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Chicago Jazz Festival

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The Reader's Guide to the 30th annual

The 20th and 25th birthdays of the Chicago Jazz Festival passed without much hoopla, but for its 30th the Jazz Institute of Chicago has assembled the strongest fest lineup in many years, bookended by sets from two of the last bona fide living legends in jazz, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman. The festival has also commissioned new work from no fewer than four important envelope-pushing artists—trumpeter Dave Douglas, pianist Vijay Iyer, bandleader Gerald Wilson, and trombonist T.S. Galloway—and Galloway's piece, an homage to educator Walter Dyett, is a welcome change from the festival's usual ad hoc tribute bands.

Other highlights include the venerable ICP Orchestra—one of Europe's best and most compelling ensembles—and top-notch Latin jazzman Eddie Palmieri. As usual there's a healthy local contingent too, covering a wide range of styles and eras; among them is the festival's artist-in-residence, reedist and composer Edward Wilkerson Jr., one of the greatest talents to emerge from Chicago in the past three decades. He's kept an unfortunately low profile lately—performances by his groups 8Bold Souls, Frequency, and the Shadow Vignettes are increasingly rare—but he'll be onstage twice this weekend, Saturday as part of the Chicago Bass Masters tribute and Sunday with the Souls and superb local vocalist Dee Alexander.

Aside from the high quality of the bookings, perhaps the most noteworthy development this year is the incorporation of Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park as a Jazz Fest venue. Since 2003 the festival has opened with a Thursday-night ticketed event at Symphony Center, but for '08 that's been replaced with a free concert by Rollins at the Pritzker, the city's best (and best-sounding) outdoor venue. Friday through Sunday the headliners play at the Petrillo Music Shell as usual, but hey, it's a step in the right direction.

All the other action is in Grant Park as well, and as always the music is free. Afternoon sets are at the Jazz on Jackson stage (on Jackson near Lake Shore Drive) and the Jazz& Heritage Stage (south of Jackson near the Rose Garden), where the programming includes family-oriented shows and concert-demonstrations. Friday through Sunday the New Orleans All-Star Brass Band—a group assembled especially for the fest from members of several Crescent City outfits, including the Pin Stripe, Paulin Brothers, and New Birth brass bands—plays two sets on Jackson between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive, one at 11 AM and the other at 4 PM. The Petrillo is at Columbus and Jackson, and after the music ends at the lakefront, there's more on offer around town every night. —PM


Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

6:30 PM Sonny Rollins

RVery tough choice—watch Obama's acceptance speech, or go see one of the most important living jazz musicians hit the big stage. Sonny Rollins is at once a primary architect of the contemporary tenor-saxophone sound and a radical individualist with a style unlike anyone else's. Nearing 80, he retains the astonishing command of phrasing that's always been one of his hallmarks; if you've never heard his breakneck soloing with drummer Max Roach, do yourself a favor. Rollins's discography spans nearly 60 years and includes some of the most essential albums of the 20th century, like The Bridge, Our Man in Jazz, and Saxophone Colossus, recorded with a who's who of jazz greats. Over the past couple decades many of his colleagues have been less inspiring, but last year he triangulated with sterling young bassist Christian McBride and venerable drummer Roy Haynes for a Carnegie Hall concert that was recorded for a live album. Rollins's current band, with trombonist Clifton Anderson and electric bassist Bob Cranshaw (an Evanston native who's worked with him for ages, including on The Bridge back in '62), is improved by the presence of eloquent Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom, who makes it a sextet. —JC


Jazz on Jackson

Noon Isotope 217

RIsotope 217, which shares three members with Tortoise, was one of the great exponents of funk-jazz during Chicago's improvised-music explosion of the 90s. Combining groove-based percussion (props to Dan Bitney and John Herndon), a dubby, electronic-dance ambience, and strong horn soloing, they totally sidestep jam-band excesses with their focused musicianship and smart experimentation. Rob Mazurek, the melodic voice of the Chicago Underground groups, adds jazz content with his cornet playing and tasty textures with his laptop, and Jeff Parker—unquestionably one of the best jazz-rock guitarists in the world—contributes a nasty streak you wouldn't expect from such a sweet soul. A quintet since the departure of trombonist Sara P. Smith (bassist Matt Lux rounds out the group), Isotope has been inactive for most of the past seven years—this performance ought to pleasantly surprise folks who thought it was defunct. —JC

