee Alexander. PHOTO: TAYLOR GLASCOCK/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
If you missed Chicago’s city-sanctioned Jazz Festival in Millennium Park last month, don’t fret. The eighth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival kicks off this weekend, and its Midwest-heavy lineup is comparable if not downright better.
Launched in 2007 with the goal of drawing new audiences to Hyde Park’s myriad cultural venues, the festival features 30-plus jazz acts performing at a dozenneighborhood landmarks, including the Robie House, the Midway, and Kenwood Academy. Unfortunately, each venue’s schedule is stacked, so there’s no way to see everybody—but here are five sets you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Though she’s yet to release a solo album, cellist Tomeka Reid has a hand in just about everything golden coming out of Chicago’s jazz scene. She’s played in various local ensembles (Dee Alexander’s, Nicole Mitchell’s, Mike Reed’s) and leant a bow todozens of albums and tours, but Reid’s indisputably at her most vicious with Hear In Now, the bass/violin/cello trio she’ll appear with this Saturday. 5:15 Saturday, Logan Center Performance Hall.
The West Loop native, who recently released a stunning LP of golden-age classics, could blow Hyde Park away all by her lonesome if needed; a guest slot by St. Louis sax man and frequent collaborator Oliver Lake is just icing on the cake. 3:30 p.m. Saturday, James Wagner Stage at the Midway.
What happens when the bassist who scored Kartemquin masterpieces Life Itself, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and Emmy-winner The Interrupters needs more than two octaves? Why, he picks up the guimbri. Saturday from 3:30 to 4:00 and 4:30 to 5:00, Oriental Institute Gallery.
Before decamping for a teaching position at UC-Irvine in 2011, this nimble flutist was the queen of Chicago jazz. (Literally—she served as president of the Chicago-founded Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians until her departure.) Mitchell’s set this weekend marks something of a homecoming, then, as she’ll play with Ice Crystal, her new band featuring Chicagoans Joshua Abrams, Frank Rosaly, and Jason Adasiewicz, to premiere ”Water Walker,” a tribute to the Ojibwe women who last year walked the length of the Mississippi to protest river pollution. 6:45 Saturday, International House.
This Minneapolis pianist will play anything with keys, be it an acoustic upright, a Fender Rhodes, or a Moog synthesizer. Taborn has churned out everything from free jazz to textural bleep-bloops over his 20-year career, but you can expect a healthy dose of solo tracks from 2011’s Avenging Angel this weekend, as he’s leaving the trio behind in Minneapolis. 11 p.m. Saturday, Rockefeller Chapel.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Main stages are at the Midway Plaisance; others are elsewhere. $5 donation.
September 26, 2014
by Bill Meyer
Oriental Institute, 3:30 PM
Oriental Institute, 4:30 PM
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams makes a virtue of versatility. He’s played electric and acoustic bass with pop and jazz ensembles, improvised freely and fearlessly with heavyweights like Fred Anderson and Peter Brötzmann, composed diverse and evocative soundtracks for The Trials of Muhammad Ali and The Interrupters, and led his own superb jazz quartet at the most recent Chicago Jazz Festival. But in two separate concerts this afternoon, he will bear down on the essentials of one of his most celebrated projects, the pan-stylistic, spiritually oriented Natural Information Society, whose first two albums have just been reissued on CD by Eremite Records. Performing alone amongst the collection of the Oriental Institute, Abrams will play hypnotic rhythms on the guimbri, a Moroccan bass lute.
Logan Center Penthouse, 4 PM
Joshua Berman Trio
Cornetist Josh Berman is an inveterate organizer, responsible for keeping the Hungry Brain’s Sunday night concert series running for every week for over a decade. He is also a shrewd scholar who has used his perception of the aesthetic links between nascent jazz and its current expressions to breath new life into the music by reacquainting it with its roots. With this trio, which also features bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, Berman will show how that penchant for locating complementarity manifests in his own music by making bold themes and textural abstractions dance in intimate proximity.
