Music » Music Feature

The Reader's guide to the 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival

Previews of every act in Millennium Park and beyond, including Myra Melford, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Dave Holland's Prism, and Marshall Allen's centennial tribute to Sun Ra

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Last year the Chicago Jazz Festival uprooted itself from Grant Park, its home since its launch in 1979, and moved to a relatively confined but more comfortable space in Millennium Park. Despite some growing pains—sound bleed between stages, a hard-to-find new spot for the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion on the roof of the Harris Theater—the change was welcome. Pritzker Pavilion has far better sight lines and sound quality than the Petrillo Music Shell, and the side stages got upgraded too—in Millennium Park they have much more seating, and they're located inside weatherproof tents big enough to shelter the crowd as well as the performers.

New developments in 2014 include the absence of a festival artist in residence, who for the past few years has typically led a different group every day; fans will also have their first chance to hear live radio from the fest since WBEZ discontinued such coverage in 2002. WDCB 90.9 FM, owned by the College of DuPage, will dip a toe into those waters by airing Thursday-afternoon sets by the Paulinho Garcia Quintet and the Judy Roberts/Greg Fishman duo. (The station will also broadcast five solo piano concerts at PianoForte Studios, including John Wright on Tue 8/26 and Matthew Shipp on Wed 8/27.)

The fest lineup features the usual broad sampling from the deep pool of talent in Chicago, but as usual out-of-towners occupy most of the marquee slots. (Full disclosure: I volunteered on the committee that programs the festival.) On Saturday bassist Dave Holland leads his new band Prism, which features guitarist and former Tonight Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks; it explores the high-energy fusion Holland played early in his career, most famously on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way. On Sunday evening, rising star Cecile McLorin Salvant sings at Pritzker, combining a postmodern outlook with the verve and spirit of Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. On Friday pianist Myra Melford leads her quintet Snowy Egret (which includes drummer Tyshawn Sorey and guitarist Liberty Ellman) in its Chicago debut, followed by a set from trumpeter Terence Blanchard with guest stars Lionel Loueke and Ravi Coltrane. And saxophonist Marshall Allen, who turned 90 this spring, closes the festival with a celebration of the centennial of Sun Ra's birth in the form of a set by his always unpredictable Arkestra, which hasn't touched down in Chicago in almost 20 years. Peter Margasak

Thursday, August 28

Chicago Cultural Center: Randolph Cafe

Chris Foreman - CHRIS BENTLEY
  • Chris Bentley
  • Chris Foreman

[Recommended] Noon | Chris Foreman Trio

Hammond B-3 organist Chris Foreman has emerged from the well-kept-secret files to become one of the most beloved musicians on the Chicago jazz scene. A greasy-fingered traditionalist in the Jimmy Smith mold, his heart is in blues-based soul jazz, a style he positively owns—but he can also shape-shift to tackle relatively more modern material, as he proved in the defunct Deep Blue Organ Trio. Today Foreman plays with his working trio: drummer Alex Mills and guitarist Joel Patterson (whose own trio has the exact same lineup). John Corbett

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

Keefe Jackson - FRANK ROSALY
  • Frank Rosaly
  • Keefe Jackson

[Recommended] 12:15 PM | Keefe Jackson's Likely So

Jazz and reed instruments have gone hand in glove ever since the likes of Sidney Bechet and Larry Shields played clarinet on New Orleans stages (and on the first jazz records) a century ago. Between them the members of this international septet, led by local reedist Keefe Jackson, have four different clarinets and seven types of saxophone at their command, including the massive contrabass sax, and all that variety is for more than novelty's sake. The 11 tracks on Likely So's sole CD, last year's A Round Goal (Delmark), strike a satisfying balance between rip-snorting solos and masterfully executed arrangements that run the gamut from lush Ellingtonian textures to elaborate, ear-piercing overtone formations. Bill Meyer

Chicago Cultural Center: Preston Bradley Hall

12:30 PM | Paulinho Garcia Quintet

Brazilian guitarist Paulinho Garcia, perhaps Chicago's greatest exponent of bossa nova and samba, leads a quintet with reedist Greg Fishman, bassist Brett Benteler, and percussionists Geraldo de Oliveira and Heitor Garcia. Peter Margasak

Chicago Cultural Center: Randolph Cafe

John Brumbach - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times Media
  • John Brumbach