1:10 PM Jazz Guitar Summit featuring Curtis Robinson, John Moulder, Jeff Parker, Buddy Fambro, Robert Shy, and Josh Abrams

This jam brings together some very different fretboard personalities, all of whom have earned their wings with years in working bands. Jeff Parker, best known as a member of Tortoise, is an experimenter and mutator of styles, while John Moulder works within the lineage of contemporary jazz guitar—quite a lot of territory, admittedly—as a leader and in drummer Paul Wertico's group. Curtis Robinson, who's played with Freddy Cole and Ramsey Lewis, is the straight man; guitarist number four, Buddy Fambro, has also recorded with Lewis, as well as with rapper Skee-Lo and alt-folkie Michelle Shocked. Drummer Robert Shy and bassist Josh Abrams provide the motor. —JC

2:20 PM Alison Ruble Sextet

Vocalist Alison Ruble has become a fixture at clubs like Andy's and Pops for Champagne, and earlier this year she released her debut, This Is a Bird (Origin Music), a set of standards and jazzy pop tunes that she lights up with grace and clarity. She's a restrained singer and prefers to stay relatively faithful to the written melodies, coloring them with subtly tweaked phrasing and careful shifts in pitch instead of taking liberties. She's joined by her fine working band: guitarist John McLean, pianist Jo Ann Daugherty, reedist Jim Gailloreto, drummer Tim Davis, and bassist Larry Kohut. —PM

3:30 PM "Jazz Has the Blues" featuring George Freeman and Billy Branch, Ari Brown, and Corey Wilkes

It's axiomatic that jazz and blues grow from the same tree, but put them on the same stage and one form usually dominates the other. This time might be different. Though harmonica player Billy Branch is the only bona fide bluesman here, guitarist George Freeman and saxist Ari Brown have never been shy about flashing blues roots on their excursions into soul- and avant-jazz, respectively, and on his recent debut, Drop It (Delmark), trumpeter Corey Wilkes goes out of his way to prove he can play pretty much everything. —BM

Jazz & Heritage Stage

12:30 PM Kenwood Academy Jazz Band with Nicole Mitchell

Nobody is more deserving of the accolades she's received than AACM flutist, composer, and bandleader Nicole Mitchell. An inspiring teacher at UIC, Mitchell also brings her empathetic powers to the Chicago Public Schools, specifically Kenwood Academy, and today she and some of Kenwood's top student musicians will share the results of this year's artist-in-residence program. —JC

2 PM "History of Jazz" with Ron Perrillo

It's shocking that pianist Ron Perrillo hasn't made a record under his own name—he's one of Chicago's toughest players, both as a sideman for the likes of Bobby Broom, Geof Bradfield, and Scott Burns and as leader of his own fine trio, which gigs regularly at venues like Pete Miller's and Andy's. Today he gets a chance to show off his range with this jazz-history primer. —PM

3:30 PM "Jimmy's Jam Session" featuring the Curtis Black Quartet plus Ahmad Salaheldeen, Edward House, and Zaid Krisberg

Trumpeter Curtis Black has been leading a jam session every Sunday at Hyde Park's Woodlawn Tap for 15 years, and this afternoon he'll transplant the gig a few miles north. His working group—guitarist Ari Seder, bassist Cory Biggerstaff, and drummer Doug Mitchell—sits squarely in the postbop tradition, but as a jam-session band these guys have learned to accommodate a wide variety of guests. Today three regular visitors from the Woodlawn—old-school bebop saxophonist Ahmad Salaheldeen, postbop tenorist Edward House, and young-gun trumpeter Zaid Krisberg—will join in on a selection of Charlie Parker classics. —PM

Petrillo Music Shell

5 PM T.S. Galloway's tribute to Captain Walter Dyett featuring Julian Priester, Mwata Bowden, Edwin Daugherty, and Von Freeman

RTrombonist T.S. Galloway was an early member of the AACM, but before that he was part of another crew that would prove at least as influential—he was among the students of the great Captain Walter Dyett at DuSable High School, Chicago's fabled incubator of jazz greats. Galloway went on to play with Count Basie and cofound the superb soul-jazz band the Awakening—which reunited early this year—but he's spent most of his career as an educator and theatrical music director. Today he'll present a commissioned piece called "Red and Black," which takes its name from DuSable's school colors, and the large group he's assembled to play it includes fellow DuSable alums like trombonist Julian Priester and reedists Edwin Daugherty, Mwata Bowden, and Von Freeman (as well as two of Galloway's bandmates in the original Awakening, pianist Ken Chaney and reedist Ari Brown). —PM

