Threadgill, Akinmusire, Carter to play Hyde Park Jazz Fest

May 19, 2015

Chicago Tribune

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 saxophonist 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


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.”


Mary Stallings.
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.;
Twitter @howardreich



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Hyde Park Jazz Festival Fosters New Levels of Self-Expression

October 10, 2014


by Michael Jackson


Nicole Mitchell at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago (Photo: 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.

Michael Jackson


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Hyde Park Jazz Fest Spotlights the Masters

September 28, 2014

Chicago Tribune

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.



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DownBeat Magazine: Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 26, 2014

DownBeat Magazine

JD Allen is among the artists who will perform at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. (Photo: Frank Stewart)

Allen, Taborn To Perform at Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Saxophonist JD Allen and pianist/keyboardist Craig Taborn are among the high-profile artists who will perform in Chicago this weekend at the 8th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival.

The free, two-day event will bring more than 30 bands to over a dozen stages throughout Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood Sept. 27–28. Alongside live musical performances by local, national and international jazz artists, the festival also features an outdoor dance floor, artisan vendors and, for the second year, a community-wide oral histories project where audience members can share their jazz experiences.

Co-produced with the Hyde Park Jazz Society, the festival grows more ambitious each year, earning recognition as a major jazz presenter in Chicago.

JD Allen has consistently attracted listeners since his 1999 debut album In Search Of (Red). This year Allen released Bloom (Savant), his sixth album in as many years. He will perform with his quartet, which includes pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jonathan Barber. Allen’s concert will take place on Sept. 27 at 9:30 p.m. in the Logan Center Performance Hall.

Taborn is currently riding a wave of critical acclaim for his 2013 CD Chants (ECM), recorded with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver. His solo performance at the festival will take place at 11 p.m. on Sept. 27 in the Rockefeller Chapel.

Other headlining artists include the Dee Alexander Quartet featuring Oliver Lake, Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, the Art Hoyle Quintet, Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement, Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now and the Houston Person Quartet.

Vocalist Alexander joins forces with Lake, a composer, saxophonist, flutist and bandleader as well as an accomplished poet, painter and performance artist. Dee and Oliver will be accompanied by keyboardist Miguel De La Cerna, bassist Junius Paul and drummer Yussef Ernie Adams.

Saturday performances (on Sept. 27) take place from 1 p.m. to midnight in multiple venues throughout Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, including two outdoor stages at the Midway Plaisance, two indoor stages at the Logan Center, Smart Museum, Little Black Pearl, Kenwood Academy Auditorium, Hyde Park Bank, International House, Oriental Institute, Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House, Rockefeller Chapel, Hyde Park Union Church and Hyde Park Art Center.

Sunday concerts (on Sept. 28) will be staged outdoors from 1–8 p.m. at the Midway Plaisance.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival remains free to the public through the support of the University of Chicago, corporate sponsors and individual donors. A $5 donation per person is suggested to help sustain the festival, which aims to continue its forward momentum by building year-round programming in the coming year.

For more information on the festival as well as a complete schedule of performances, click here.



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Five Acts You Should Definitely See at Hyde Park Jazz Fest

September 26, 2014

Chicago Magazine

by Matt Pollock

A cellist, a flutist, a guimbri player, and more will park it in your back yard for a free show this weekend.


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.


Tomeka Reid (with Hear In Now)

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.

Dee Alexander Quartet feat. Oliver Lake

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.

Joshua Abrams (solo)

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.

Nicole Mitchell (with Ice Crystal)

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.

Craig Taborn (solo)

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.



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Hyde Park Jazz Fest: Bill Meyer’s Top Picks

September 26, 2014

by Bill Meyer

Saturday, September 27


Oriental Institute, 3:30 PM
Oriental Institute, 4:30 PM
Joshua Abrams

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 here.



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Stars align for 8th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 25, 2014

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

Who should you see at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival? Here’s a guide.

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

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.

Post-fest Jam

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.

Twitter @howardreich



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Neil Tesser’s Preview of Hyde Park Jazz Fest

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)

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

Geof Bradfield (photo by Chicago Studio Club)

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)

Here in Now (Silvia Bolognesi, Tomeka Reid, Mazz Swift)



Nicole Mitchell (photo by Kristi Sutton Elias)

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.


HP Person

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)



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HPJF recommended on Windy City Live

September 25, 2014

What’s on Dec with Billy Dec on Windy City Live recommends HPJF!

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Kick off fall at Oktoberfest Chicago, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Feria del Mole

September 24, 2014


by Kate Bernot

The last weekend of September is as bittersweet as a strong latte sipped while crunching leaves under your boots and adjusting your scarf. OK, we’re not quite that far into fall territory yet, but this is the last week of 2014 for RedEye’s fest section. (See you here next year!) This weekend’s fests run the gamut—from the venerable Hyde Park Jazz Festival to the hooray-it’s-autumn Oktoberfest Chicago celebration in Lakeview to Little Village’s spicy Feria del Molé cook-off. Take your pick and don’t forget a sweater. @redeyeeatdrink

Oktoberfest Chicago

When: 5-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. Alphonsus Church (1429 W. Wellington Ave.)
How much: $5 admission Friday and Saturday; free admission Sunday; $40 craft beer tasting tickets for Friday and Saturday nights available at

Don’t miss: The fourteenth annual parish Oktoberfest kicks off with craft beer tastings from 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday night; $40 tickets include up to 20 three-ounce samples from local and out-of-state breweries including Great Lakes, Central Waters, Temperance, Atlas, Moody Tongue, Flying Dog and others. The rest of the weekend includes polka music and cover bands as well as a large TV screen set up on Southport Avenue to broadcast Sunday football games.


Hyde Park Jazz Festival

When: 1 p.m.-midnight Saturday night; 1-7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Various location throughout the Hyde Park neighborhood
How much: $5 suggested donation

Don’t miss: The Hyde Park Jazz Festival continues to gain steam in its eighth year, bringing more than 30 acts to 14 stages. This year’s local and international acts include pianist Craig Taborn (11 p.m. Saturday at Rockefeller Chapel), Detroit native JD Allen and his quartet (9:30 p.m. Saturday at Logan Center Performance Hall), percussionist Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement (7:30 p.m. Saturday at Logan Center Performance Hall) and cellist/composer Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now (5:15 p.m. Saturday at Logan Center Performance Hall). See the full schedule at


Feria del Molé

When: noon-6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Little Village Lawndale High School, 3120 S. Kostner Ave.
How much: $7 in advance at Universidad Popular (2801 S. Hamlin Ave.) or $10 at the door

Don’t miss: Forty amateur cooks bring their A-game molés for a chance to win $1,000 cash at this annual Little Village cook-off. Molé is a Spanish word that means “sauce” or “stew,” and many cooks have their own spice blends and family recipes for making the dish. Sample entries from all the contestants and vote for your favorite at this fundraiser for the Universidad Popular’s community empowerment programs.




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Chicago Reader: Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 24, 2014

Dee Alexander

Dee Alexander

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

Hyde Park Jazz Festival

When: 9/27-9/28

This weekend the eighth Hyde Park Jazz Festival—the second under executive director Kate Dumbleton—once again turns the south-side neighborhood into the epicenter of jazz in Chicago. The south side’s mainstream jazz community got this whole shebang off the ground in the first place, and its sound is well represented, with sets from groups led by the likes of pianist Willie Pickens, trumpeter Art Hoyle, and singer Maggie Brown. But what sets this two-day lineup apart is its mix of top-notch out-of-town headliners and unusual local projects.The out-of-towners include tenor saxophonists Houston Person and J.D. Allen (the latter leading a new quartet with Philadelphia pianist Orrin Evans), Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles, and brilliant pianistCraig Taborn in his first-ever Chicago solo set (he plays at 11 PM on Saturday in the gorgeous Rockefeller Chapel). Among the locals are charismatic singer Dee Alexander, who leads a quartet with edgy, soulful alto saxophonist Oliver Lake; cellist Tomeka Reid, who reconvenes her transatlantic collective Hear in Now; reedist Geof Bradfield, who premieres his quintet Our Roots (inspired by a 1965 album where Chicago saxophonist Clifford Jordan interprets Leadbelly); and drummerDana Hall, who premieres an ambitious project called the Black Ark Movement dedicated to the music of Los Angeles clarinetist and composer John Carter. Hall’s lineup features Bay Area clarinetist Ben Goldberg and trumpeter Russ Johnson (a pair who can do justice to the gravitas and melodic generosity of Carter and longtime trumpet foil Bobby Bradford) as well as reedist John Wojciechowski and veteran New York bassist Robert Hurst.