[Recommended] 1:30 PM | Erwin Helfer/ John Brumbach Duo

If you think of Erwin Helfer solely as the dean of barrelhouse, stride, boogie-woogie, and blues piano, you're in for a surprise today. Nimble tenor saxophonist John "Boom" Brumbach, whose many accomplishments include an appearance on Parliament's Mothership Connection, brings out Helfer's modern side, angling toward hard bop and soul jazz while brilliantly maintaining a basis in blues. The two square off for five tracks on last year's Erwin Helfer Way (The Sirens), the maestro's most recent album, named for his honorary stretch of Magnolia Street. John Corbett

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

David Boykin - STACY PATRICE
  • Stacy Patrice
  • David Boykin

[Recommended] 1:45 PM | David Boykin Expanse

The Jazz Festival doesn't have an artist in residence this year, but it does have an unofficial honoree. This year is the centennial of the birth of Herman Blount, who officially became Sun Ra while living in Chicago in the early 1950s and went on to lead one of the wildest and longest-­lived big bands in history. Today local reedist David Boykin and his band the Expanse will perform Boykin's Solar Suite, which celebrates Ra and his celestial namesake with mystical chants, propulsive rhythms, and the leader's exuberant, virtuosic saxophone solos. Bill Meyer

Chicago Cultural Center: Preston Bradley Hall

2 PM | Judy Roberts/Greg Fishman Duo

Pianist and singer Judy Roberts and saxophonist Greg Fishman left Chicago for Phoenix, Arizona, in 2007, and fans of their intimate interplay still celebrate the duo's return visits. Peter Margasak

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

3:15 PM | What Is This Thing Called "Jazz"? featuring Juli Wood's Chicago Calling trio with commentary by Mwata Bowden

At the festival's recent installments, the Jazz Institute of Chicago has invited artists to address the question of the genre's identity using words as well as music. Juli Wood has been answering it on local stages for decades, using her torchy singing and the big, bluff, hard-bop sound of her saxophone. In her Chicago Calling trio, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Avreeayl Ra lend special authority to her winning renditions of tunes such as Sun Ra's anthem "Saturn" and Johnny Griffin's "Soft and Furry." Educator and reedist Mwata Bowden will also be on hand to discuss the legacy of Captain Walter Dyett, the DuSable High School band director who schooled so many Chicago jazz musicians. Bill Meyer

Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University

4 PM | Sun Ra panel discussion with John Szwed, Marshall Allen, Art Hoyle, and John Corbett, moderated by William Faber

This discussion of the legacy of bandleader, composer, and keyboardist Sun Ra will be preceded by a short solo performance from reedist Marshall Allen, who currently leads Ra's old group the Arkestra. Peter Margasak

Pritzker Pavilion

6:30 PM | Homage to Nelson Mandela: Ernest Dawkins's Memory in the Center, an Afro Jazz Opera

The righteous resistance of Nelson Mandela, who died in late 2013, was hardly lost on American jazz musicians, since the genre's concern with freedom has often extended beyond music and into the realm of civil rights. Likewise, American jazz gave hope to South African musicians and fans during the dark days of apartheid. Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins is well suited to pay homage to Mandela—not only has he composed long-form works about Emmett Till, Fred Hampton, and the trial of the Chicago 12, but he's also made many working visits to South Africa, occasionally bringing musicians back here to collaborate. For this concert, some of those South African players will join Dawkins's preferred vocalists, singer Dee Alexander (whose tribute to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown went over big at last year's festival) and hip-hop poet Khari B. Bill Meyer

Friday, August 29

Von Freeman Pavilion

Noon | Xavier Breaker's Coalition

Chicago drummer Xavier Breaker seems to be turning up on local stages more and more, and if you've heard his explosive playing you already know why. Breaker can swing like mad, and with his relentless energy he draws new highs out of his bandmates—saxophonist Rajiv Halim, trumpeter Shaun Johnson, bassist Andrew Vogt, pianist Marcin Fahmy, and guitarist Joel Ream. By the end of a set, they're usually worn out. Peter Margasak