6 PM AACM Tribute featuring Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Amina Claudine Myers, Michael Logan, and Thurman Barker

RThough drummer and educator Thurman Barker turned 60 this year, with this set he's acknowledging a formative influence from his teen years. That's when he, like most of this group—a sort of dream team Barker convened as a birthday present to himself—was a first-wave member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Given the broad range these five artists have displayed in their work, they could play almost anything here—and given the rigor with which they approach all their projects, you can be sure they'll do it right. —BM

7:10 PM Dee Dee Bridgewater tribute to Betty Carter with Mulgrew Miller, Ira Coleman, and Wynard Harper

Last year crowd favorite Dee Dee Bridgewater released one of her most fascinating records, a collaboration with some of Mali's finest traditional musicians called Red Earth (Emarcy), and despite the unusual setting her bold vocal improvisations sounded right at home. Tonight she'll be in more familiar surroundings, but she's still challenging herself. Supported by pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummer Wynard Harper, she's paying homage to Betty Carter, one of the most original and idiosyncratic jazz singers ever. —PM

8:30 PM Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band

RWhen it comes to hard-core Latin jazz, there are few people more authoritative than pianist Eddie Palmieri—a dynamite improviser and composer, he's been leading killer bands for more than four decades. In the early 60s his combo La Perfecta transformed punchy violin-and-flute-driven charanga dance tunes into extended blowing sessions, adding jagged rhythms and avant-garde harmonies to the deeply soulful vocals, irresistible percolating percussion, and punchy contrapuntal arrangements. In the 70s he experimented with funk and soul in the Harlem River Drive project, and in the early aughts he formed La Perfecta II, but for much of the past couple decades jazz has taken center stage in his music—he keeps coming back to it, tearing off outward-bound solos atop the familiar patter of the clave. Simpatico (ArtistShare), his most recent album, is a collaboration with trumpeter Brian Lynch, a longtime member of his bands; Lynch is also part of the superb lineup here, alongside trombonist Conrad Herwig, bassist Luques Curtis, and percussionists Jose Claussell, Vicente Rivero, and Orlando Vega. —PM


Jazz on Jackson

Noon Jo Ann Daugherty Quartet

Working in mainstream jazz is a mixed bag—just look at pianist Jo Ann Daugherty. Chances are you haven't heard of her, which is often the case when someone sticks to the tradition and doesn't ruffle feathers. But by not ruffling feathers—and by applying her considerable chops with consistent good taste—she's managed to gig steadily since she moved to Chicago a decade ago. Today she leads her regular quartet, with bassist Lorin Cohen, drummer Ryan Bennett, and saxophonist Chris Neal; they'll play her solid but unspectacular compositions. —PM

1:10 PM Chicago Bass Masters featuring Larry Gray, Harrison Bankhead, Robert Irving III, Charles Heath, Art Hoyle, and Edward Wilkerson Jr.

RBassists Larry Gray and Harrison Bankhead move in different circles—the former plays with Ramsey Lewis, the latter with Fred Anderson—but they share a virtuoso approach to the instrument. They've played together before, in Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory, and today they'll perform Gray's suite "Tribute to the Chicago Bass Masters," honoring departed Chicago bassists Malachi Favors, Fred Hopkins, Wilbur Ware, and Eldee Young with an ensemble that features festival artist-in-residence Edward Wilkerson Jr. on reeds. —BM

2:20 PM John Wright Quartet

RIn the late 1950s, Chicago pianist John Wright cut four LPs for Prestige, recording either with an elegant soul-jazz trio or a greasier quartet with tenor sax; they remain one of the best-kept secrets in Chicago jazz, difficult to find but well worth searching out. Wright is part of the Chicago school of bluesy piano that includes Willie Pickens and John Young, and he's been working regularly at Philander's in Oak Park for two decades. Here he'll lead a hornless quartet that features another important local working man, drummer William "Bugs" Cochran, whose resumé includes a 1950s stint with Sun Ra. —JC

3:30 PM Kenny Burrell with Willie Pickens, Larry Gray, and Joel Spencer

Detroit native Kenny Burrell is the quintessential jazz guitarist, an unassuming, flexible musician with good taste and an infallible swing. Though he seems unlikely to achieve the fame of a player like Wes Montgomery, he's worked with legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Gil Evans, and Jimmy Smith. He applies a clean-toned sound to a masterful style that colors fluid bebop phrasing with a deep knowledge of the blues, and despite his age—his most recent recording is 75th Birthday Bash Live! (Blue Note), and he's 77 now—his virtuosity is undiminished. Burrell also plays tonight at Petrillo with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. —PM