Most of the rest of the 35 groups at the festival play around town regularly—to a significant extent, the fest can double as a portrait of the state of modern jazz in Chicago. In addition Black Cinema House screens three short jazz films at the Logan Center at 2 PM on Saturday. Ten of the weekend’s dozen venues fall within a square of Hyde Park less than five blocks on a side. Some of the smaller rooms will likely have to turn people away; admission is first come, first served (though the Jazz Pass guarantees you preferred seating for indoor concerts). —Peter Margasak

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Geof Bradfield’s Our Roots: The Music of Clifford Jordan and Lead Belly

September 24, 2014

Fox News

Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 3.03.20 PM

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Orbert Davis on WTTW, Chicago Tonight

September 24, 2014


Tune in to WTTW, Chicago Tonight on Thursday, September 25 to see Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Director Orbert Davis talk about the CJP’s 10th Anniversary Season, which kicks off with their performance at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival Sunday, September 28 at 6pm at the Wagner Stage. Davis will be accompanied on WTTW by Howard Levy, harmonica; John Moulder, guitar; and Stewart Miller, string bass.

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Singer Dee Alexander’s Breakout Moment

September 24, 2014

WTTW, Chicago Tonight

She’s internationally acclaimed but still has a day job. The New York Times called her appearance at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival one of the year’s 10 best. For jazz singer Dee Alexander the praise is terrific, she’s ready for success, but she is patient. After all, she has been making music in Chicago since the 1970s. Her new album, “Songs My Mother Loves,” is a critically heralded collection of jazz standards chosen with her mother. Saxophonist Oliver Lake appeared on the album and will join Alexander at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival this coming Saturday for a set that is sure to embody Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich’s observation that “jazz is the sound of surprise.”


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Marquis Hill performs live for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 23, 2014

WGNTV Music Lounge

 Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 3.08.31 PM

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Tune in to Hyde Park Jazz Fest & performance teasers this week

September 23, 2014

This week Hyde Park Jazz Fest is all over the news! Tune in at the following times to hear teasers of a few of this weekend’s performances and hear more about the Festival.

Tuesday, September 23

WGNTV, Midday News Music Lounge
Marquis Hill Blacktet performing



Wednesday, September 24

Fox News, Noon News
Geof Bradfield performing


WTTW, Chicago Tonight
Dee Alexander performing


WDCB 90.9 fm, 9:30-10:30pm
HPJF Director Kate Dumbleton speaking and playing music



Thursday, September 25


WTTW, Chicago Tonight
Orbert Davis on CJP’s 10th Anniversary Season & kick off performance at HPJF



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Dee Alexander in Chicago Magazine

September 20, 2014

Get to Know Dee Alexander

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On the road: Catch a groove at Hyde Park Jazz Fest

September 19, 2014

Daily Herald

by Jacky Runice

Dig it, Daddy-O

The South Side neighborhood plays host to two days and nights of dazzling grooves and improvised tunes during the eighth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Nearly 40 jazz acts, including world-class headliners and local emerging artists, converge upon 15 traditional and unexpected indoor and outdoor cultural venues such as the DuSable Museum, Kenwood Academy, Hyde Park Bank, Oriental Institute and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. Highlights include a world premiere by pianist Craig Taborn and performances by the Art Hoyle Quintet and cellist Tomeka Reid.

Tomeka Reid is among 40 jazz acts performing at this year's Hyde Park Jazz Fest on Sept. 27-28.

1 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Sept. 27, and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at various venues in Hyde Park. The fest is free, but a $5 donation is requested. Get a schedule at or call (312) 745-2470 for more information.


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Your guide to a rich fall season in jazz

September 17, 2014

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

Dee Alexander
Dee Alexander performs songs from her newest recording, ‘Songs My Mother Loves,’ at University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. (Taylor Glascock, Chicago Tribune)

Highlights in a rich fall jazz season:

Hyde Park Jazz Festival: Craig Taborn, Etienne Charles, Dana Hall, Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, Dee Alexander with Oliver Lake, Willie Pickens, Josh Berman and many more play multiple stages. 1 p.m. to midnight Sept. 27 and 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Sept. 28 in venues across Hyde Park; 773-324-6926 or



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Tune in to WHPK Sunday, Sept 14 for HPJF features & J.D. Allen

September 13, 2014

Tune in to WHPK Jazz Format Chief Richton Thomas’ Sunday morning jazz radio program on September 14 to hear a few of the artists performing at the 2014 Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Additionally Thomas will have a very special guest, saxophonist and composer JD Allen. Allen will play at the Festival Saturday, September 27, 9:30-10:30pm at the Logan Performance Hall. For more information click here.


You can listen to WHPK at 88.5 fm or online at

Thomas’ show runs from 8-10am CST


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Hyde Park Jazz Festival to return with more visiting musicians than ever

September 12, 2014

By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
Staff Writer

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is returning to the neighborhood later this month. The eighth annual festival, slated to take place on Saturday, Sept. 27 and Sunday, Sept. 28, will feature performances at 12 venues by 35 acts — including a growing number of musicians from outside Chicago.

“We have more visiting artists from out of town than ever before,” said festival executive director Kate Dumbleton, who expects attendance to range from 15,000-20,000, a figure in line with previous years.

Several collaborations between local artists and visiting musicians distinguish this year’s programming from that of previous years’, according to Dumbleton. They include Here in Now, Chicago-based cellist Tomeka Reid’s long-distance trio with New York City-based violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi of Italy, as well as Chicago-based vocalist Dee Alexander and her quartet featuring New Jersey-based saxophonist Oliver Lake.

This year’s lineup stands in stark contrast to the festival’s first, whose budget according to festival co-founder Judith Stein only allowed for local artists to perform. But Stein stressed the abundance of homegrown world-class talent that performs at the festival.

“These are people who when they go out of the city and travel, they are widely admired and are widely sought after,” Stein said.

And this year’s festival will feature mostly local acts, including veterans such as trumpeter Marquis Hill and saxophonists Juli Wood and Ari Brown. Among them will also be vocalist Maggie Brown, who has performed in every festival since the first in 2007.

“It’s home. It’s like being able to go back to your old school and perform,” said Brown, who will perform for her second time at the Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“Since I am in a church, I’ll feel a little freer to take a spiritual approach,” added Brown, who pointed to simultaneous performances at multiple venues as one of the festival’s highlights.

This year’s venues remain mostly the same as in previous years, except for the omission of the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl., due to a scheduling conflict, and the addition of Hyde Park Union Church and Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., where the school’s jazz band will perform. Like last year’s headline performer, pianist Craig Taiborn will play Saturday night at Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“I think what happens when you take the same music and put it in a tent or on a traditional stage is it feels like every other festival,” Stein said. “In our case, our location is very much part of the music.”

In addition to music, history and cinema will be a part of the festival this year. Jazz-related films will be screened at the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., in partnership with the Black Cinema House in Greater Grand Crossing, and festival organizers will once again collect visitors’ oral histories of jazz in the area, supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation.

Entry to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival is free, although visitors may donate or buy $125 tickets for preferred seating online. For more information, visit




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Hyde Park Jazz Fest is a Chicago Magazine Critic’s Pick

September 11, 2014

The Best Things to Do in Chicago in September

Chicago Magazine

By Tomi Obaro, Catey Sullivan, Zac Thompson, Graham Meyer, Matt Pollock, Jason Foumberg, and Harrison Smith

Our monthly roundup of the best theatre, comedy, music, and more to go see now.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival
9/27–28 Count on some unexpected sounds at the sprawling South Side fest, including a world premiere by pianist Craig Taborn, performances by cellist Tomeka Reid, vocalist Dee Alexander, the Art Hoyle Quintet, and much more. Various times and locations.

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The Ultimate Summer Jazz Festivals Guide: September 2014

August 26, 2014

The Jazz Spotlight

Yannick Ilunga

Jazz Festivals Guide: September

Even though summer is getting to an end, the list of jazz festivals that take place around the world is not getting shorter…quite the opposite, actually!

The Ultimate Summer Jazz Festivals Guide for September 2014 features over 60 jazz events from all over the world, including the 57th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, the 13th edition of Tokyo Jazz Festival, Tanjazz and Jazz au Chellah in Morocco, and Noosa Jazz Fest in Australia. And don’t forget about some of Europe’s coolest jazz happenings such as Jazz à la Villette, the Smooth Jazz Festival in Augsburg, Herts Jazz and Lancaster JazzFest in the UK.

Ah, did I mention that the Maui Jazz & Blues Festival, Canada’s Guelph Jazz and Brantford International Jazz Festival, Angel City Jazz Fest, Berklee Beantown Jazz, OutBeat Jazz and Las Vegas Jazz Festival all take place in September too?