[Recommended] 1:10 PM | Joshua Abrams Quartet

A stalwart sideman in innumerable adventurous bands for the past 15 years, bassist Joshua Abrams has come into his own as a leader since 2010, when he released the LP Natural Information (Eremite). A born bridge builder with intergenre inclinations, in some contexts Abrams brings together hypnotic drone and free improvisation; in others he opts for a more driving jazz-based mode. This quartet, with sensational vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, powerhouse tenor saxophonist David Boykin, and multifaceted drummer Frank Rosaly, is a meeting of like minds, and the 2010 CD Unknown Known (RogueArt) proves it. John Corbett

Clark Sommers - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times Media
  • Clark Sommers

[Recommended] 2:20 PM | Clark Sommers (Ba)SH

In this trio, three heavies of the Chicago jazz ecosystem combine their powers under the leadership of Clark Sommers, widely known as Kurt Elling's bassist—and as he proves here, he's much more than a first-call sideman. Rounded out by omni­directional saxophonist Geof Bradfield and drummer Dana Hall, who has the strength and finesse for any job, Ba(SH) take full advantage of the looseness and intimacy of the trio format. On their self-titled 2013 debut, released by the Origin label, they take care not to slip into the default setting that would situate the sax at the front of such a lineup; instead they fully integrate, moving so deftly between the composed and the improvised that you'll be hard-pressed to find the seams. Sommers is always a treat, with his gloriously palpable sound and infallible musicality, but no group shows him off as well as this one. John Corbett

Russ Johnson - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times Media
  • Russ Johnson

[Recommended] 3:30 PM | Russ Johnson Quartet

After two decades in New York, trumpeter Russ Johnson moved to Milwaukee in 2011 to take a teaching gig at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, and ever since then the Chicago jazz scene has benefited hugely from his proximity. Earlier this year his working Chicago quartet—bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Tim Daisy—released Meeting Point (Relay Music), which is more open, improvisational, and rhythmically driving than his previous postbop recordings, with less reliance on form. Daisy plays like a beast, pushing the group hard with off-kilter funk beats and coloristic splatters, while Stein acts as an extroverted, high-energy front-line foil, countering Johnson's plush melodies with constellations of astringent upper-register sound. Peter Margasak

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

12:30 PM | Howard Alden/Andy Brown Quartet

California-based Howard Alden is arguably the finest living practitioner of pure swing guitar, and last year he joined forces with one of his disciples, Andy Brown, who champions the style in Chicago. Heavy Artillery (Delmark) is a feast of brisk 1930s-style toe tappers distinguished by sublime interplay and ringing harmonies. The band also includes bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Bob Rummage. Peter Margasak

2 PM | Paul Marinaro Quartet

On the recent Without a Song (Myrtle), Chicago singer Paul Marinaro displays the influence of a much older vocalist—his father, Joseph. The album opens with a homemade acetate of "That Old Black Magic" that his pops cut as a young man (he never pursued music professionally, instead laying asphalt to support his large family), and the repertoire is pure Great American Songbook, which Marinaro sings with a directness that privileges melody over all else. He's joined by pianist Tom Vaitsas, drummer Mikel Avery, and two musicians from the previous band on this stage, guitarist Andy Brown and bassist Joe Policastro. —Peter Margasak

3:30 PM | Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet

Last year trombonist Wayne Wallace, a fixture on the Bay Area Latin-jazz scene, relocated to Bloomington, Indiana, after landing a teaching gig at Indiana University, but he's maintained this west-coast quintet. Bassist David Belove, pianist Murray Low, drummer Colin Belove, and conguero Michael Spiro carve deep, propulsive grooves (albeit occasionally heavy-handed ones) behind Wallace's slinking, strutting horn with its fat, buttery tone. The trombonist's recent Latin Jazz—Jazz Latin (Patois) features a bunch of guest musicians and singers, and its surfeit of strings and flutes gives the music a charanga flavor, but here he'll perform with his working band, bringing the energy of salsa dura to straight-ahead postbop. Peter Margasak

Pritzker Pavilion

5 PM | George Freeman/Mike Allemana Quartet

For what seemed like eons, anyone lucky enough to see Von Freeman's band at the New Apartment Lounge on a Tuesday night got to hear a sparkling young guitarist, so vibrant and full of ideas that he'd sometimes steal attention from the tenor man. Since Vonski's passing in 2012, Mike Allemana has continued to grow and evolve, and he's now seeking a graduate degree in ethno­musicology while keeping his chops sharp in a variety of bands. Today he'll be facing off on the front line with Von's younger brother, George Freeman, an 87-year-old jazz treasure and part of a bona fide Chicago dynasty, comparable to the Marsalis clan in New Orleans (it also includes Von's older brother, drummer Bruz, and one of his sons, saxophonist Chico). George famously played with Charlie Parker and worked for many years with organist Richard "Groove" Holmes, but he's also made muscular, funky records of his own. John Corbett