Logan Center Penthouse, 5:15 PM
Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now (HiN)
This trio exemplifies the long stylistic and geographical reach of Chicago jazz in the 21st century. Cellist Tomeka Reid has been a steadfast participant in both the more adventurous side of the city’s jazz scene and large improvisational ensembles led by internationally known ex-Chicagoans Anthony Braxton and George Lewis. The other two members of this collaborative string trio, violinist/singer Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi, hail from New York and Livorno, Italy; their CVs range from Celtic folk to wooly free jazz. Together they combine conservatory-schooled precision with a deep dip in the well of blues feeling and an unerring sense of swing that will ensure that you never wonder where the drummer is.
Little Black Pearl, 5 PM
Mikel Patrick Avery •PLAY•
Drummer Mikel Patrick Avery has planned his recent music around an antique 44-key piano, whose distinctly clipped sonorities bring to mind the player pianos that proliferated in economy-minded saloons before prohibition. Writing for the instrument, which will be played tonight by Whitney Young Magnet High School student Alexis Lombre, has afforded Avery a chance to set arch, playful melodies atop swaggering grooves and percussive sound effects drawn from pre-bebop jazz.
Logan Center Performance Hall, 7:30 PM
Dana Hall: Black Ark Movement
Dana Hall is a drummer, educator, and former Artistic Director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble; he understands the requirements of making music come alive in the moment, and the rigors of studying and nurturing it over the long hall. His Black Ark Movement project brings both of those perspectives together by marshaling a truly thrilling line-up to explore music that had to cross geographical expanses in order to survive. Tonight Hall, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, clarinetist/saxophonist John Wojciechowski, trumpeter Russ Johnson, and bassist Robert Hurst will play the music of trumpeter Bobby Bradford and reedist John Carter. The duo were both born in Texas in the 1920s, which makes them contemporaries of Ornette Coleman, and they migrated to Los Angeles in the 1960s. There they made a series of superb recordings for the Revelation and Flying Dutchman labels. It remains to be seen what lessons Hall will draw from their oeuvre, but if even approaches the fluent lyricism, exacting tonal command, and rhythmic fluidity exhibited on Carter and Bradford’s Flight For Four (Flying Dutchman, 1969; reissued by International Phonograph, 2013), this could be the set of the festival.
For more on Hyde Park Jazz Fest, please read Neil Tesser’s in-depth preview for ChicagoMusic.org here.
September 25, 2014
by Howard Reich
It’s the most magical weekend of the year, venues large and small, familiar and novel lighting up a single Chicago neighborhood.
No jazz soiree in Chicago, and perhaps none in the country, embraces its environment as effectively as the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which unfolds on the campus of the University of Chicago and its environs. With most of the concert spaces within walking distance of each other, listeners can amble from one spot to the next, enjoying the scenery and conversing with fellow music lovers along the way.
The 8th annual festival runs from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 1 to 5:45 p.m. Sunday, plus a post-fest jam session that evening. It’s all free. For more information, visit hydeparkjazzfestival.org.
Following are some of the most enticing attractions:
Ari Brown: 1:30 p.m., Wagner Stage at the Midway Plaisance, south of Woodlawn Avenue. The Chicago tenor saxophonist is as magisterial onstage as he is self-effacing off. His music builds on the breakthroughs of John Coltrane and on the Chicago tenor tradition, as well. There’s also a lyrical core to Brown’s work that distinguishes him from peers. He’ll lead a quintet.
Eric Schneider: 2:30 p.m., Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Though the Hyde Park Jazz Festival presents plenty of of innovative and experimental music, it also has made room for vibrant, straight-ahead, all-American swing. Few represent the mainstream tradition better than Chicago saxophonist Schneider, who will lead a quartet staffed by pianist Dennis Luxion, bassist Larry Kohut and drummer George Fludas.
