The Reader's guide to Jazz Festival: Saturday | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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The Reader's guide to Jazz Festival: Saturday

Unscathed by the cuts that hit so many city fests this year, it's got Billy Hart, Dianne Reeves, and more

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Jazz on Jackson Stage

Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan
Noon
Chicago-born guitarist Alfonso Ponticelli is a leading exponent of "jazz manouche," the Gypsy jazz style made famous by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in their Quintette du Hot Club de France. Swing Gitan sometimes delves into other Romany styles, including flamenco and Balkan dance music, but jazz is its raison d'etre. Ponticelli is joined here by violinist Steve Gibons, bassist John Bany, and rhythm guitarist Jason Miller. —PM

[Recommended] Jason Stein Quartet
1:10 PM
The bass clarinet is a tricky tool. It's so closely associated with its first major innovator, Eric Dolphy, that it's tough to escape that point of reference. Jason Stein has succeeded where many falter, developing his own sound and approach, with a big gulping bottom and an attention to the upper register that shows he knows his John Carter. The Chicagoan has been crazy busy of late—he's put out five releases as a leader since 2008, including a fascinating solo CD and three discs with his band Locksmith Isidore. Here he presents his sectionally minded quartet, with tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Frank Rosaly; this outstanding lineup recorded last year's Delmark album The Story This Time, which mixes re­arranged tunes by Monk and Tristano (as well as by Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, both students of the latter) with classic Chicago-sounding originals. —JC

Frank D'Rone
2:20 PM
Frank D'Rone has been Chicago's foremost old-school jazz singer for more than five decades. His voice has darkened and grown a touch reedier and his coiffure is definitely curlier and bushier, but his swinging, insouciant delivery sounds much the same on the recent Double Exposure (Whaling City Sound) as it did on his 1960 debut, After the Ball. He's backed by pianist Bobby Schiff, bassist Nick Schneider, drummer Chuck Christiansen, and his own guitar. —PM

[Recommended] Ambrose Akinmusire
3:30 PM
This is the local debut of the quintet led by thrilling young New York trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, which released a terrific Blue Note debut last year called When the Heart Emerges Glistening. (Akinmusire himself has already played here—he was a sideman for pianist Vijay Iyer at the 2008 Jazz Fest.) He embodies the freewheeling hybrid-making aesthetic of the New York scene, borrowing influences from far and wide and anchoring them in a bedrock of jazz fundamentals—"With Love" could almost pass for a Radiohead number, and his pensive, malleable tone on the gorgeous trumpet-piano duo "Regret (No More)" sounds like something straight out of Norway. Akinmusire is a sublimely talented improviser with great firepower, but he privileges an ensemble ethos, not solo fireworks. Gerald Clayton, the pianist on the record, is no longer with the group, but the present lineup—with pianist Sam Harris joining drummer Justin Brown, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, and bassist Harish Raghavan—has been working together for more than a year. —PM

Young Jazz Lions Stage

Lakeview High School Jazz Combo
Noon

Saucedo Scholastic Academy Latin Big Band
12:45 PM

Curie Metro Jazz Ensemble
1:30 PM

Evanston Township High School Jazz Ensemble
2:25 PM

Pritzker College Prep Jazz Ensemble
3:20 PM

NIU Jazz Ensemble
4:15 PM

Jazz & Heritage Stage

[Recommended] Caroline Davis Quartet
12:30 PM
Chicago saxophonist Caroline Davis has been working hard the past few years, playing in countless lineups both fleeting and durable, and her time is near. She's just released Live Work & Play, a strong album featuring the quartet she leads here: guitarist Mike Allemana, bassist Matt Ferguson, and drummer Jeremy Cunningham. It showcases her luxuriant post-Konitz tone and heady harmonic explorations, and she and Allemana seem to be able to unpack ideas from a single chord for days. —PM