6 PM | Rufus Reid

Bassist Rufus Reid, a Northwestern alumnus who got his professional start in Chicago in the early 70s, is known for his versatility and sensitivity—he can provide a backbone to hold all sorts of bands together. He's made plenty of recordings as a leader, and he released his most ambitious album to date, Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project (Motema), just days after his 70th birthday in February. Catlett was an African-American printmaker and sculptor, and Reid was inspired by specific pieces of hers—his frenetic, almost orchestral large-band pieces translate the figurative and abstract shapes of Catlett's work into exquisite polyphony. Tonight he leads a smaller but no less excellent group: saxophonist J.D. Allen, pianist Steve Allee, trumpeter Derrick Gardner, and drummer Winard Harper. Peter Margasak

Myra Melford - BRYAN MURRAY
  • Bryan Murray
  • Myra Melford

[Recommended] 7:10 PM | Myra Melford's Snowy Egret

Last year Evanston-born pianist Myra Melford released one of the most striking albums of her career, Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12). Dedicated to visual artist Don Reich, this solo recording is by turns beautifully delicate and emotionally turbulent, but even at its stormiest it feels contemplative. This weekend is the Chicago debut of her quintet Snowy Egret, which was also inspired by an artist—in this case Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Melford's cohorts bring fragile empathy and steely resolve to her pensive, discursive compositions, which take the blues as their backbone (she studied under Erwin Helfer) but radiate in countless directions from there. Tyshawn Sorey's forceful drumming powers the band, and guitarist Liberty Ellman alternately acts as harmonic foil and melodic lead. Bassist Stomu Takeishi serves as an anchor without feeling too heavy, and trumpeter Ron Miles contributes a burnished tone and thoughtful solos that pierce the music like rays of golden light. Peter Margasak

Terence Blanchard - NITIN VADUKUL
  • Nitin Vadukul
  • Terence Blanchard

[Recommended] 8:30 PM | Terence Blanchard with Ravi Coltrane and Lionel Loueke

For last year's Magnetic (Blue Note), trumpeter Terence Blanchard invited the members of his young, forward-looking quintet to contribute material they'd written themselves—a gambit that has paid dividends, not only broadening the band's sound but also giving his bandmates a more concrete investment in the music. The album's sound is a moody, smoldering take on the music of Miles Davis's 60s quintet—another group that relied on every member to shape its aesthetic—but it's polished and transformed into something incontrovertibly contemporary. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and guitarist Lionel Loueke make guest appearances on Magnetic, and both reprise their roles tonight. Peter Margasak

Saturday, August 30

Young Jazz Lions Pavilion

11:30 AM Jones College Prep Jazz Combo

12:15 PM Pritzker College Prep Jazz Combo

1 PM Curie Metropolitan High School Jazz Ensemble

1:55 PM Elmhurst College Jazz Ensemble

2:50 PM Morgan Park High School Jazz Ensemble

3:45 PM Kenwood Academy Jazz Ensemble

Von Freeman Pavilion

Noon | Clif Wallace Quintet

Chicago drummer Clif Wallace fronts a flexible young quintet with pianist Justin Dillard, trumpeter Justin Copeland, saxophonist Brent Griffin Jr., and bassist Christian Dillingham. Peter Margasak

1:10 PM | John Campbell Trio featuring Kelly Sill and Joel Spencer

Before postbop pianist John Campbell left town in the mid-80s, moving to New York and later Los Angeles, he was a first-call sideman on the Chicago scene, reliably offering sturdy, tasteful support. On this rare return visit he reunites with two old colleagues, bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Joel Spencer. Peter Margasak

2:20 PM | John Wojciechowski Quartet

Saxophonist John Wojciechowski doesn't have an especially high profile, but he's become an integral part of Chicago's postbop scene, thanks in large part to his unobtrusive versatility. He's good at fitting in, and he does it in all sorts of groups, including the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and bands led by pianist Ryan Cohan and drummer Dana Hall. Cohan and Hall return the favor today, backing Wojciechowski in a quartet with bassist Dennis Carroll, an equally versatile and ubiquitous player. Peter Margasak

