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Chicago Jazz Festival 2016: Sunday

The bill on September 4 features the Charles Rumback Sextet, Erwin Helfer, Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights, the John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet, and much more.

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Millennium Park

Young Jazz Lions Stage

11:30 AM | Alexis Lombre Quintet

12: 50 PM | Joel Ross's Good Vibes

2:10 PM | Hanging Hearts

3:30 PM | Foster Meets Brooks Big Band

Von Freeman Pavilion

  • Courtesy DCASE

Noon | Kendall Moore Octet

Trombonist Kendall Moore was a key member of many local groups before packing his bags for Boston, including the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Two years ago he displayed his leadership abilities on the self-released Focus, a modern, uncluttered sextet session with a couple guest horn players. He returns to lead an impressive combo with some old running mates: saxophonist Mark Small, trumpeter Chris Klaxton, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Matt Ulery, drummer Michael Piolet, guitarist Jim Tashjian (also of prog band District 97), and singer Leslie Beukelman. —Peter Margasak

  • Jacob Hand

[Recommended] 1:10 PM | Charles Rumback Sextet

Chicago drummer Charles Rumback, though overlooked both at home and abroad, has long been one of the city's most versatile players, moving easily between jazz styles and gracefully bridging the gap between rock and experimental music. On last year's In the New Year he made an overdue return as a bandleader, convening a top-notch quintet with bassist John Tate, guitarist Jeff Parker, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and alto saxophonist Caroline Davis. Rumback complements his rumbling, post-Paul Motian playing—it's more than just timekeeping, also giving the music heft, texture, and mood—with compositions as rich and dark as mahogany. He relies on Tate to maintain a pulse within a simmering collision of independent melodies; in "Right Reasons" and "Dragons in Denver," beautifully scarred, lapidary lines coalesce and pull apart, their balance of tranquility and turbulence demonstrating the group's collective empathy. The diversity of instrumental colors helps Rumback bring his music to life: the cool and muted tone of Parker's guitar, the astringent bite of Davis's serene alto, and the wonderfully rheumy edge of Stein's swooping bass clarinet. Because Rumback's collaborators don't all live here (and because they've got busy schedules of their own), he's had to overhaul his lineup for the festival, but he's put together a stellar sextet with Tate, reedists Greg Ward and Tony Malaby, trumpeter Ron Miles, and pianist Jim Baker. —Peter Margasak

  • Harvey S. Tillis

[Recommended] 2:20 PM | George Fludas Quartet

It's hard to decide what to talk about here, the leader or the band. George Fludas is one of the greatest drummers ever to come out of Chicago, an impeccable swinger with imagination, class, moxie, and a clear sense of the full span of jazz tradition. Put him together with three members of Chicago jazz's royal family—guitarist Bobby Broom, pianist Ron Perrillo, and bassist Dennis Carroll—and you can't call it anything but a supergroup. If you're awake and listening, you know Broom's sensational, soulful, and extremely sophisticated approach, but if you're not familiar with Perrillo, pay special attention—he's one of the most exciting contemporary pianists in jazz, and should be better known on the national stage. —John Corbett

  • Brett Deutsch

[Recommended] 3:30 PM | Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor

Barry Altschul is one of jazz's unsung heroes, an imaginative drummer who's made great contributions to classic recordings by the likes of Sam Rivers, Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, and Paul Bley. He was a crucial figure in the New York avant-garde of the 60s and 70s, and while his profile has fallen since then, the quality and rigor of his playing have not. Recently he's been attracting well-deserved attention for this spry, elastic working band, which features bassist Joe Fonda and powerhouse saxophonist Jon Irabagon—a Morton Grove native who's also one of the most versatile, skilled, and exciting reedists today. Last year's terrific Tales of the Unforeseen displays the trio's range, opening with a lengthy group improvisation of breathless reach and moving inside with a smoldering rendition of Monk's "Ask Me Now." —Peter Margasak

Jazz and Heritage Pavilion

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Erwin Helfer

Pianist Erwin Helfer just dropped a new album titled Last Call, but I trust it won't be a swan song, despite the fact that he turned 80 earlier this year—this local treasure sounds as good as ever. The early blues and jazz styles Helfer has mastered never sound stale or old-­fashioned in his hands, and Last Call balances wisdom and vitality, especially on midtempo fare such as his take on "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor." The album concludes with archival recordings cut in 1957 with the great singer Estelle "Mama" Yancey, and there's another track from '79 that features her and bassist Truck Parham—they're both links to the earliest days of Chicago jazz and blues. Some of the new material includes contributions from regular Helfer cohorts, among them singer Katherine Davis and saxophonist John Brumbach, but today the pianist plays in the context I love best: solo, where his remarkable sense of time and pitch-­perfect touch can really shine. —Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy DCASE