Jazz festivals in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, and the cruise Dave Koz & Friends at Sea… this month’s jazz festivals guide really has it all (so don’t forget to tweet it)!

**See the full list online here.

Hyde Park Jazz FestivalHyde Park Jazz Festival

Where & When: Chicago, IL (U.S.), 27-28 September

Performers: Craig Taborn, Dee Alexander Quartet feat. Oliver Lake, J. D. Allen Quartet, Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, Art Hoyle Quintet




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Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival Announces Lineup

August 18, 2014

Jazz Times

by Jeff Tamarkin

Craig Taborn solo, JD Allen, Dee Alexander & more

The free 8th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will take place September 27-28 throughout Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, featuring 30 bands on 14 stages. In addition to the live performances, for the second year, a community-wide oral histories project will take place, at which festival-goers can share their experiences with jazz.

This year’s performing artists include Craig Taborn performing solo; the JD Allen Quartet; Etienne Charles and Creole Soul; the Dee Alexander Quartet featuring Oliver Lake; the Art Hoyle Quintet; Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement; Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble; Tomeka Reid “Hear in Now” and the Houston Person Quartet.

The full schedule is available at Hyde Park Jazz Festival.



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Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Fest: 18 Hours of Free Music

August 15, 2014

USA Today’s 10 Best

Megy Karydes, Chicago Local Expert

Family friendly event attracts world-class musicians to the stage over two days

New Orleans may be considered the birthplace of jazz, but Chicago holds this musical genre dear to its heart. Want proof? The Hyde Park Jazz Festival features two full days of FREE, non-stop jazz music in the historic center of Chicago’s jazz community: Hyde Park.

This year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival will include over 150 jazz musicians performing for 18 hours in 13 different venues throughout the Hyde Park neighborhood, including Chicago’s own drummer/bandleader Dana Hall, who will be making his world premiere. Dates for the 2014 event include Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28.

The popular two-day festival is a unique collaboration between academic, cultural and community institutions, as well as local businesses, which work together to present free live jazz performances in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings.

The Eighth Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, with two full days of free non-stop jazz music in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Photo courtesy of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

The Eighth Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, with two full days of free non-stop jazz music in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Pianist Craig Taborn will be performing a much anticipated solo concert on Saturday evening at 11 p.m. at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Vocalist Dee Alexander – honored as “Jazz Entertainer of the Year” in 2008 and 2010 by the Chicago Music Awards and as the city’s best singer by Chicago Magazine in 2009 – will be performing alongside Oliver Lake, a composer, saxophonist, flautist and bandleader.

Just as impressive as the lineup of performers are the performance venues themselves. Alexander and Lake will be performing on Saturday afternoon on the Midway Plaisance, a one-mile-long park that extends along 59th and 60th Streets, connecting Washington Park and Jackson Park. Other performance venues include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the stunning Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

Chicago’s Hyde Park is only seven miles south of the Loop, and it’s accessible by car, train, bus or bike. Free shuttle transportation between venues is available before, during and after all performances, and bicycling is encouraged. Parking is available in the Ellis Avenue Parking Garage (southeast corner of 55th Street and Ellis Avenue), but it’s highly advised to take alternative modes of transportation if possible.

Food and beverage vendors will be available on-site along the Midway, but there are also plenty of great restaurants throughout the area. For fine dining, make reservations ahead of time at La Petite Folie, or try Medici for a more casual atmosphere.

What began in the fall of 2007 with 5,000 jazz fans enjoying 12 free non-stop hours of live jazz performances has grown to 20,000 fans and 18 hours. Chicagoans can’t get enough of live musical performances, and this one is shaping up to be one you don’t want to miss.



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Hyde Park Jazz fest 2014 goes back to the future

May 21, 2014

Howard Reich

9:46 a.m. CDT, May 20, 2014

Tomeka Reid
Cellist Tomeka Reid performs with the Tomeka Reid Quartet during the 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / September 28, 2013)


A world premiere by Chicago drummer-bandleader Dana Hall, a solo concert by the innovative pianist Craig Taborn and a high-profile engagement by genre-defying Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid will play the eighth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, running Sept. 27 to 28 in multiple locations.

In addition, the lineup will feature Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble kicking off its 10th anniversary season; the quartet of saxophonist J.D. Allen, who has turned in impressive work as sideman to trumpeter Jeremy Pelt; and an appearance by veteran tenor saxophonist Houston Person.

Many of these bookings underscore the festival’s recent tendency to lean forward toward adventurous, often unexpected facets of 21st century jazz. At the same time, judging by previous seasons, mainstream and other aspects of the music also will turn up when the full schedule is announced in July.

But there are bigger, broader currents at work here than covering stylistic bases.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about ways we might expand the festival into a year-round organization, though of course the festival itself is the core thing – the main event, if you will,” says Kate Dumbleton, the organization’s executive and artistic director.

“So there are a couple of things in this year’s festival that are a part of that. One of them is this idea of working with local artists so that they could develop new ideas and potentially bring in artists from other places to work with them and present a special project.

“We’d like to support individual artists in Chicago – I think it’s important for the city think about that broadly. I don’t think we do enough of it. That means some of the best artists are struggling to stay here.”

As part of the festival’s ongoing efforts to give leading Chicago musicians a forum for some of their most ambitious ideas, this year’s event will launch Dana Hall’s Black Ark Movement, which will reflect upon the historic collaboration of reedist John Carter and trumpeter Bobby Bradford. Both launched their careers in Texas, migrated to California and famously collaborated with each other and with jazz visionary Ornette Coleman in various contexts.

But drummer Hall sees the Carter-Bradford model as a starting point for the Black Ark Movement project.

“There’s been this large contingent of migration of musicians throughout the South to the West Coast, (but) often times a lot of the important movements in music – particularly post-World War II movements – have been situated and discussed with regard to New York and the East Coast,” says Hall.

“Well, a lot of those musicians that went East – the primary mover would be Ornette – really started incubating those ideas in Los Angeles, and his close collaborators were there.

“There’s always this misconception that Charlie Parker and Dizzy (Gillespie) went from New York to the West, to L.A., and were Messiahs and brought music and record players and electricity,” adds Hall, exaggerating only slightly.

“The reality is that there were people making this (innovative) music in California. They had their own ideas. … So this project (explores) these marginalized cities in the history of jazz. And L.A. is one of them.”

Moreover, Hall sees his Black Ark Movement as a gateway for him to explore other sounds, such as the music of the colossal pianist-bandleader-adventurer Horace Tapscott. Like Coleman, Bradford, Carter and others, Tapscott left Texas to go to Los Angeles, becoming an organizer of a music-community movement along the lines of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).

That sense of movement of people and ideas inspired the “Ark” term in the name of Hall’s project, which also obviously evokes Sun Ra’s Arkestra.

What’s important to note in terms of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival is that this growing institution is giving Hall the budget and resources to launch his Black Ark Movement, which will bring in noted San Francisco Bay Area clarinetist Ben Goldberg and will feature trumpeter Russ Johnson, reedist John Wojciechowski and a bassist to be named.

“That’s one of the things I really like about the Hyde Park festival – I started Black Fire there a few years ago,” says Hall, referring to a venture that builds upon music of pianist Andrew Hill and blossomed into a major engagement in Millennium Park and an ongoing run at Andy’s Jazz Club.

“I’ve been able to incubate new music and new projects. It’s like a home for me to be able to do those kinds of things.”

Along these lines, the festival this year will give cellist Tomeka Reid, one of the most promising musician-bandleaders in Chicago, an opportunity to develop her Hear in Now trio. When she led this group at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2010, it offered luminous scores that embraced jazz, classical and experimental techniques.

“The times I’ve heard it, it was a pretty nascent group that I admired right away,” says Dumbleton of an ensemble that features Reid with violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi.

“All three are wonderful composers. Silvia is a great bassist – she has to come from Italy for this. It’s taken Tomeka and me two years to make (this engagement) work. Tomeka spent a month-and-a-half in Italy this spring … just developing their ensemble work.”

And pianist Taborn will play one of the most appealing settings of the festival, offering a solo set at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

But unusual – and unusually inviting – venues are part of what distinguish the Hyde Park Jazz Festival from more generic events. Concerts unfold in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, the courtyard of the Smart Museum of Art, Hyde Park Union Church and multi-room complexes such as the University of Chicago’s International House and Logan Center for the Arts, most within walking distance of each other. Like last year, music will unfold outdoors on two stages along the Midway Plaisance.