3:30 PM | Corey Wilkes Quintet

Trumpeter Corey Wilkes excels whether he's playing high-octane hard bop, R&B-inflected originals with his group Black Slang, or free jazz as Lester Bowie's replacement in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Lately his quintet has been combining all those ideas into a coherent whole; its lineup includes bassist Junius Paul, keyboardist Robert Irving III, drummer Xavier Breaker, and vibist Justin Thomas. —Peter Margasak

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

Laurenzi/Ernst/Green - KATIE GRAVES
  • Katie Graves
  • Laurenzi/Ernst/Green

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Laurenzi/Ernst/Green

As sturdy as tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi and drummer Andrew Green are, the focal point of this exciting young Chicago trio is bassist Katie Ernst. On the group's self-released debut, Sightline, she not only exhibits excellent time but also reliably supplies melodic elaboration with her woody, muscular lines. She also sings occasionally, displaying the nuance and presence of a seasoned vocalist. She won't be playing early sets on Jazz Fest side stages for long. Peter Margasak

Chicago Underground Duo - COURTESY NORTHERN SPY
  • Courtesy Northern Spy
  • Chicago Underground Duo

[Recommended] 2 PM | Chicago Underground Duo

Cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor have sustained their partnership in the Chicago Underground Duo (which has also been, at various times, the Chicago Underground Trio, Quartet, and Orchestra) through stretches of many years when they lived in different cities or even on different continents; though Mazurek moved his home base back to Chicago from Brazil several years ago, Taylor is currently in Brooklyn. One thing that's kept them together is their mutual love of experimentation—they augment Mazurek's boldly melodic horn and Taylor's swinging rhythms with grooves and textures appropriated from Afrobeat and electronic dance music. They also share a chemistry that ensures that even their sparsest gestures complete one another. Bill Meyer

3:30 PM | Kurt Rosenwinkel

Perhaps the most influential jazz guitarist of his generation, Kurt Rosenwinkel has raised the bar for melodic generosity and harmonic opulence—and on his most recent album, 2012's two-disc set Star of Jupiter (Wommusic), he takes both to new heights. Together its 12 songs, all originals, construct a sumptuous sound world that's as sturdy as it is ornate; Rosenwinkel's playing is propelled firmly by bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jason Faulkner and given almost preternaturally intuitive shading by keyboardist Aaron Parks. For this set, drummer Colin Stranahan replaces Faulkner. Peter Margasak

Pritzker Pavilion

5 PM | Ari Brown Quintet

Tenor saxophonist Ari Brown has spent most of his career as a sideman—he cofounded the Awakening in the early 70s and later played in bands led by Elvin Jones, Lester Bowie, and Kahil El'Zabar, among others—so it's easy to underestimate his importance. Ever since he began leading a steady group of his own in the 90s, though, it's been clear that he's a keeper of the flame, upholding Chicago's tenor tradition. On last year's Groove Awakening (Delmark), he frictionlessly meshes soul jazz, free jazz, and brisk postbop, even retrofitting Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" with a reggae feel. Brown's blowing is authoritative, and his technical mastery extends to playing two horns at once, a la Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The deep pocket provided by his band—brother Kirk Brown on piano, Yosef Ben Israel on bass, Avreeayl Ra on drums, and Dr. Cuz on percussion—perfectly complements his power and presence. Peter Margasak

Gary Burton - JIMMY KATZ
  • Jimmy Katz
  • Gary Burton

[Recommended] 6 PM | Gary Burton

Last year vibraphonist Gary Burton released Guided Tour (Mack Avenue), the second album by the New Gary Burton Quartet—it was the first time in more than three decades that he'd put out two consecutive recordings with the same lineup. Unsurprisingly the quartet's personnel have changed since then, and this set is Chicago's first chance to hear the newest member, Ukrainian-born piano prodigy Vadim Neselovskyi. He has a refined touch and exquisite restraint, and I'm especially excited to hear how he'll interact with his colleagues who play chordal instruments, Burton and guitarist Julian Lage (another in a long line of Burton discoveries that includes Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell, and Donny McCaslin). Also new to the quartet, though not as new as Neselovskyi, are bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Henry Cole. —Peter Margasak