Jazz & Heritage Stage

12:30 PM James Sanders's Conjunto

RLed by violinist James Sanders, a fluent jazz improviser who's also a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta, this local group adds a strong jazz flavor to Afro-Caribbean music of various stripes—it's one of the few bands in the area that plays charanga, the classic Cuban dance style that uses a flute-and-violin front line. (Flutist Steven Eisen doubles on sax, which helps the group tackle other idioms.) Most charanga outfits are much larger, but with its richly contrapuntal arrangements and three propulsive percussionists, this compact combo sounds plenty big. —PM

2 PM "Percussion Discussion" with Thurman Barker

RThe AACM's emphasis on percussion during its early years in the late 1960s paved the way for the rise of some great young drummers, and Thurman Barker was among the strongest—he's worked in memorable contexts with the likes of Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, and Sam Rivers. He's been on the faculty of Bard College since 1993, and he'll draw on his pedagogical chops for this performance-lecture. —JC

3:30 PM Walter Dyett: Remembering a Jazz Warrior

Captain Walter Dyett, the bandmaster at DuSable High School from 1931 till '61, still looms large over Chicago's jazz scene. He helped instill professionalism in musicians as disparate as Dinah Washington and Bo Diddley as well as many early members of Sun Ra's Arkestra. Among the panelists for this discussion of his legacy is former John Coltrane bassist and longtime University of Wisconsin professor Richard Davis. —BM

Petrillo Music Shell

4:30 PM Remembering Franz Jackson: Eric Schneider, Art Hoyle, Tom Hope, Dan Delorenzo, and Robert Cousins

One day soon, jazz will no longer have any players who were around for its formative years. In May it lost another of the few who'd seen the full expanse of the music's history—beloved Chicago tenor saxophonist Franz Jackson, very familiar to festivalgoers, died at 95. This tribute is led by two of his many friends and colleagues, tenor saxophonist Eric Schneider and trumpeter Art Hoyle. —JC

5 PM Pharez Whitted Sextet

RTrumpeter Pharez Whitted, director of jazz studies at Chicago State University, has thankfully abandoned the tepid, funked-up smooth jazz he made for MoJazz, Motown's dismal jazz imprint, in the early 90s—care for a Fairlight-kissed spin on TLC's "Creep," anyone? Even on such weak material it was clear Whitted had mean chops, but he sure sounds better on the recent Ari Brown album Live at the Green Mill (Delmark), where his improvisations ripple with postbop fire and fluidity. Tonight he leads a killer band—guitarist Bobby Broom, bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Kobie Watkins (aka the Bobby Broom Trio) plus tenor saxophonist Eddie Bayard and pianist Ron Perrillo. —PM

6 PM Vijay Iyer Quintet

RPianist and composer Vijay Iyer is one of the most exciting and creatively restless figures in jazz. What sets him apart isn't the number of bands he plays in—most jazz musicians have to work in many projects just to pay the bills—but rather that he seems to take advantage of every situation to explore a new facet of his art. Earlier this year his quartet released Tragicomic (Sunnyside), whose flinty, tightly knit arrangements and turbulent tunes rely on a rigorously unified, rhythmically driven sound. Iyer has tackled political subjects in multimedia projects with MC Mike Ladd and addressed the music of his Indian heritage in other bands—but it's impossible to neatly sum up what any one of his groups is about, because his ideas flow so freely between them. Tonight he presents the debut of a commissioned suite called "Far From Over," which takes its title from a comment that one of Sean Bell's relatives made after his killers were acquitted. The powerful rhythm section from his quartet—drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Stephan Crump—is joined here by exciting young Nigerian-born trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and dazzling guitarist Prasanna, who leaps between traditions with ease and has found a way to play Carnatic music on electric guitar. —PM

