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The 35th annual Chicago Jazz Festival kicks off today. For the first time, Millennium Park hosts the outdoor concerts instead of Grant Park, and the lineup is better than it's been in years. Our festival guide has previews of most every set—including all four bands led by festival artist in residence Hamid Drake—but Soundboard has eyes for the one-off Jack DeJohnette group tonight (with Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and Henry Threadgill) and the Robert Glasper Quartet on Sunday. There are also aftershows aplenty, including saxophonist Kidd Jordan with bassist William Parker and drummer Alvin Fielder on Friday and Saturday night at Constellation.
The African Festival of the Arts celebrates its 24th year in Washington Park this weekend. Catch the Chosen Few DJs on Friday, Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi on Saturday, soul legend Otis Clay on Sunday, and R&B star Brandy on Monday. Not to be left out, Union Park welcomes back the North Coast Music Festival, an eclectic blend of EDM, hip-hop, and jam bands; acts topping the bill include Passion Pit and Mac Miller on Friday, Nas on Saturday, and JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Wu-Tang Clan (performing 36 Chambers) on Sunday. Again, afterparties abound, but the ones you especially need to know about are On an On, Supreme Cuts, and The-Drum Friday at Lincoln Hall and U-God and RZA Sunday at Cobra Lounge.
More Soundboard picks below.
When Chris Knight debuted in 1998, his country-rock folk tales about blue-collar middle America prompted folks to dub him the next Steve Earle. At 53, he still lives in the Kentucky coal town where he grew up, chronicling working-class strife and pleasure with as much detail as ever. Peter Margasak writes that on his 2012 album, Little Victories, "His gruff voice pushes through the album's rugged guitars with authority." Knight never became Steve Earle, but he's grown into a finely aged version of himself.
At this point, it isn't news that Ty Segall is prolific. He's constantly writing, constantly collaborating, constantly saving contemporary rock 'n' roll from itself. Oh his new album, Sleeper, Segall goes acoustic, a dramatic shift away from his usual destructive-but-clever garage scuzz. Thankfully, a softer Segall is no less addictive—his moody melodies have Peter Margasak making John Lennon comparisons.
You know you're a great band when the sound you helped invent goes out of fashion and comes back again and you're still around to show the kids how it's done. Such is the case for Mudhoney, who've been making sleazy, brilliantly crafted grunge anthems for 25 years. Their latest album, Vanishing Point, is further proof that these Seattle blues-punk pioneers aren't going away anytime soon. Kevin Warwick puts it beautifully: "The best way to age gracefully is to do it as a bunch of dignified curmudgeons."
On their new album, Phalanx, the Rempis Percussion Quartet (Dave Rempis on saxophones, Frank Rosaly and Tim Daisy on drums, and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten on bass) is relentlessly creative, launching into fierce improvisations at the sound of a horn squawk, melting into calm that buzzes with restrained energy, then bolting into new spontaneity. Peter Margasak says the quartet reach their "most electric heights yet" on this record—and given their past accomplishments, that's really saying something.