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The Reader’s comprehensive guide to the Chicago Jazz Festival

This year’s lineup captures the music’s proliferating diversity, with the Bad Plus, Anat Cohen, Erwin Helfer, Tarbaby, JD Allen, the Liberation Music Orchestra, and much more.

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Let's have a moment of gratitude that the festival has moved its headliners to Pritzker Pavilion, where the sound puts its old Grant Park digs to shame. - PATRICK L. PYSZKA/CITY OF CHICAGO
  • Patrick L. Pyszka/City of Chicago
  • Let's have a moment of gratitude that the festival has moved its headliners to Pritzker Pavilion, where the sound puts its old Grant Park digs to shame.

This year's Chicago Jazz Festival includes a few themed or celebratory events, but the primary mission of its lineup is to capture the sprawling variety of jazz in all its ever-­fragmenting manifestations. (Full disclosure: I volunteer on the committee that programs the fest.) Thursday evening's headlining set by Chicago trumpeter Orbert Davis is a commission marking the centennial of the Great Migration, and on Friday night pianist and arranger Carla Bley leads the magnificent Liberation Music Orchestra in a performance that pays homage to bassist Charlie Haden, a fellow founder of the ensemble, who died in 2014. On Saturday piano trio the Bad Plus enlist three superb horn men to play their take on the classic Ornette Coleman album Science Fiction, while Sunday's closing performance celebrates the 95th birthday of a musician who's not only still alive, but will also lead his own group for the occasion: conga master Candido Camero.

Like last year, the festival begins with a slate of Thursday-afternoon concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center before moving to Millennium Park. WDCB 90.9 FM, owned by the College of DuPage, will once again simulcast the pre­festival concerts at PianoForte Studios: Steve Million and Jeremy Kahn's Double Monk (Monday) and Ari Brown's tribute to singer Ann E. Ward (Tuesday), who passed away on July 18. The Young Jazz Lions Stage is back too, still on the rooftop of the Harris Theater but with a new wrinkle in its bookings: the usual assortment of strong elementary, high school, and college bands will perform on Saturday, while Sunday's lineup features more advanced players from the Jazz Institute of Chicago's NextGen program. —Peter Margasak


Chicago Jazz Festival
Thu 9/1, noon-5 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 6:30-10 PM, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph; Fri 9/2, noon-10 PM, Millennium Park; Sat-Sun 9/3-9/4, 11:30 AM-10 PM, Millennium Park; free, all ages



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