Geof Bradfield: 3 p.m., Kenwood Academy Auditorium, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. Like drummer Dana Hall, a frequent collaborator, Bradfield excels at creating unusual, ambitious projects exploring particular historical themes. This time Bradfield will bring his latest: “Our Roots: The Music of Clifford Jordan and Leady Belly.” Bradfield will be joined by trumpeter Marquis Hill, trombonist Joel Adams, bassist Clark Sommers and, of course, Hall.
Dee Alexander: 3:30 p.m., Wagner Stage at the Midway Plaisance, south of Woodlawn Avenue. Alexander recently scored a personal best with her newest album, “Songs My Mother Loves,” featuring her re-imagining of standards but some lesser-known fare, as well. For this performance, she’ll be joined by her quartet and guest saxophonist Oliver Lake, who’s bound to up the intensity level.
Josh Berman Trio: 4 p.m., Logan Center Penthouse, 915 E. 60th St. Chicago cornetist Berman absorbs the lessons of our musical past while looking unflinchingly to the future, which makes provocatively appealing as soloist and bandleader. He’ll partner with like-minded adventurers: bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly.
Laurenzi/Ernst/Green: 4 p.m., Hyde Park Bank, 1525 E. 53d St. Chicago never stops generating new waves of creative young musicians. Three of them converge here, with Dustin Laurenzi on tenor saxophone, Katie Ernst singing and playing bass and Andrew Green on drums.
Art Hoyle Quintet: 4 p.m., Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave. The octogenarian Chicago trumpeter has played with everyone from Sun Ra to Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald to Tony Bennett, Henry Mancini to Gene Ammons. That depth of experience radiates from his horn and also his voice, a deep-and-craggy bass-baritone.
Willie Pickens Trio: 4:30 p.m., Kenwood Academy Auditorium, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. Any chance to hear Pickens, a titan of the keyboard, is worth seizing. This one will have particular resonance, since Pickens started the famed band program at Kenwood Academy. He’ll share the stage with bassist Larry Gray and drummer Greg Artry.
Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now: 5:15 p.m., Logan Center for the Arts Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St. An accomplished cellist, distinctive composer and ncommonly protean musical figure, Reid ignores conventional boundaries of genre, style and musical language. She’ll lead one of her characteristically free-thinking projects, with violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi.
Maggie Brown Group: 6:15 p.m., Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave. Singer Brown carries forth the legacy of her father, the great Chicago singer-songwriter-activist Oscar Brown, Jr. But she also pushes beyond his enormous footprint, exploring little known, contemporary songwriting that deserves to be heard.
Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal: 6:45 p.m., International House, 1414 E. 59th St. The former Chicago flutist remains deeply rooted in this city’s new music scene, and for her return here she’ll lead the premiere of her “Water Walker,” a suite with a social message. Mitchell’s Ice Crystal band features vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly.
Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement: 7:30 p.m., Logan Center for the Arts Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St. Drummer Hall, an apparently inexhaustible progenitor of fresh ideas, will unveil his latest project, which builds upon the legacy of reedist John Carter’s collaboration with trumpeter Bobby Bradford. Hall has assembled a remarkable lineup: clarinetist Ben Goldberg, trumpeter Russ Johnson, reedist John Wojciechowski and bassist Robert Hurst.
Craig Taborn: 11 p.m., Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. One of the highlights of each year’s festival unfolds late at night, with previous sets by saxophonist Miguel Zenon and clarinetist Anat Cohen setting a high standard. This year it’s Taborn’s turn. The singularity and boldness of his keyboard conception make this a significant event, in part becase he’ll be playing solo.
Victor Garcia Septet: 4:45 p.m., West Stage on the Midway Plaisance, south of Ellis Avenue. Trumpeter Garcia doesn’t get as many opportunities to lead his large group as one might hope, but its repertoire and performance panache make it well worth hearing. Garcia shares the bandstand with alto saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Rocky Yera, organist Dan Trudell, guitarist Scott Hesse, trombonist Tom Garling and drummer Charles Heath.
Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble: 6 p.m., Wagner Stage on the Midway Plaisance, south of Woodlawn Avenue. Chicago trumpeter Davis closes the festival and kicks off the Philharmonic’s 10th anniversary season with this set. There’s no ensemble quite like it in America, the CJP bridging the jazz-classical divide as if it never were there in the first place.