7:10 PM Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy

RTrumpeter and bandleader Dave Douglas integrates and transmutes an impressively wide variety of styles—Balkan brass, the work of the classic Miles Davis Quintet, experimental electronic music—in his fiercely original compositions. He formed his band Keystone—which appears on his latest release, Moonshine (Greenleaf)—to play original soundtracks for silent Fatty Arbuckle films, but it's already transcended that mandate. Tonight another newish Douglas project, Brass Ecstasy, makes its Chicago debut. Active since 2005, it pays homage to trumpeter Lester Bowie—a primary influence on Douglas—whose group Brass Fantasy transformed a motley selection of pop songs with an ineffable mix of post-New Orleans brass-band swagger, cheeky Vaudeville humor, and postbop urgency. With tonight's set, Douglas will wink at the Bowie group's repertoire, playing a mix of originals and radically retooled pop tunes. The lineup includes two Brass Fantasy alums—French horn player Vincent Chancey and trombonist Luis Bonilla—as well as tubaist Marcus Rojas and drummer Ben Perowsky. —PM

8:30 PM Gerald Wilson Orchestra with Kenny Burrell

LA bandleader, trumpeter, and arranger Gerald Wilson, who celebrates his 90th birthday a few days after this set, is a living piece of big-band history. He worked under Jimmy Lunceford in the late 30s and formed his own group in the 40s; when he took a break from the band in the 50s to hone his craft, he played on west-coast sessions with and wrote arrangements for the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. In the early 60s he resuscitated his group—over the decades Joe Pass, Charles Tolliver, Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, Anthony Ortega, Bobby Hutcherson, Richard "Groove" Holmes, and Jack Wilson have passed through its lineup—and cut a series of influential records for Pacific Jazz. He continues to lead the band, releasing records at a steady pace and writing tunes that provide bold, brassy vehicles for his strong soloists. Tonight the group will perform a commissioned work, joined by legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell (see above). —PM


Jazz on Jackson

Noon Frank D'Rone Quartet

This veteran Chicago guitarist and vocalist harks back to the era when "pop singer" meant Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Back in the 60s he cut a series of albums for Mercury—at the height of his fame he made appearances on The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show—and played plenty of lounges in Las Vegas casinos, and decades later his sound is preserved in amber. There's nothing offensive about his crooning style, and it certainly has its adherents, but he's almost as anachronistic as a Dixieland band. Though I can't say I care that much about the etiquette, I have to wonder: Will he wear a tuxedo for such an early gig? He's backed by pianist Tom Hope, drummer Jerry Coleman, and bassist Nick Schneider. —PM

1:10 PM "Chicago Keys" with Bob Dogan and Jim Trompeter

Bob Dogan has a sweet touch and a complex style, a la Bill Evans, and here he joins fellow pianist Jim Trompeter, a Green Mill regular, for a tete-a-tete. You may have heard Trompeter's work even if you don't listen to jazz: he composes music for commercials, films, video games, and slot machines, and has even toured with Gloria Estefan's Miami Sound Machine. —JC

2:20 PM Josh Berman & His Gang

RLocal cornetist Josh Berman balances a mile-wide progressive streak and a profound love of jazz from all eras, and in this excellent sextet he combines them explicitly. The name of the band is a reference to the Austin High Gang, a group of white musicians from the west side—including Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, and Jimmy McPartland—that starting in the early 20s sought to put their stamp on the jazz coming out of New Orleans and, later, Chicago. Berman's gang revisits that repertoire, but his arrangements thoroughly update the music, altering tempos and revamping counterpoint and harmony. Some of his versions, like a bluesy reading of "Ja-Da," are relatively faithful, and others, like his take on "Love Is Just Around the Corner," turn the tune inside out—but even then there always seems to be some element (in this case Jason Stein's bass clarinet part) that refers directly back to the original. The band has only played a handful of gigs, but the material is so rich and the lineup so strong that I expect great things. Berman is joined by Stein, clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio (who played this music growing up in Buenos Aires in the 50s), trombonist Jeb Bishop, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Frank Rosaly. —PM

3:30 PM Sean Jones Group

Sean Jones only recently turned 30, but he's been an attention magnet for half a decade already. As lead trumpet in the Lincoln Center jazz orchestra, he has a gripping presence, but his four popular albums as a bandleader have smothered him with slick production—despite his preternatural grasp of hard-bop fundamentals, he can't cut through the woozy keyboards, bland vocal cameos, and glib jazz-funk arrangements. With any luck his band—which includes superb pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Brian Hogans, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Obed Calvaire—will sound better live. —PM

Jazz & Heritage Stage

12:30 PM Vijay Iyer: Composer Talk

RFew composers weave more ideas into their music than pianist Vijay Iyer. Plenty of jazz musicians write good tunes, but Iyer invests his work with serious theory and organization. I'm sure he could fill his hour here talking about nothing but the different angles he's pursued in the commissioned piece he'll debut tomorrow night—he says it references the classic John Coltrane Quartet, Alice Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys, Anthony Davis's band Episteme, and the UK group Asian Dub Foundation. —PM