In effect, Hyde Park itself becomes the backdrop for the festival, making this event a national leader in using its environment as part of the proceedings.

That Dumbelton, who’s also an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and colleagues do all this on a budget of just under $300,000 represents a feat in itself. Support comes from the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement and Southwest Airlines, among others. And an annual benefit – which this year will present the Chicago premiere of the WRW Trio featuring Steve Wilson, Renee Rosnes and Peter Washington on June 26 – generates about a third of the budget, says Dumbleton.

Whether the festival succeeds in becoming a year-round force remains to be seen, but it already has been presenting events in partnership with the Logan Center, and Dumbleton hopes to do more.

Which would be welcome.

The WRW Trio – staffed by saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Peter Washington – will play the 8th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival Benefit Reception and Concert, with reception at 6 p.m. and performance at 7:30 p.m. June 26 at the new Promontory Restaurant, 1539 E. 53d St.; concert only tickets are $60; tables range from $1,200 and up; visit

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to

Twitter @howardreich

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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Hyde Park becomes swing city in 7th annual fest

September 30, 2013

Howard Reich

9:51 a.m. CDT, September 29, 2013

Seven years ago, an ad hoc group of South Siders decided to stage a neighborhood jazz festival unlike anything else in the city.

Instead of herding musicians and listeners into a one-size-fits-all downtown park, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival would present artists in unconventional spaces neatly suited to their work. Locations such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, among others, were transformed into jazz dens where listeners could hear the music under nearly ideal acoustical circumstances.

The festival became an instant hit, and over the weekend we were reminded why, with listeners packing venues large and small, indoors and out. All at once, the neighborhood became a kind of jazz village, as audiences strolled from one spot to the next to hear innovative Chicago musicians, as well as national and international figures.

Clarinetist Anat Cohen and guitarist Douglas Lora perform during the Hyde Park Jazz Festival at the Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus Saturday. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / September 29, 2013)

Clarinetist Anat Cohen and guitarist Douglas Lora perform during the Hyde Park Jazz Festival at the Rockefeller Chapel on the University of Chicago campus Saturday. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / September 29, 2013)

Following is a diary of Saturday’s marathon of music-making at Chicago’s most appealing jazz festival, which ends on Sunday night:

1:30 p.m.: Pharez Whitted at the James Wagner Stage on the Midway. Chicago trumpeter Whitted may be nationally known for the heft of his sound and the stratospheric reach of his high notes, but on this afternoon he leads his quintet in a surprisingly – and seductively – low-key performance (at least by his standards). In “Watusi Boogaloo,” Whitted plays phrases that slyly dance around the band’s buoyant but unhurried backbeat. In “Another Kinda Blues,” he dips into a bit of funk, hitting offbeats with sharp accents but soft tones. And in “The Unbroken Promise,” Whitted and the band build a crescendo so slowly and meticulously that you barely know it’s happening. Of course, it’s tough to miss when you have Eddie Bayard sharing the front line on tenor saxophone, Ron Perrillo yielding copious ideas on piano, Greg Artry churning rhythms on drums and Dennis Carroll providing a foundation for it all on bass.

2:45 p.m.: John Wojciechowski at the Smart Museum of Art. Chicago saxophonist Wojciechowski plays in so many other people’s bands – when he’s not busy teaching high school – that we rarely get to hear him fronting his own. That situation is remedied this afternoon, with Wojo (as everyone in Chicago jazz calls him) leading a sterling band featuring pianist Ryan Cohan, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall. Finally, listeners get a chance to hear Wojciechowski and Hall in a space big enough to hold all the sound they can produce: the great outdoors. Serenading an uncommonly hushed and attentive audience in the Smart Museum’s courtyard, Wojciechowski takes his music to exotic harmonic realms in his “Lexicon” and rigorously develops ideas in his whimsically titled “Title.” Wojciechowski also offers an excerpt from bandmate Cohan’s suite “The River,” the tune “Kampala Moon” unfolding as a sensuous jazz nocturne. As in previous years, though, more chairs are needed at the Smart Museum courtyard.

5 p.m.: Frank Rosaly’s Green and Gold in the Performance Penthouse at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Drummer Rosaly leads one of his most attractive and promising ventures, an unconventional ensemble devoted to exploring the nearly forgotten repertoire of Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons. Driven by Rosaly’s light, lithe and dexterous approach to the drums, the band captures much of the flavor of the 1960s jazz avant-garde without sounding quaint or nostalgic. The nimble front-line work of saxophonist-flutist Cameron Pfiffner and alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella is central to this venture, Pfiffner’s ultra-dry tone counterbalanced by Mazzarella’s uncommonly lustrous sound. The sinewy quality of their unison passages finds empathetic support from Tomeka Reid’s warm timbre on cello, Anton Hatwich’s spry bass lines and, of course, Rosaly’s hyper-sensitive, hyper-active drum work. There’s no mistaking the potential of this project.

7 p.m. Jeff Parker at the University of Chicago’s International House. Guitarist Parker was a mainstay in a variety of Chicago bands before his recent move to California, so this performance amounts to a welcome homecoming. At first glance, he appears to be playing at something of a disadvantage, because his trio’s bassist, Chris Lopes, cannot make this engagement. Chicago bassist Joshua Abrams steps into the breach, however, acquitting himself handsomely in scores he has had to learn in short order. The trio, with longtime Parker collaborator Chad Taylor on drums, reaches a high point in Taylor’s “Mainz” from Parker’s “Bright Light in Winter” album. Here Parker produces other-worldly electric-guitar effects punctuated by Abrams’ bowed phrases down low and Taylor’s crisp percussion. Parker reaches into jazz standards, as well, his version of “Body and Soul” melodically creative yet with nary a wasted note.

9:30 p.m. Tomeka Reid Quartet at International House. The miking is a problem here, Reid’s amber-toned cello lines not adequately amplified and, therefore, not fully projecting to a crowded house. Even so, the originality of Reid’s work is unmistakable, thanks to the regality of her sound in legato phrases, the exuberance of her rhythm in swing sections and the precision of her pizzicato work in uptempo passages. In all, a model of what contemporary jazz cello playing can be. If the sound imbalance makes it impossible to adequately assess the band, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly certainly reflect Reid’s aesthetic in bracingly fresh repertoire, including originals by Reid, Abrams and Fred Lonberg-Holm.

11:15 p.m. Anat Cohen and Douglas Lora Duo at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Every great jazz festival needs a world premiere, and the Hyde Park gathering has an unforgettable one in this engagement by Israeli clarinetist Cohen and Brazilian guitarist Lora. Though the two had collaborated before in various settings, this performance marks their first duo concert, and judging by its lyrical urgency and technical finesse, there should be many more to come. Cohen stands as one of the world’s great clarinetists, the rounded beauty of her tone matched by the joyousness of her phrasings. Long a student of choro and other Brazilian idioms, Cohen dispatches its relentless syncopations idiomatically but also brings to bear the soulfulness that marks all her work. She hardly could have a more empathetic partner than Lora, who draws lush harmony and a vast array of colors from his seven-string guitar. A splendid new duo is born.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Midway Plaisance, between Woodlawn and Ellis Avenues; admission is free; visit


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Who to See at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 30, 2013

Every year, the headlines leading up to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival seem to be the same: bigger, better, grander than the last year. It’d be easy to chalk it up to hyperbole, were it not actually true.

In addition to featuring a broader spread of local jazz talents—innovative improvisers like Mike Reed alongside stalwarts like Corey Wilkes and the effervescent Dee Alexander—the Hyde Park Jazz Festival boasts several more events that emphasize the ‘festival’ aspect of the two-day affair.

Here are some highlights, chosen with the help of the festival’s executive director, Kate Dumbleton:
 Damon Locks

Last year, for the first time in the festival’s seven year history, organizers rolled out a dance floor on the Midway. But as Dumbleton found out, “Having a jazz DJ for dance is a little tricky.” So she’s brought on former-punk-rock-frontman-turned-DJ Damon Locks to man the dance floor this year. “What I love about Damon is that he is so broadly knowledgeable about music. He’ll play records with an understanding of the trajectory of jazz. It keeps people moving.”
Saturday, September 28, West Side at the Main Stage on Midway Plaisance, 731 E 60th St. 
Sun Ra panel + DownBeat Magazine

In lieu of short films this year, festivalgoers can attend a panel on seminal jazz composer and philosopher Sun Ra. They can also watch the Reader’s Peter Margasak quiz guitarist Jeff Parker on his jazz knowledge in a blindfold test. Dumbleton explains the rationale behind these two new features:  “Sun Ra’s an incredible artist who spent a lot of time on the South Side and DownBeat has been asking these musicians stump the expert questions for a while now. I’ve been wanting to do it with Jeff Parker more than anyone, he’s an encyclopedia.”
Sun Ra: Saturday, September 28, 1–2pm.
Downbeat: Saturday, September 28, 4:15pm Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St.