The festival’s official post-fest jam session will be led by Ernest Dawkins and will run from 8 to 11 p.m. Sunday at Norman’s Bistro, 1101 E. 43d St.; free.
September 25, 2014
by Neil Tesser
The weather forecast is picture-perfect for this year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 27-28) – terrific news for a festival that spreads its performances over a couple of square miles. Wear your walking shoes, and make a little time to stroll between stages. Early autumn in Hyde Park, especially on and around the University of Chicago campus, would beckon leaf-lovers even without a boatload of music. The chance to catch solid sounds – especially after recovering from the wealth of music presented by the Chicago Jazz Festival four weeks earlier – makes the stroll all the more inviting.
Despite the Chicago Tribune’s misplaced attempts to pit the two festivals against each other, they really have relatively little in common. The Chicago Jazz Festival (which I help program) is built around its with internationally known headliners, while still reserving more than 70 percent of the total program for Chicago artists; the Hyde Park event books local musicians almost exclusively, with only a handful of well-chosen stars from east and west coasts. The CJF follows the “traditional” jazz-fest model, with all the artists appearing on three or four stages within a few minutes’ walk from each other, in Millennium Park; the HPJF uses a community-based approach, with events taking place at more than a dozen venues, some of them primarily accessible by shuttle bus. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but turning them into competing entities is a fool’s errand; the festivals offer complementary visions, and together make a terrific pair of September bookends for Chicago listeners.
As it turns out, this year the HPJF features several artists who appeared in Millennium Park over Labor Day weekend; that if you missed them there, you can catch them here. These include saxist Ari Brown (Saturday at 1:30), leading the same quintet as at the downtown event; the trio Larenzi/Ernst/Green (Saturday at 4 PM); cellistTomeka Reid, downsizing from a quartet to present her intercontinental Hear in Now trio (Saturday at 5:15); and bassist Clark Sommers, who ledhis trio (Ba)SH at Millennium, playing this weekend with a solid quintet (Saturday at 6). This echelon even includes a couple notable New Yorkers: sax sensation JD Allen, who played downtown in Tom Harrell’s band but here leads his own quartet; and the widely acclaimed pianist Craig Taborn, a native midwesterner whose solo set (Saturday at midnight) should satisfy those who felt shortchanged by his relatively low profile in Dave Holland’s Prism at Millennium Park.
As usual, the vast bulk of the 35 performances will take place on Saturday, when the music runs from noon till midnight. Below, I’ve noted several (but certainly not all) of the Chicago-based bands that will grab my attention.
Saturday, September 27
Dee Alexander Quartet with Oliver Lake
3:30 PM, Wagner Stage, Midway Plaisance
Dee Alexander (photo by Claude-Aline Nazaire)
Despite her frequent local appearances, I hate to miss any chance to hear Chicago’s reigning jazz diva; you never know what, or in this case who, she’ll come up with next. Leading three distinct bands; covering material from 1950s torchers to free music from the AACM; re-creating the sound of Ella Fitzgerald on the one hand and a didgeridoo on the other – all with unshakable intonation and unstoppable swing – Alexander has set a high bar for other vocalists, not only here but across the jazz world. For this performance, she teams her regular working trio (led by pianist Miguel de la Cerna) with saxist Oliver Lake – a founding force (in 1967) behind the AACM-adjacent Black Artists Group of St. Louis – whose eclectic projects eclipse even Alexander’s. Lake has applied his acerbic tone and hyper-expressive technique to music ranging from the World Saxophone Quartet (which he also co-founded) to his depth-charged big band to the Jump Up, his reggae-jazz fusion with a futurist edge. Pairing him with Alexander offers a match made in new-jazz heaven.