7:10 PM | Tom Harrell's Colors of a Dream

Tom Harrell is no stranger to Chicago stages, but the 68-year-old Urbana-born trumpeter has never before brought to town anything quite like this band. A former sideman for reedist Phil Woods and pianist Horace Silver, he's often favored a particularly lyrical strain of bop. His group tonight has no pianist, just a drummer (Johnathan Blake), two saxophonists (Jaleel Shaw and Wayne Escoffery), and two bassists (Ugonna Okegwo and Esperanza Spalding). Spalding also sings, and her Brazilian-­influenced vocalese often functions like a third horn. The absence of a keyboard frees up plenty of space for tight three- and four-part harmonies and elegant contrapuntal bass lines. Bill Meyer

Dave Holland - GETTY
  • Getty
  • Dave Holland

[Recommended] 8:30 PM | Dave Holland's Prism

When they're awash in unbounded egos, supergroups are a drag. Though Prism qualifies as a supergroup by most definitions, its members keep the self-aggrandizement in check, so that musicality is always at the helm. Bassist Dave Holland uses this lineup to explore his fusion roots (he played with Miles Davis from 1968 through 1970), and its sound is a far cry from his other bands. He's invited guitarist Kevin Eubanks, keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland to contribute equally, and the results are surprisingly mondo, high-test jazz, with sophisticated forms, engrossing structural intrigue, and plenty of balls-to-the-wall energy. Though Eubanks is probably the most visible of Holland's comrades (he led the Tonight Show band for 15 years), Harland and Taborn are Prism's secret weapons—the latter is a wellspring of propulsive rhythms, and the former can draw on a dizzying harmonic imagination no matter what wicked electronic keyboard he's wielding. John Corbett

Sunday, August 31

Young Jazz Lions Pavilion

11:30 AM Chi Arts Jazz Combo

12:15 PM Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz Links Youth Ensemble

1 PM St Charles North Jazz Ensemble

1:55 PM Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy Jazz Ensemble

2:50 PM University of Illinois at Chicago Jazz Ensemble

3:45 PM Noteworthy Teacher's Ensemble

Von Freeman Pavilion

Noon | Neal Alger's Blue Note Quartet

Versatile local guitarist Neal Alger, best known for his years working with Patricia Barber, formed this combo in 2010 to celebrate the golden era of Blue Note Records, playing tunes originally cut for the label in the 50s and 60s by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, and Horace Silver. Alger's quartet consists of saxophonist Scott Burns, drummer George Fludas, and bassist Matt Ferguson (an alum of Von Freeman's New Apartment Lounge band). Peter Margasak

1:10 PM | Tammy McCann Quintet

Chicago singer Tammy McCann, schooled in the tradition of greats such as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson, collaborates in this new quintet with pianist Laurence Hobgood, former musical director for Kurt Elling, who brings a contemplative sophistication to everything he touches. Vibist Justin Thomas, bassist John Sutton, and drummer Sam Jewel round out the lineup; an album is on the way. Peter Margasak

2:20 PM | Dennis Luxion/Michael Raynor Quartet

This eloquent postbop quartet formed for a tour of Africa sponsored by the U.S. State Department in 2011, and their chemistry turned out to be so strong that they stuck together after they got back (though they're spread all over the country). Pianist Dennis Luxion and drummer Michael Raynor (a longtime member of Von Freeman's New Apartment Lounge band) are joined by bassist Jeff Pedraz and alto saxophonist Greg Ward. Peter Margasak

3:30 PM | Chicago Yestet

On the Chicago Yestet's recent second album, Just Say Yes (Tiddlywinks Music), trombonist, arranger, and composer Joel Adams has tightened up this little big band's sound and given it an R&B flair that complements the vocals of Maggie Burrell. The extra polish has come at the expense of the freewheeling energy of the group's early days, but the lineup still has loads of firepower: saxophonists Geof Bradfield, John Wojciechowski, and Chris Madsen, trumpeters Marques Carroll and Russ Johnson, trombonist Tom Garling, pianist Ryan Cohan, guitarist Mike Allemana, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Xavier Breaker. For this set, Cherise Thomas and spoken-word artist Rob Dz will handle lead vocals. Peter Margasak