Anat Cohen and Douglas Lora 

Israeli reedist and Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora close Saturday with a duet at the Rockefeller Chapel. “The Rockefeller Chapel is my challenge every year,” says Dumbleton. “It seats 1,400 people and it’s meant to be a peak performance, but at the same time it’s really challenging acoustically. Last year trumpeter Miguel Zenon was tasked with the charge. “Anat is equally skilled at thinking through environments and space.” says Dumbleton.
Saturday, September 28, 11–midnight. Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S Woodlawn Ave.
Oral histories

New this year, attendees can share their memories of listening to live jazz in Hyde Park and other South Side neighborhoods in a booth on the Midway. “You sign up to tell whatever story you want about a jazz or cultural experience on the South Side,” says Dumbleton. “[It’s] an idea that came out of some thinking I’d been doing with my students at the Art Institute. I would talk to [members of] the Hyde Park Jazz Society and kept thinking, why don’t we try documenting this?”
Saturday, September 28, Midway Plaisance, 731 E 60th St. 

Photo: MARC MONAGHAN Dee Alexander will close out the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on Sunday, September 29.

Dee Alexander will close out the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on Sunday, September 29.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from Saturday, September 28 to Sunday, September 29.

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Neil Tesser’s Not-to-miss Performances at the 2013 HPJF

September 27, 2013

Neil Tesser

My colleague Bill Meyer has already tipped his choices for Saturday’s schedule at the Seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which takes place this weekend at various venues in and around the University of Chicago. Bill’s picks center on the new-music performances taking place – which make up a greater proportion of the festival lineup than in years past – and I second his recommendations; I hope to hear most if not all of those artists myself. But the HPJF also boasts a superb roster of more straight-ahead and even mainstream bands, several of them making their festival debut. Here are a few (but certainly not the only ones) I’d try not to miss.

At 1:30 on the James Wagner Stage, trumpet ace Pharez Whittedleads the sextet heard on his last two albums – a band of brothers with enough high-powered sparkle to match Whitted’s own blistering horn work, starring his fellow native Hoosier Eddie Bayard on tenor, and fellow current Chicagoan Bobby Broom on guitar. Growing up in Indianapolis, Whitted developed a keen appreciation for the music and spirit of Freddie Hubbard (that city’s other noteworthy trumpeter), and modeled his style after Hubbard’s – no easy task, considering the extravagant but elegant virtuosity that Hubbard imparted to both the avant-garde and the mainstream in the 1960s and early 70s. But Whitted neither imitates nor parodies the Hubbard style; instead, he builds upon it to create a powerful 21st -century correlative, which has made him a formidable presence on the Chicago scene. The unassailable Chicago rhythm team of pianist Ron Perrillo and bassist Dennis Carroll bolster the front-line soloists, while another Indianapolitan – the fierce and soulful Greg Artry (an increasingly frequent presence on Chicago bandstands) – handles the drums.

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Bill Meyer’s Picks for the 2013 HPJF

September 27, 2013

Bill Meyer

Founded in 2007, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival is quickly developing into a major contender that could proudly wear the name of a whole city, not just a neighborhood. This year it spans two days and takes place in ten different venues, ranging from intimate indoor spaces to a large stage set up on the Midway Plaisance. The booking is similarly impressive, bringing in international stars like Anat Cohen, enduring local favorites like Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan, and an impressive representation of the city’s cutting-edge talent. The five ensembles profiled here constitute a short, but by no means inclusive, list of the festival’s cutting-edge acts.


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The Hyde Park Jazz Festival paints a portrait of the Chicago scene

September 26, 2013

Thirty-two acts at 11 venues, including Dee Alexander, Anat Cohen, Ken Vandermark, and Gerald Clayton

By  @pmarg


The Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates its seventh anniversary this Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, with the boldest, biggest, most comprehensive program in its history. Kate Dumbleton signed on as the festival’s executive director in spring 2012, giving her only a few months to put together her first effort, and this year’s event has clearly benefited from the extra planning time—no other fest showcases the breadth of Chicago jazz better. Thirty-two acts perform at 11 venues, all but two of which fit into a square of Hyde Park less than five blocks on a side. The 30 local groups cover such a dazzling array of styles and approaches that you’d never notice the absence of out-of-town acts, but a couple visitors sweeten the pot anyway, both playing Saturday—a trio led by New York-based pianist Gerald Clayton (7 PM, Logan Center) and a duo of agile Israeli reedist Anat Cohen and Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora (11 PM, Rockefeller Chapel). The majority of the festival’s sets fall on Saturday, and other highlights that day include a trio set from pianist Willie Pickens (2 PM, DuSable Museum), a rare performance by the Jeff Parker Trio (7 PM, International House), Ken Vandermark’s powerful Music of the Midwest School (9:30 PM, Logan Center), and the inventive quartet led by cellist Tomeka Reid (9:30 PM, International House). Sunday’s program takes place all over the Midway Plaisance and wraps up at 7 PM with a concert by power­house singer Dee Alexander. This year’s schedule also includes a handful of events that aren’t jazz performances: a Sun Ra panel, a DownBeat magazine “blindfold test” with Jeff Parker (conducted by yours truly), and DJ sets from Eternals front man Damon Locks. All shows are free and all-ages, though some small venues will likely hit capacity and turn people away. Admission is first come, first served (the sets by Clayton’s trio and Frank Rosaly’s Green and Gold are ticketed, but the free tickets, available at the Logan Center box office, are also first come, first served). Donations of any size are gladly accepted, of course, and for $125 you can get a Jazz Pass that guarantees you preferred seating for indoor shows. The festival provides free shuttles between shows; for a complete schedule and a list of venues, visit

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The stars gather for Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 26, 2013

Howard Reich - 10:48 a.m.CDT, September 26, 2013

CT  CT jazz25.jpg

It started out as a seemingly quixotic attempt by a group of South Side jazz lovers to celebrate the music – and it has become one of Chicago’s most ingeniously presented jazz gatherings.

The seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, running Saturday and Sunday, as always will encompass such unconventional settings as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, as well as the University of Chicago’s mighty Logan Center for the Arts and other locales.

All events are free, but some performances require tickets that will be available at the box office of the University of Chicago’s Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., starting at particular times noted below.

Following is an annotated guide to the most promising concerts. For more information, visit,0,2862877.column

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Year Seven for Jazz Festival

September 25, 2013


By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
Assistant to the Editor, Hyde Park Herald

This weekend’s seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will feature a healthy mix of veteran and newcomer performers,according to organizers.

More than 30 acts will perform at 10 venues spanning the neighborhood, from 1 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Sept. 28, and between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29. The lineup comprises Chicagoans, such as cellist Tomeka Reid and saxophonist Ari Brown, as well as out-of-towners.

“We have some musicians returning every year, because we think they’re wonderful, they have a big audience and they’ve been with us since the beginning,” said festival co-founder Judith Stein, who started helping to put the lineup together in late 2012. She cited pianist Willie Pickens and vocalist Dee Alexander as examples.

Stein added that the lineup featured “young and up-and-coming” performers such as saxophonist Caroline Davis and organist Ben Paterson, as well as edgier ones, including composer-saxophonist Ken Vandermark, a MacArthur Fellow: “He’s certainly more avant garde than some other musicians we’ve had,” Stein said. She called the 12-member supergroup, Chicago Yestet, a “who’s-who of Chicago musicians.”

Read more:

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NewCity Previews 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival

September 24, 2013


DeeAlexander1-JimNewberry-magnum High expectations for a festival in the neighborhood where the current President of the United States makes his home is a given. That the festival actually delivers on these expectations is quite remarkable, especially since there are no truly big names scheduled to perform. Instead, the focus is sharply attuned to the local free jazz scene. Perhaps the support of the festival’s lead and founding sponsor, the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, had an impact on the amount of research done to cater such an excellent set of Chicago musicians. Now in their seventh year, the festival opens with a panel devoted to the legendary Sun Ra, whose earliest Chicago performances often took place in the now defunct Club DeLisa nestled in the far less affluent, adjacent Washington Park neighborhood. To be sure, the University has done much to market to a broad range of Chicagoans, hence the importance of the inclusion of the DuSable Museum, and Little Black Pearl in Kenwood as venues for performances. The performers themselves are equally diverse, with Saturday stacked with everyone from Willie Pickens heading a gospel trio, to booking extraordinaire Mike Reed surfacing for a rare performance as band leader with outfit People, Places & Things. …

(Kenneth Preski) September 28 at eleven different Hyde Park venues, September 29 at James W. Wagner Stage at the Midway, 1130 Midway Plaisance West, also at the West Stage near Ellis. Festivities begin at 1pm. Free.