Geof Bradfield’s “Our Roots: The Music of Clifford Jordan and Lead Belly”
3:00 PM, Kenwood Academy Auditorium, 5015 S. Blackstone
Among the most versatile and adventurous reedists in town (which in Chicago is really saying something), Geof Bradfield has also emerged among the music’s best composers, on the strength of his imaginative concepts and his attention to detail. This latest project – which he’ll share with the world on an album due in a few months – grows out of a concert he performed late last year for the Fulton Street Art Collective’s monthly “Jazz Record” series. That series asks an artist to choose a jazz album that influenced him and then to recreate that album in concert, first track to last; Bradfield dug out his copy of tenor saxist (and Chicago native) Clifford Jordan’s 1965 LP, These Are My Roots – a groundbreaking jazz tribute to the folk-blues legend Lead Belly. From that experience, Bradfield has shaped this new project, which has inspired him to move beyond Lead Belly’s songs into similar material – by the likes of Son House and the Georgia Sea Island Singers – that Jordan never touched. The all-star band comprises trumpeterMarquis Hill, trombonist Joel Adams, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Dana Hall.
Geof Bradfield (photo by Chicago Studio Club)
Tomeka Reid’s Here in Now (HiN)
5:15 PM, Logan Center Penthouse, 915 E. 60th
Despite the sanguine local presence of cellist Tomeka Reid, Chicagoans don’t get to hear this trio often, due to the fact that one of its members lives in New York (violinist Mazz Swift) and another in Italy (Silvia Bolognesi). People worldwide don’t often get to such groupings in general, since this instrumentation is not exactly ubiquitous in jazz. For that matter, you don’t find so many string trios like this in classical music, either; Here in Now qualifies as something of a chimera. But these women get so deep into their instruments, and immerse themselves so thoroughly in the music, that the obvious potential pitfalls – Does it swing? No horns or chord instruments? No drums? – fall by the wayside. And the technical acumen of each player offers a separate level of admiration on its own.
Here in Now (Silvia Bolognesi, Tomeka Reid, Mazz Swift)
Nicole Mitchell (photo by Kristi Sutton Elias)
Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystal
6:45 PM, International House, 1414 East 59th
I picked Aquarius, this band’s debut album as the third best album of last year, and I remain amazed at how so many other critics and poll-voters seemed to sleep on it.Nicole Mitchell’s star has only continued to rise since she relocated to Southern California in 2011, where she now teaches at UC Irvine; in Ice Crystal, she teamed up with vibist Jason Adasiewicz, who in the last five years has garnered more attention than any new-music jazzman I can recall. The album offers an especially rangy and satisfying set of compositions by Mitchell, as well as some of her most authoritative flute solos on disc; as a bonus, it was among the first demonstrations that Adasiewicz’s powerfully percussive vibes style had a soft side as well. Bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly complete what I consider a dream lineup, and one that I can’t wait to hear, in person, and hopefully with new compositions that extend their reach.
Houston Person (Chicago) Quartet
9:30 PM, West Stage, Midway Plaisance
I’ve appended the parenthetical “Chicago” to the name of this band for two reasons. First, the entire rhythm section (pianistJeremy Kahn, bassist Stew Miller,drummer Ernie Adams) is locally based. And even though the veteran saxistHouston Person has called New York home for decades, he could easily pass for a Chicago tenor man. In fact, it’s hard to believe he didn’t come up under Capt. Walter Dyett (along with Von Freeman andGene Ammons and Clifford Jordan and a dozen other tenor men with similar cred); for that you can thank his swaggering tone, the bottomless reserves of soul, and a work ethic that should shame artists half his age. Person turns 80 in November, and he still churns out albums at an almost alarming clip: an estimated 80 recordings under his own name, and dozens more in collaboration with others – primarily the vocalist Etta Jones, with whom he conducted a music-only romance from the late 60s until her death in 2001. Whatever the reason, Person plays rarely in Chicago – which is, after all, his kind of town – so this set all but demands your attendance.
NOTE: This article has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to the instrumentation of Here in Now. (I originally wrote that this combination of instruments represented “three-quarters of a string quartet”; in fact, a traditional string quartet does not contain bass. NT)