2 PM | Norman Simmons Trio

An overlooked figure in Chicago's dynamic jazz scene of the 50s and 60s, pianist Norman Simmons was a linchpin in pickup bands that backed all sorts of touring greats. He's made only a few recordings under his own name—a shame, because those he has released are models of elegant economy and bluesy grace. He largely built his reputation supporting great vocalists, including Joe Williams, Anita O'Day, Helen Humes, Carmen McRae, and Ernestine Anderson, but on this rare return to his hometown he leads a classic piano trio with bassist Marlene Rosenberg and drummer Greg Artry. —Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy Doreen Ketchens

3:30 PM | Doreen's Jazz New Orleans

Doreen Ketchens is a bona fide New Orleans jewel, a monster clarinetist and charismatic vocalist whose masterful take on traditional jazz dispenses with the stiff museumlike feel that hampers the likes of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. She plays in Crescent City clubs, but her real home is the outdoor performances that she gives most days at the corner of Royal and St. Peter Streets. Her nimble band includes her husband, Lawrence, on tuba, valve trombone, and piano; David Hammer on guitar; and Dwane Scott on drums. —Peter Margasak

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

  • Maciej Kaczynski

[Recommended] 5 PM | Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights

Michael Zerang was born and raised in Chicago, and he's been a vital part of the city's music and theater communities since the 70s. But the percussionist, improviser, and composer has also maintained a long-standing engagement with improvising musicians from the Middle East—he's toured Yemen and played festivals in Lebanon, and earlier this year he traveled to Europe to join self-proclaimed "Free Middle Eastern Music" combo Karkhana. In the Blue Lights, Zerang is joined by four stalwarts of Chicago's free-jazz scene—cornetist Josh Berman, bassist Kent Kessler, and saxophonists Mars Williams and Dave Rempis—and together they apply raucous, celebratory polyphony to tunes learned from or inspired by Middle Eastern pop and classical music. —Bill Meyer

  • Delphine Diallo

6 PM | Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

For much of his career, sublimely skilled New Orleans-bred trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah has seemed to be seeking a sound that would fit his outsize talent. It couldn't be contained by the postbop he grew up playing, and over the years he's experimented with admixtures of various genres—Mardi Gras Indian music, funk, hip-hop, rock, traditional Cuban styles—with often middling results. Last year, however, he released an album whose title sums up what he's been after: Stretch Music. "My core belief is that no form of expression is more valid than any other," Scott explains. "This belief has compelled me to attempt to create a sound that is genre blind in its acculturation of other musical forms, languages, textures, conventions and processes." Plenty of players make noises like that, but Scott delivers, leading an agile band that braids together diverse ideas with a rare sense of purpose—it probably helps that such egalitarian syncretism characterizes a lot of Crescent City music. His band includes flutist Elena Pinderhughes, saxophonist Braxton Cook, pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Corey Fonville. —Peter Margasak

[Recommended] 7:10 PM | John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet

I was ambivalent about the music that guitarist John Scofield started making in the late 70s, after he recorded with Charles Mingus, but I became a fan once he paired up with saxophonist Joe Lovano in the late 80s. They made four great Blue Note albums together between 1989 and 1994, and with drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Dennis Irwin (who died in 2008), they formed one of the era's best mainstream groups. Since then I've maintained an enduring appreciation for Scofield—though I've been less than enthusiastic about his jam-band projects. Last year the quartet reunited, with Larry Grenadier replacing Irwin, and they picked right up where they left off on the terrific Past Present. The gap of more than two decades doesn't hurt the music at all—the band's classic postbop sound exists beyond shifting trends. Scofield and Lovano have always had an easy rapport: the latter injects funk and soul, while the former adds stridency and exploratory grit. Scofield wrote all the tunes, and they cover plenty of ground. Highlights include "Chap Dance" (which weds an Ornette-style melody to a quasi-cowboy lope a la Sonny Rollins's "Way Out West"), the shimmering "Get Proud" (flavored with 70s blues), and the jaunty, luminescent "Enjoy the Future!" (on which Stewart plays with outstanding thrust). Last year in New York, when the quartet returned to the stage, they added a tune from their first go-round along with some newer Lovano material. For live shows Ben Street has been playing bass. —Peter Margasak

  • Courtesy DCASE

8:30 PM | Candido's 95th birthday celebration

Cuban percussionist Candido Camero is one of jazz's all-time great congueros. He arrived in the U.S. in 1946 and went on to play with a who's who of greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Billy Taylor, Stan Kenton, and Wes Montgomery. He's still providing a fiery polyrhythmic pulse at age 95, and to celebrate that milestone he's leading an all-star Afro-­Caribbean band worthy of his stature: trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Nestor Torres, percussionist Sammy Figueroa, pianist Elio Villafranca, bassist Yunior Terry, guitarist Diego Lopez, saxophonist Jorge Castro, trumpeter Guido Gonzalez, and vocalist Frankie Figueroa. —Peter Margasak

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