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Chicago Magazine: Top Jazz Shows in September

September 3, 2013

The Top Jazz Shows in Chicago in September

Posted Friday at 12:00 p.m.
By Mark Loehrke

9/28–29 at 1 The seventh edition of the city’s best music festival once again spreads over two days. Venues include the DuSable Museum, the Logan Center of the Arts, Robie House, the Rockefeller Chapel, and two main stages on the Midway Plaisance. Locations and details:

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Jazz Times Article

September 3, 2013

Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival Set for Sept. 28-29

Gerald Clayton, Anat Cohen among the headliners

By Jeff Tamarkin

The seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will take place in Chicago on Sept. 28-29. More than 30 bands are scheduled, on 13 stages. The free festival, which runs from 1p.m.-midnight on Saturday and 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, also features youth programming, an outdoor dance floor, and artisan vendors.

Gerald Clayton By Dragan Tasic

Anat Cohen By Atael Weissman


This full artist lineup is: Gerald Clayton Trio; Anat Cohen and Douglas Lora; Dana Hall Quintet; Ken Vandermark Ensemble: Music of the Midwest School; Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things; Dee Alexander Quartet; Miguel de la Cerna Trio; Douglas Ewart Trio; Mwata Bowden and the University of Chicago Jazz Xtet; Jeff Parker Trio; Tomeka Reid Quartet; Frank Rosaly’s Green and Gold; and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra with Tammy McCann.

The full schedule is available at Hyde park Jazz Festival.

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Fresh Takes: Jazz Travel and 2013 Summer Festivals

July 30, 2013

by zervelaura on July 26, 2013

Even though we are halfway through summer festival season, there is still plenty of time to get out there and hear some great live music! And if you’re a jazz lover, well, you’re in luck: a number of festivals throughout the U.S. promise musical sizzle from summer well into fall.

As a bonus, we’ve scored some advice from jazz experts to help you improvise a truly memorable encounter with four of America’s most musical cities, whether you are making a jazz pilgrimage or are a local looking to amp up your jazz experience.

3. Chicago Jazz

“The Great Migration” of the South’s African American population to the industrial cities of the North brought the roots of jazz with it. Musical pioneers such as “Jelly Roll” Morton and Bix Beiderbecke, the first white jazz master, proved that when it comes to jazz, Chicago plays by its own rules.

Chicago Jazz Festival: August 29- September 1, 2013: This year, the free two-day festival celebrates its 35th birthday with a swinging party in Millennium Park.  Local favorites perform alongside renowned national and international acts.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival: September 28-29, 2013: Local darlings of the Chicago jazzscene mix with well-known headliners for this free two-day festival. Be sure to take advantage of the dancefloor and picnic area when you’re not perusing the offerings of artisan vendors.

Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz: Weekly Series July 25th- August 29th, 2013: Millennium Park is filled with the sounds of Chicago’s leading jazz artists. A series of tribute concerts and retrospectives explores sonic connections to the music of Africa, Latin America and the jazz of Chicago’s South Side.

Expert Extras:

Rick O’Dell, Broadcaster and Founder at, talks truly unique jazz experiences in the Chicago area:

“Midweek after-work sets have been a popular attraction for many years at two non-traditional venues. The Shedd Aquarium presents live music in a remarkable one-of-a-kind location. With the lake on one side and the magnificent downtown skyline on the other, their patio is home to “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” Wednesday evenings, 5:00 to 10:00pm. Get there early if you want to beat the crowd.

Get on I-94 and travel north for ninety minutes (definitely a doable drive on a summer afternoon) and you’ll reach the Racine Wisconsin Zoo. They’re the surprising locale for a couple of notable shows next month. As part of the Zoo’s Wednesday night “Animals Crackers” series, Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb and Everette Harp perform on Jazz-Funk-Soul night, August 7, and saxophonist/flautist/world class whistler Nelson Rangell brings his triple-threat talent to the Zoo August 21. And David Benoit headlines at the annual HarborPark Jazz and Blues Festival in Kenosha Saturday, August 17.”

For the complete article, please visit

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Hyde Park Jazz Festival picks up the tempo

July 9, 2013


by Howard Reich, Arts critic

12:43 PM CDT, July 9, 2013

Several of the most intriguing bands in Chicago jazz, as well as national and international artists, will converge on the city’s South Side for the seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, running Sept. 28-29 in superb venues across the neighborhood.

Israeli clarinet master Anat Cohen will duet with Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Gerald Clayton, a distinctive pianist of the under-30 generation, will front a trio at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. And bands led by such widely admired Chicago innovators as MacArthur “genius grant” winner Ken Vandermark, drummer-impresario Mike Reed, explosive percussionist Dana Hall, multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart and vocal virtuosos Dee Alexander and Tammy McCann will reflect the vastness of 21st century Chicago jazz.

But this festival has a problem, albeit one that most young arts organizations would covet: It has grown so quickly that it barely can keep up with its audience. From the outset, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has attracted crowds in the thousands, but, remarkably, it remains a mostly volunteer-driven affair. Created in 2007 by an ad hoc group of South Side jazz lovers who gleaned support from the University of Chicago and other neighborhood institutions, the fest rapidly became a cultural rite and a force in Chicago jazz, yet to this day it has zero full-time employees.

“We have a six-year history, but we’re effectively a start-up,” says Kate Dumbleton, who last year became festival director, while the 2012 event was already well into the planning stages.

“We don’t have a printer, we don’t have stamps, we don’t have the basics.”

What they do have is something most other festivals lack: an unusually appealing format that ingeniously embraces its environment. Intimate chamber concerts at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, formal sets in the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, dance-band sessions on the Midway Plaisance – each booking is tailored to a signature Hyde Park venue.

Yet all of this is produced with the barest of resources. Dumbleton, who teaches full-time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, works for the festival under contract, as does music administrator Carolyn Albritton, and they’ve contracted with various parties to provide support for marketing and venue operations. A University of Chicago intern, a hands-on board and roughly 300 volunteers do everything else.

But an event as increasingly complex as this cannot run on a wing and a prayer forever, which is why the Hyde Park Jazz Festival now stands at a crossroads.

In January, the fest became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, no longer operating under the auspices of the now-disbanded Hyde Park Alliance for Arts and Culture. And this year is the first in which Dumbleton has been involved in programming from the first day of planning. In effect, she and the jazz aficionados who work with her have been dealing with two demanding tasks at once: building this year’s fest while starting to strategize for the future.

In a way, Dumbleton and friends are following the model of SFJAZZ, which started out in 1982 as the two-day San Francisco Jazz Festival and has become one of the most ambitious, year-round jazz presenters in the country.

“It’s an interesting thing when the community just comes together and makes an audience … and then you think: ‘Oh, we better build an infrastructure’ ” to support it, says Dumbleton.

At this point, Dumbleton does not know what form that organizational structure might take. In the next few months, she and her cohorts will see how much funding they can raise to transform the Hyde Park Jazz Festival from a once-a-year event that appears and quickly disappears, like Brigadoon, into an arts institution that can nurture jazz in Hyde Park throughout the year. Dumbleton envisions the Hyde Park Jazz Festival staging events in partnership with organizations such as University of Chicago Presents and the Jazz Institute of Chicago and collaborating with artists to create interdisciplinary works that encompass jazz, dance, theater and what-not.

Surely the intense public support the festival has enjoyed from the beginning shows that there’s an audience hungry for this kind of programming on the South Side, an ancestral home for jazz in America.

The programming for this year’s festival – which, like last year, has a budget of $300,000 – suggests that Dumbleton and friends are enhancing an already smartly conceived soiree.

For starters, this year’s fest will feature more experimental bands than ever, including Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things; Ken Vandermark’s Midwest School; Frank Rosaly’s Green and Gold; plus ensembles led by visionaries Douglas Ewart, Jeff Parker and Tomeka Reid. For slightly less daring tastes, the fest will present pianist Willie Pickens, saxophonist Ari Brown, singer Maggie Brown (no relation) and trumpeter Corey Wilkes, among others, though one hastens to add that these artists, too, routinely push beyond jazz convention.

Moreover, the festival scheduling has changed a bit this time around.

“One of the things we heard last year is that there was so much, that people couldn’t get to what they wanted to see,” says Dumbleton, acknowledging that stylistically related ensembles were playing at the same time at various venues.