[Recommended] Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love
2 PM
The 25-year presence of saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark on Chicago's new-jazz scene—a presence tempered these days by many months per annum performing out of town—has had such a profound influence that it's impossible to discuss the state of things without referring to him. One of his main achievements, demonstrated in several of his Jazz Festival projects this year, is the internationalization of the music. Vandermark's relationships with European musicians have been intensely nourishing and ear opening, and you can hear this in his long-term partnership with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. One of the best percussionists living, Nilssen-Love brings together all his passions in his playing—not only free improvisation and action jazz but also Latin and Brazilian musics and garage rock—by tapping their diverse energies rather than referring directly to various styles. This makes him a perfect match for Vandermark, who's been a voracious integrator for several decades, pooling resources from contemporary classical, dub reggae, R&B, postbop, and more. Like brothers, they egg one another on, working at peak intensity and with optimal intuitive interconnectedness. —JC

[Recommended] Marlene Rosenberg Quartet
3:30 PM
Earlier this year Chicago bassist Marlene Rosenberg released Bassprint (Origin), providing ample evidence of her depth—she's got a wonderfully palpable, organic sound, and she's a powerhouse timekeeper. It also demonstrates her good taste in sidemen, such as pliable guitarist Scott Hesse, supersparky drummer Makaya McCraven, and saxophonist Geof Bradfield, who's one of the city's go-to horn men. Expect to hear a batch of strong Rosenberg originals from the new release (she wrote all but two of its songs), many somewhat Monkesque and a couple nodding explicitly to Wayne Shorter. —JC

Petrillo Music Shell

[Recommended] Billy Hart Quartet
5 PM
This high-grade quartet is a collective endeavor, but out of respect to fantastic drummer Billy Hart, at 71 the oldest member of the group, it bears his name. Over the decades Hart has rarely been a bandleader, though he's worked with a who's who of postbop giants—Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders—and brought an inimitable lilt and improvisational heft to just about everything he touches. He's cut two albums with this dream band, which includes some of the most influential voices of jazz's younger generation: Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, Fly saxophonist Mark Turner, and bassist Ben Street. The recent All Our Reasons (ECM) is one of the year's most gratifying jazz releases so far, with tunes that hollow out and rebuild standards such as Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and Sonny Rollins's "Airegin" and originals that expertly toy with form and harmony. —PM

[Recommended] Ken Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble
6 PM
Duke Ellington's Orchestra toured the country in its own train car and made music reflecting the rapport that often comes along with shared living quarters; the Resonance Ensemble, Ken Vandermark's current multinational big band, often convenes for gigs with just a day or two of rehearsal time, and one member didn't make the group's last Chicago run because he was denied a visa. Vandermark knows how to cope with such travails; the Resonance Ensemble's modular compositions are easy to learn and easy to rearrange, and they leave plenty of space for the group's superb improvisers to create most of the music in the moment. On What Country Is This? (Not Two), their latest CD, tight charts driven by heavy rhythms give way to wide-open dialogues between subsets of the lineup—the songs, like the players, never stay in one place for long. —BM

[Recommended] Jerry Gonzalez y el Comando de la Clave
7:10 PM
Trumpeter and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez established himself as one of the most dynamic and thoughtful bandleaders in Latin jazz with New York's terrific Fort Apache Band in the 80s and 90s, but at the height of his powers he moved to Madrid—he'd appeared in the 2000 music documentary Calle 54 by Spanish director Fernando Trueba, and he fell in love with Spain when the movie's companion tour visited. While there Gonzalez got involved in the flamenco scene, but he hasn't given up his clave roots; this excellent new project brings them together. Last year's hard-hitting Jerry Gonzalez y el Comando de la Clave (Sunnyside) is a fierce fusion of flamenco and Afro-­Caribbean rhythms, animated by the improvisational fervor of jazz. For the project's Chicago debut, the lineup is Gonzalez, bassist Alain Perez, pianist Javier Masso "Caramelo," and drummer Kiki Ferrer. Also Sun 9/2 at Mayne Stage. —PM

Dianne Reeves
8:30 PM
Dianne Reeves sprinkles her latest album, 2008's When You Know (Blue Note), with songs that were originally soul and R&B hits, but don't be fooled—she might be the last great female vocalist in mainstream jazz. Plenty of other singers can match Reeves's raw talent, but few can hold a candle to her decorum and precision, to say nothing of the old-school sensibilities that allow her to show her respect for the songs she sings even as she makes them her own. —PM

Our picks for:
Thursday and FridaySundayThe aftershows

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