2 PM "Art of the Solo" featuring Julian Priester

RChicago native Julian Priester was an early member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, gigging with the extraterrestrial bandleader at Budland on the south side in the early 50s. A supple, forceful trombonist, he went on to work in all sorts of contexts, leading hard-bop bands, recording with John Coltrane, and playing in Dave Holland's great 1980s quintet. Priester has proved himself ceaselessly inventive and consistently open-minded, and he's one of the few trombonists of his generation who feels perfectly comfortable playing without accompaniment. —JC

3:30 PM Karl Montzka Quartet

Ubiquitous local organist and pianist Karl Montzka made a record as a bandleader in 1999, but for the most part he works as a sideman, lending support to folks like singer Alison Ruble, guitarist John McLean, and former Chicago reedist Jeff Newell. Today he leads his own straight-ahead quartet with brother Eric on drums, Ryan Schultz on bass trumpet, and McLean. —PM

Petrillo Music Shell

5 PM Ron Dewar Quintet

RTenor saxophonist Ron Dewar has been on the Chicago scene since the 60s, and even given that he's barely documented on disc, it's hard to account for how unrecognized he is. I first heard him in a trio with Josh Abrams and Robert Barry at Smoke Daddy in the 90s, and it was a shock—great sound, feel, originality, composure, confidence. It's only fitting that he play the main stage; his quintet today features Willy Garcia on alto. —JC

6 PM ICP Orchestra

RChicagoans have been very fortunate over the past decade to have had regular opportunities to hear one of the most important and procedurally original ensembles in the history of jazz, Holland's Instant Composers Pool Orchestra. Led by pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg and anchored by his partnership of more than 40 years with drummer Han Bennink, ICP not only serves as a clearinghouse for some of the great voices in improvised music today—including reedmen Ab Baars, Michael Moore, and Tobias Delius, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, cellist Tristan Honsinger, and violinist Mary Oliver—but also manages to fold together free play and composition in a heretofore inconceivable manner, moving fluidly between spontaneity and premeditation. Hugely influential on subsequent generations of curious improvisers, ICP has both a sense of iconoclasm and a streak of sweetness, and sometimes blends the two into a hilariously successful mashup—expect Ellington, Monk, Herbie Nichols, clank, clatter, Dada, and Hoagy Carmichael. Mengelberg hasn't been in great health in recent years, so don't skip this one lightly. —JC

7:10 PM 8 Bold Souls with Dee Alexander

RThe artist-in-residence at this year's festival, reedist Edward Wilkerson Jr., has led 8 Bold Souls for 23 years. The octet epitomizes the AACM philosophy of making music that's at once forward looking, aware of its past, and deeply personal. Wilkerson, like Duke Ellington and Gil Evans, tailors his ravishing arrangements to show off his musicians' gifts—Robert Griffin's exuberant brass forays and Mwata Bowden's stirring clarinet extrapolations, as well as Wilkerson's own solos, leap out of the richly upholstered textures and mobile rhythms supplied by the low horns and strings to create narratives as thrilling as well-directed chase scenes. The Souls have been honing their edge with weekly gigs at the Velvet Lounge this month, and Wilkerson has written a new piece for the festival that features guest vocalist Dee Alexander. —BM

8:30 PM Ornette Coleman

RAlbum titles like Skies of America and In All Languages speak to Ornette Coleman's expansive ambition. Throughout a career that spans more than 60 years, this famously innovative saxophonist has breached musical, social, and commercial boundaries—in the process being branded a charlatan and winning a Pulitzer—on a quest for pure, untrammeled musical communication. To that end he's played with acoustic and electric jazz combos, symphony orchestras, rock stars, Moroccan trance musicians, video screens, and body-piercing artists; he's also taught himself trumpet and violin so that he can fill in when an orchestra isn't handy. This astonishing range notwithstanding, Coleman has always achieved his most powerful expressions of joy and longing—and of the beauty in communally articulated melody—when he plays alto in a small group, like he will tonight. He's bringing a quartet with his son Denardo on drums, acoustic bassist Tony Falanga, and electric bassist Al McDowell—an uncluttered setting that will not only allow you to hear the clarity of his lines and his bright, gorgeous tone, undiminished by his 78 years, but also the way his compositions invite the other players to comment on and contribute to the music's kinetic, lyric flow. —BM

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