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

Tomeka Reid - JOHN STURDY
  • John Sturdy
  • Tomeka Reid

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Tomeka Reid Quartet

Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid leads this sweet-and-sour quartet, where she's joined by guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. The band debuted in Chicago earlier this year and recorded a forthcoming album of Reid's graceful, elegant compositions, imbuing them with an irresistible tension; Halvorson and Fujiwara add a push-pull that makes the already great material even more dramatic and dynamic. Reid has come into her own in the past few years, and it feels like she's taking a victory lap with this vibrant band, weaving together heart-­tugging melodies, swinging grooves, and liquid polyphony. —Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy Delmark Records
  • Sun Rooms

[Recommended] 2 PM | Sun Rooms

Over the past five years, with a string of great records and partnerships with international improvisers, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz has emerged as one of the leading lights of the Chicago creative-music scene. His compact band Sun Rooms proves incontrovertibly that he deserves his success. With a plosive touch and wide-open ears, Adasiewicz treats this group like a blown-out piano trio, reveling in its intimacy but playing with an intensity that pushes the limits of the format. With formidable drummer Mike Reed and powerful bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (now based in Austin), Sun Rooms tackle favorites from the songbooks of Sun Ra and Duke Ellington as well as material by Hassaan Ibn Ali, a lost figure whose lone album under his own name needs to be better known. On their 2011 CD Spacer (Delmark), they stick mostly to original material, and they're no worse for it. John Corbett

Albert "Tootie" Heath - DANIEL SHEN
  • Daniel Shen
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath

[Recommended] 3:30 PM | Tootie Heath Trio

Pianist Ethan Iverson has proved himself adept at giving veteran drummers new platforms, first with Billy Hart and now with Albert "Tootie" Heath, brother of reedist Jimmy and bassist Percy. Last year's Tootie's Tempo (Sunnyside), with Iverson and bassist Ben Street, is a marvel of inventive interpretation. On the Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova "How Insensitive," Heath plays with a funereal sobriety, using only a mallet on a reverberant low tom, while Iverson makes like Chopin. And on "Danube Incident," Iverson employs rattling, clanging prepared piano to tease out mawkish emotion and lyrical beauty as Heath adds lean muscle. Too often younger jazz musicians seem cowed by the prospect of working with their elders, but here the creative provocations go both ways. Peter Margasak

Pritzker Pavilion

Bobby Broom - TODD WINTERS
  • Todd Winters
  • Bobby Broom

[Recommended] 5 PM | Bobby Broom Trio

The recordings that peerless Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom makes with his trio are almost always shaped by a precise conceit—a program of Monk tunes, for instance, or a reimagining of 60s pop tunes as jazz vehicles. His excellent new album, My Shining Hour (Origin), is devoted entirely to standards, which is only notable because it's something he hasn't done before. Bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven provide a crisp, punchy framework for Broom's improvisations, and he's never sounded better—he delivers his patient, melodically generous lines in a gorgeously clear, biting tone. Peter Margasak

6 PM | Miguel Zenon Quartet

Few jazz artists invest the care into developing conceptual underpinnings for their projects that Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon does. He uses his albums to explore specific ideas and repertory, including traditional and popular music from his homeland: jibaro, plena, romantic ballads, salsa burners. He describes his forthcoming record, Identities Are Changeable (due in November on his own Miel label), as "inspired by the idea of national identity as experienced by the Puerto Rican community in the New York City area." Zenon has lived there since 1998, and he combines recorded interviews with locals of Puerto Rican descent with elegant arrangements for his working quartet, fleshed out by an additional dozen horn players. The kaleidoscope of viewpoints paints a vibrant collective portrait, but the words and music don't marry especially smoothly. Tonight Zenon will show off his skills as a small-group leader and soloist, performing with pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Eric Doob. Peter Margasak

Cecile McLorin Salvant - JOHN ABBOTT
  • John Abbott
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant

[Recommended] 7:10 PM | Cecile McLorin Salvant

Singer Cecile McLorin Salvant has taken the jazz world by storm since releasing her U.S. debut, WomanChild (Mack Avenue), last year. She conveys the verve and spirit of classic singers such as Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, but her viewpoint is thoroughly post­modern, accommodating a repertoire that reaches beyond jazz—she reimagines the antique Bert Williams vehicle "Nobody," for instance, replacing its droll pessimism with something more outgoing, and transforms the traditional American folk song "John Henry" into gospelized funk. Unlike most current jazz singers, she makes restraint her default position, singing with a sense of purpose but without flash. This means that her rare baroque flourishes—such as the wordless shapes in the introduction to the title track—carry that much more power. Peter Margasak