So Dumbleton has tried to program similar attractions in sequence, so listeners who want to hear all the experimental artists, for instance, can catch one after another in different settings.

Two venues from previous years – the Hyde Park Art Center and Hyde Park Union Church – will not be part of the festival this time: They were already booked and could not participate. Dumbleton expects they’ll be back in 2014.

As always, the University of Chicago has been central to presenting the festival, says Dumbleton.

One other point: Rather than simply booking noted headliners who quickly assemble a band for the occasion, the festival has invited many artists to bring specific projects they’ve been nurturing. Thus Vandermark will feature his eloquent Midwest School, an illuminating ensemble that explores and re-conceives music of Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill and Julius Hemphill. And drummer Rosaly will lead Green and Gold, a unit that plays music of Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons.

If the Hyde Park Jazz Festival can generate this much creative programming during a single weekend, one hardly can imagine what it could achieve if it transformed itself into the larger producing organization it deserves to be.

Following is the complete performance lineup for the seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Film events, panel discussions and other related programming will be announced later. For details, visit

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to Twitter @howardreich

Download the complete 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival Schedule.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC,0,4244857.column


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Etienne Charles: “Creole Soul”

June 26, 2013

By Peter Margasak

Trinidadian trumpeter and bandleader Etienne Charles, who studied in Florida and lives in New York, puts a lot of thought into his albums, and the forthcoming Creole Soul (due July 23 from Culture Shock) is no exception. On his previous album, Kaiso, Charles transformed Trinidad’s best-loved export, calypso, with sturdy small-group jazz arrangements, fusing two traditions in which he’s completely fluent. His “creole soul” has a broader reach, sweeping up various strains of 20th-century Caribbean folk and pop (not just from Trinidad but also from Martinique, Haiti, and Jamaica) and feeding them into the ever-widening maw of modern jazz, in the process creating a multivalent hybrid that underlines the soulfulness of all its parts. The album opens with guest vocals by inventive Haitian roots singer Erol Josué (in the Haitian creole Kweyol) and includes deft interpretations of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” and Willie Cobbs’s Bo Diddley-inspired blues “You Don’t Love Me (No No No),” which was later transformed into a rocksteady classic by Jamaican singer Dawn Penn. The band also does a gorgeous version of the Mighty Sparrow calypso ballad “Memories” and accentuates the calypso feel of the melody in Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys.” Charles fronts the same strong band from Kaiso, including French saxophonist Jacques Schwartz-Bart, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Obed Calvaire, but this time out the arrangements are much slicker, veering dangerously close to glossy fusion—particularly on the three tracks that feature the antiseptic contributions of guitarist Alex Wintz. Tonight that shouldn’t be as big a problem, though: Charles plays a fund-raiser for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with Schwartz-Bart, pianist Christian Sands, bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Dana Hall, and percussionist Zach Himmelhoch.

When: Thu., June 27, 7:30 p.m.
Price: $50, $100 VIP, $10 students

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Etienne Charles’ brass forged from steel

June 21, 2013


Staff Reporter/

The trumpet has been a vessel of adventure for Etienne Charles.


The native of Port of Spain, Trinidad, divides his time between Long Island and Lansing, Mich., where he is an assistant professor of jazz trumpet at Michigan State University. His new album “Creole Soul” (Culture Shock Music) is framed by Haitian creole rhythms while featuring the reggae of Dawn Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me (no, no, no)” and the traditional calypso of Winsford Devine’s “Memories.”

Charles performs with his quintet Thursday in a Hyde Park Jazz Festival benefit concert at Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts.

He is only 29 years old.

Charles moved to the United States at age 19 to study jazz under piano player Marcus Roberts at Florida State University. Charles also holds a master’s from the Juilliard School.

From an early age, Charles played with steel drum crews in Port of Spain. “One of the steel bands in Woodbrook [neighborhood] was Phase II, which probably still is one of the most progressive experimental steel bands in Trinidad,” Charles said in a call from Long Island.

The sextet meshes contemporary instrumentation with traditional steel pan. Charles was absorbed by the forward motion of the sound.

“It is jazz-infusion influences,” he explained. “They took a lot of musical risks. Boogsie [Len Sharpe, arranger and founder] was a member of Monty Alexander’s group in the 1970. Monty is one of my mentors.”

Alexander is another story. He began his career as a reggae sideman with the Skatalites and Joe Higgs in his native Kingston, Jamaica, before becoming the house piano player in the early 1960s at the historic Jilly’s on 52nd Street in New York City. Jilly’s regular Frank Sinatra loved Alexander’s swinging mento (calypso-folk). Alexander had picked up jazz chops from late Skatalite trombonist Roland Alphanso, who was a fan of Lester Young.

So Charles’ jazz influences spin cycle through Alexander and Phase II.

“Then I like the seasonal music called parang which we play at Christmas in Trinidad,” Charles continued. “There’s cuatros and guitars and chac-chacs [maracas]. There’s a box bass, and they sing in Spanish,” he said. The parang was brought to the Island of Trinidad by Venezuelan farmers.

Charles’ mother Victoria was an urban planner. His father Francis was a land surveyor.

“He was one of the few people trained in land surveying and hydrography,” Charles said. “He now represents Trinidad on the United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea and Continental Shelf. My mother got a call from the ambassador to Nigeria. So they moved to Nigeria from 2007 to 2010.”

She became Trinidadan High Commissioner to Nigeria, where the embryonic trumpet player would visit the Slave Coast of Nigeria and in Ghana.

Francis Charles played in a steel band when Charles was young and was a DJ before he was born. By the age of 10 Charles was hearing Bob Marley around the house; he covers Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” with a slow New Orleans funk twist on “Creole Soul.”

When Charles was 5, his sister bought home a recorder from school. He learned to play the recorder. “Not long after that I started noodlin’ on steel pan because my dad had one at home,” he said. “My uncle gave me a trumpet when I was 10. He was in Toronto and he used to play the saxophone.”

The new track “Memories” is informed by Charles’ rich roots.

The song was inspired by the 2011 passing of steel pan percussionist Ralph MacDonald, a sideman to Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Buffett and John Lennon.

“I met Ralph on Carnival Tuesday [in Port of Spain] in 1998,” Charles said. “I was playing on-the-road [in street parades] on Carnival Monday. I used to be one of those kids playing on-the-road. I moved around in different bands. Somebody might get tired so you’d pick up iron sticks and play the iron, or play the congas. I ended up on the congas. This gentleman climbs up on the truck and starts playing the congas. It was Ralph MacDonald [whose father was from Trinidad]. We just rubbed shoulders. Fast forward to November 2005, and I was playing my first gig with Roberta Flack’s band.”

The Flack tour stopped in Stamford, Conn., where MacDonald lived with his family. MacDonald came to the sound check. Charles and MacDonald talked about Carnival 1998. They reunited when they were seatmates on a 2006 flight to the Barbados Jazz Festival. The relationship was solidified.

“I learned so much from him,” Charles said. “Understanding how to establish a groove. How to connect with a melodic level on the song. Keeping your improvisation and phrases clear. I learned how to handle time in the studio. Maintaining a connection to your roots and your music is the same thing I learned from Marcus Roberts. He is on all my records except for this one.”

MacDonald was a regular member of the touring band for Buffett, who is town at the same time as Charles. MacDonald was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and suffered a stroke in March 2011.

Charles visited MacDonald on a regular basis,

“It came to the point where he couldn’t feed himself,” he said. “So we would feed him ice cream flat in bed. It was humbling. That’s where ‘Memories’ came from. Every July 4, Ralph would have this huge barbecue at his house. He was a family man, and all the musicians he played with for years would come to the house. Will Lee [bassist on Paul Shaffer’s CBS Orchestra]. Buddy Williams [jazz drummer]. The session guys like Bones Malone, Hugh McCracken, who just died.

“Ralph couldn’t do his last July 4. But everybody still came over to spend time with him. In September I went to visit him, and the next weekend I had a gig in Ann Arbor. I had a half hour at the piano before the show and that [deliberate intro] arrangement came over me. It was a popular song [Trinidadians] use when people pass away. It’s an old [Mighty] Sparrow calypso hit.”

Charles has been teaching at Michigan State since 2009. He also conducts a jazz orchestra there.

“I just finished four years of running a jazz outreach program in Detroit,” he said. “We had about 40 students from late elementary through high school. There was a concert each semester. I would take MSU students as my mentors. It was a weekly program part of the Community Music School.”

And world music percolates in the spirit of community, from pan yards to Chicago’s Hyde Park.

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Why Chicago’s Jazz Scene Is On Fire

June 4, 2013

Chicago Magazine’s profile on Hyde Park Jazz Festival Director, Kate Dumbleton


The absence of significant jazz figures on Chicago’s Power List is a sad reality for the music industry. Despite its continued

vibrancy and inventiveness, the city’s jazz scene has long suffered the same fate as the music itself in the overall public consciousness—that of a once-great historical art form now shoved to the periphery of pop culture as a niche genre at best.


But the tired old “jazz is dead” debate seems particularly specious, especially in Chicago when someone like Kate Dumbleton is taking charge. Originally from the Bay, the veteran jazz advocate and former executive director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble became director of Hyde Park Jazz Festival last fall. “The level of musicianship and co-creative energy is like nothing I have seen anywhere else, and genre categories are continually blurring in the most interesting of ways,” Dumbleton says. “From a creative standpoint, Chicago is on fire.”

Built by volunteers as a free, locally-focused event in 2007, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival immediately set itself apart from the typical stage-on-hot-asphalt aesthetic by placing concerts within well-known Hyde Park institutions like the University of Chicago and the DuSable Museum of African American History. Those differences have made an impact, too. At a time when city-sponsored festivals are getting cut, the Hyde Park Jazz Fest expanded from one day to two and boasted more than 25,000 visitors. Not a bad time for Dumbleton to jump on board.

While Dumbleton says it’s important to uphold tradition, she also plans to propel the fest forward. “Growth for the sake ofgrowth makes little sense to me,” she says. “It takes time to develop organization in a smart and organic way.” But that’s not an easy sell in a world where there’s a desire to supersize everything. When Lollapalooza attracts over a quarter million people in July, it’s hard for a small festival to compare. But Dumbleton isn’t worried. “My greatest hope is that whatever we do in the future comes from a constant dialog with our ever-diversifying audience and from a fundamental commitment to the music. If can do that, the future will always be bright.”

Mark Loehrke is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine.


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Hyde Park Jazz Festival innovates as it enthralls

October 8, 2012


The eighth Hyde Park Jazz Festival was Kate Dumbleton’s first as its director, and she faced some headaches Saturday.

Traffic foiled vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz from making it for a Downbeat panel discussion alongside Dee Alexander, saxist Melvin Butler and trumpeter Marquis Hill at the University of Chicago’s brand new Logan Center for the Arts. Meanwhile, Damion Reid and Zack Lober of saxist Greg Ward’s ancipated “Phonic Juggernaut” didn’t make it in from New York. Ward rallied immediately, calling on local drummer Marcus Evans and bassist Michael Lough for his set at Little Black Pearl on East 47th Street.

With first-come-first-served ticketing (though all events were free), crushes of people were avoided for concerts in the Logan’s ninth-floor Performance Penthouse, where cellist Tomeka Reid presented her new chamber trio with bassist Josh Abrams and guitarist Matt Schneider. It was good to hear Reid, often in larger contexts amidst rafts of horns, in a more intimate environment focusing on her compositions, which included a dedication to the late violinist Billy Bang as well as a cover of Bang’s “Rainbow Gladiator.”

The setting in the penthouse resembled a smaller version of the Allen Room at Lincoln Center, with fine views of the University of Chicago’s Gothic buildings visible through side windows. Another superb trio, Sun Rooms, later graced the space, featuring drummer Mike Reed, bassist Nate McBride and Adasiewicz, that intense virtuoso of the vibraphone.

Notwithstanding crowd-pleasing shows from saxophonist Jarrard Harris’ Quintet and the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble on the twin stages on Midway Plaisance (the West Stage with dance floor, another addition this year), two more were particularly memorable for musical substance as well as stunning location. Violinist Zach Brock, like Ward a stellar Chicago musician who made the move to New York, dazzled three consecutive houses in the tiny upstairs room at Frank Lloyd Wright’s storied Robie House. Bunched in an alcove with bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Jon Deitemyer in the low-ceiling, Prairie-style room, Brock started with a Sonny Rollins-inspired “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” as folks peered through the stained glass windows from the outside balcony. An idiomatic shift from jazz to a more countrified vein heralded Brock’s poignant “Almost Never Was” with Ulery delicately ghosting notes over Deitemyer’s brushwork. After a nod to jazz violin hero Jean Luc Ponty’s 70th birthday, the trio finished with “Man of the Light” by Zbigniew Seifert, an all but forgotten Polish violinist Brock has continued to champion.

Thanks to an inspired idea by Dumbleton, Saturday’s events climaxed with a breathtaking solo recital in Rockefeller Chapel from Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon. Zenon proved why his honoring as both a MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow is wholly justified. With composure and humility he faultlessly mined deep internalizations of Puerto Rico’s folkloric traditions including Sylvia Rexach’s “Alma Adentro,” Pablo Milanes’ “Son de Cuba a Puerto Rico” and “Impromptu” by Luis Miranda. Zenon commenced with an obscure tribute to his home country originally played by Sidney Bechet, ending with an almost archaeological survey of Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico Tico,” made famous in the jazz world by Charlie Parker. Despite the absence of accompaniment, Zenon maintained a danceable rhythm throughout his Rococo yet never unduly repetitive extrapolations of basic material, sending his gorgeous alto tone (honed by classical studies in San Juan as well as jazz) reverberating 80 feet up into the nave of the sacred space. In short, unmissable.

Michael Jackson is a Chicago free-lance writer and photographer.

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Chicago Tribune: Hyde Park Jazz Festival transforms a neighborhood – with music

October 8, 2012

Read More Hyde Park Jazz Fest: Bop (and swing, and rock out) till you drop

September 28, 2012

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Shore Magazine: Hyde Park opens its doors to jazz

September 27, 2012

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Hyde Park opens its doors to jazz

September 26, 2012

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Timeout Chicago: Critic’s Pick

September 25, 2012

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Daily Herald: On the road: Move and groove at Hyde Park Jazz Fest

September 18, 2012

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Chicago Tribune: Victor Garcia trumpets a new septet at emerging Logan Center

September 13, 2012

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Chicago Tribune: Judith Stein is the hardest-working woman in jazz

September 10, 2012

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Chicago Tribune Fall Music Preview: Chicago jazz greats coming home

September 7, 2012

Chicago always has produced jazz giants, larger-than-life figures whose art towers over that of mere mortals. Who are today’s Chicago jazz giants? Following is an annotated guide to some of the titans who will be performing during the fall season.

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Chicago Tribune: Hyde Park Jazz Festival unfolds anew

August 8, 2012

Six years ago, it was a neighborhood soiree that — to everyone’s surprise — attracted turn-away crowds. Today, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival stands as a cultural force in its own right, an ever-expanding event that’s evolving into a bona fide artistic institution.

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Chicago Tribune: Miguel Zenon to headline Hyde Park Jazz Festival

July 16, 2012

Miguel Zenon, a MacArthur “genius grant” winner and one of the most admired young musicians in jazz, will headline the 6th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, a free event running Sept. 29 and 30 in various Hyde Park locations.
Zenon will play a rare solo show 10:45 p.m. Sept. 29 at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

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Chicago Tribune: Hyde Park celebrates jazz in every corner

October 10, 2011

What makes a great jazz festival? Certainly you need top musicians, superb venues, creative presentations, engaged audiences and a sense of constant reinvention and surprise.

By those criteria, the fifth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival – which ended Sunday – qualified as the most artistically satisfying fest on Chicago’s jazz calendar. That all the performances were free and open to everyone, yet not dependent on City Hall largesse, only underscored the miracle of this independently produced event.

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The Chicago Reader

September 23, 2011

Corey Wilkes

For its fifth YEAR the Hyde Park Jazz Festival expands to two days and features 16 venues hosting more than 40 shows this Saturday and Sunday (9/24-9/25). Saturday’s performances begin at 1 PM and culminate in a midnight jam session at the U. of C.’s Mandel Hall (1414 E. 59th).

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Two women swinging through the mostly male world of jazz

September 22, 2011

The 5th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will take place over the weekend. Among the many performers are two instrumentalists and composers – Diane Ellis and Tomeka Reid. Ellis’ saxophone and Reid’s cello are miles apart musically but the two share a passion for their craft. They also share another trait – they are women in a predominantly male profession. WBEZ’s Richard Steele spoke with the ladies about their influences and experiences as female jazz musicians. Click here to listen to the interview.

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A great jazz festival takes root in Hyde Park

September 20, 2011

Rarely has a Chicago musical institution grown as dramatically and impressively as the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. What started as a one-day event five years ago will double in duration this weekend, bringing top-notch musicians to first-rate venues across the neighborhood. But that’s just part of the story of this festival’s blossoming.

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