Sun Ra Arkestra - KEN WEISS
  • Ken Weiss
  • Sun Ra Arkestra

[Recommended] 8:30 PM | Sun Ra Arkestra

When Sun Ra left the planet in 1993, it was by no means guaranteed that his Arkestra would survive him. But saxophonist Marshall Allen, now 90 years old, stepped into the breach, keeping veterans as well as newcomers to the band on their toes with alternate arrangements of Ra tunes, oldies from the swing era (or from Disney movies), and his own originals. Allen even took over the role once filled by Ra's electronic keyboards, playing otherworldly whoops on an EVI (electronic valve instrument). The Arkestra, whose sets are enlivened by retro-fabulous sci-fi attire and space chants that invite audience participation, was formed in Chicago six decades ago, but it hasn't played here since 1996—consider this a homecoming. Bill Meyer

The jazz doesn't end when the festival turns out the lights

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things play at Constellation on Thu 8/28. - GIOVANI PESCO
  • Giovani Pesco
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things play at Constellation on Thu 8/28.

One of the most exciting parts of the Chicago Jazz Festival is the looser, more spontaneous shows that happen around town each night. Trumpeter and reedist Ira Sullivan returns from Florida once again to host the traditional Jazz Showcase jam sessions, backed by the rhythm section of pianist Stu Katz, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer Greg Artry; these sets reliably attract high-profile artists in town for the fest, and club manager Wayne Segal says this year's likely guests include Terence Blanchard, Dave Holland, Rufus Reid, Ravi Coltrane, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Tom Harrell, Esperanza Spalding, and Miguel Zenon.

The Jazz Showcase jams tend to be pretty mainstream, but if you're looking for something more avant-garde, you have a couple good options. David Boykin's eighth annual Hereafter Fest has moved to posh new digs in the Performance Penthouse of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the University of Chicago campus, and Constellation hosts outward-bound performances by a quartet of New Orleans saxophonist Edward "Kidd" Jordan, Mississippi drummer Alvin Fielder, New York pianist Matthew Shipp, and local bassist Joshua Abrams; the group will be joined by local fire breathers as well as a few out-of-towners before each night concludes.

HotHouse has been without a permanent home since shutting down its Balbo location in 2007, but it's presenting a postfest concert on Sunday with Harrison Bankhead's Velvet Blue Quartet and guests Vincent Chancey (French horn) and Marshall Allen (reeds). And though the Jazz Record Mart's annual Sunday jazz brunch isn't happening this year, PianoForte has stepped up with a free solo set by Laurence Hobgood and complimentary bagels. Peter Margasak

Thursday, August 28

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things 9:30 PM, Constellation, $10, 18+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, $20, $35 VIP, 21+

Friday, August 29

Hereafter Fest VIII: Nicole Mitchell Quartet, Renegade Collaboration, DJ Anaya Contreras 10 PM, Performance Penthouse, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, $10 suggested donation, all ages

Kidd Jordan, Alvin Fielder, and friends See Soundboard. 9:30 PM, Constellation, $20, $15 in advance, 18+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, $20, $35 VIP, 21+

Saturday, August 30

Hereafter Fest VIII: David Boykin Expanse, Microcosmic Sound Orchestra, DJ Anaya Contreras 10 PM, Performance Penthouse, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, $10 suggested donation, all ages

Kidd Jordan, Alvin Fielder, and friends See Soundboard. 9:30 PM, Constellation, $20, $15 in advance, 18+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, $20, $35 VIP, 21+

Hanah Jon Taylor Artet; members of the AACM and Asian Improv Arts Midwest with Tatsu and Kyoto Aoki, Mwata Bowden, and guests 10 PM, Elastic, $15, $10 students, all ages

Sunday, August 31

Harrison Bankhead's Velvet Blue Quartet with guests Vincent Chancey and Marshall Allen, DJ Ayana Contreras 8 PM, penthouse at 117 N. Jefferson,, $25, $20 in advance, all ages

Laurence Hobgood 10 AM, PianoForte Studios, free

Rempis Percussion Quartet 10 PM, Hungry Brain, $10 suggested donation, 21+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, $20, $35 VIP, 21+

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