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Your comprehensive guide to the 37th annual Chicago Jazz Festival

Previews of every act in Millennium Park and beyond, including Fred Hersch in his overdue festival debut and AACM cofounder Muhal Richard Abrams leading a historic reunion of the Experimental Band

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Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians turned 50 in 2015, and celebrations of this influential collective have been popping off worldwide all year—here in town, exhibits honoring the AACM's impact have opened at the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The 37th annual Chicago Jazz Festival marks this auspicious anniverary with performances by four AACM-related groups: Douglas Ewart & Inventions, the Jeff Parker Trio, Steve & Iqua Colson, and Muhal Richard Abrams's Experimental Band. The Experimental Band set—Sunday's marquee event and the capstone of the festival—features most of the AACM's greatest living figures, including Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, Wadada Leo Smith, and Amina Claudine Myers.

This year's Jazz Festival also recognizes a milestone of a less explicitly musical sort: the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Pritzker Pavilion performances by pianists Fred Hersch (Friday) and Henry Butler (Thursday) are presented in partnership with ADA 25 Chicago; Hersch has been fighting HIV since the mid-80s, and Butler is blind, but in neither case has the artist's exquisite talent been diminished.

The festival relocated from Grant Park to Millennium Park in 2013, and last year it settled nicely into its new home. (Full disclosure: I volunteer on the committee that programs the fest.) Sound bleed between the two afternoon side stages was still occasionally an issue, but in general the technical aspects had definitely improved. Not much has changed for 2015, except for a slightly smaller slate of Thursday-afternoon concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center, where the fest has kicked off in recent years.

WDCB 90.9 FM, owned by the College of DuPage, will once again simulcast several shows—including two of those Thursday sets at the Cultural Center, by Ben Waltzer and James Davis's Beveled. The station's other festival-related broadcasts include five concerts at PianoForte Studios: Kim Cusack and Paul Asaro (Monday), Bethany & Willie Pickens (Tuesday), Rob Clearfield (Wednesday), Robert Irving III (Saturday), and Ryan Cohan (Sunday). Peter Margasak

Thursday, September 3

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

Andrew Trim - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Andrew Trim

[Recommended] 12:15 PM | Andrew Trim's Hanami Quartet

Guitarist Andrew Trim and reedist Mai Sugimoto live in Chicago, but they both spent parts of their childhoods in Japan. Their repertoire in the Hanami Quartet contains Japanese classical music, children's songs, and pop tunes made famous by Kyu Sakamoto. The group's charged performances exploit contrasts between the instrumentalists (soft and loud, smooth and rough), creating tension that counterbalances the frequent sentimentality of the melodies. Drummer Charles Rumback reveals the influence of Paul Motian more explicitly than usual, bringing a rumbling bottom end to his sound, while Sugimoto and bass clarinetist Jason Stein play intertwined figures that toy with a delicious sour-sweet dichotomy. Trim's lovely underwater guitar tone softens the edges of his playing but retains a gentle bite, and he alternates between adding harmonies and anchoring the songs with bass lines. Peter Margasak


The Chicago Jazz Festival

Thu 9/3 12:15-9 PM, Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Fri 9/4-Sun 9/6 12:30 PM-9:30 PM, Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Millennium Park stages: Pritzker Pavilion, the Von Freeman Pavilion (on the south promenade), the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion (on the north promenade), and the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion (on the roof of the Harris Theater).

All shows are free and open to all ages. More details at chicagojazzfestival.us.

Friday, September 4

Saturday, September 5

Sunday, September 6

Aftershows


Chicago Cultural Center: Preston Bradley Hall

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Ben Waltzer

Since moving to Chicago a couple years ago, New York pianist Ben Waltzer has kept a pretty low profile: he's spent most of his time working at the University of Chicago, where he oversees a program for careers in journalism, arts, and media. But today he makes a big splash, presenting an excellent band that combines two of his New York cohorts, tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and drummer Gerald Cleaver, with two Chicagoans: trumpeter Marquis Hill (who's moved to New York since Waltzer left) and bassist Yosef Ben Israel. Waltzer is rooted in postbop, but he's fluent in a wide range of styles, resulting in a driving sound that's historically minded and deeply gratifying. Peter Margasak

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

1:45 PM | Lucy Smith

Chicago singer Lucy Smith brings R&B polish to jazz standards, soul numbers, and original tunes. Her working band, Autumn in Augusta, features drummer Marcus Evans, pianist Marcin Fahmy, and bassist Joshua Ramos. Peter Margasak

Chicago Cultural Center: Preston Bradley Hall

James Davis - CBLINDSEY.COM
  • cblindsey.com
  • James Davis

2 PM | James Davis's Beveled

On the self-titled debut album from his sextet Beveled, local trumpeter James Davis demonstrates his acumen as a composer and arranger, his melodies blossoming from a calm, restrained aesthetic that recalls chamber music. Paired flugelhorns (Davis and Chad McCullough) and bass clarinets (Mike Salter and Anna Najoom) put flesh on rhythmic skeletons assembled by bassist Dan Thatcher and drummer Juan Pastor, and this unusual front-line instrumentation creates an elegant timbre that evokes dark polished wood and brass. Beveled plays Davis's tunes with measured resolve and crisp precision, so that solos emerge from the extended ensemble passages like comets streaking the sky. Peter Margasak

Chicago Cultural Center: Claudia Cassidy Theater

3:15 PM | "What's This Thing Called Jazz?" From Mainstream to AACM and Beyond, with Dee Alexander and Miguel de la Cerna

For this recurring educational initiative presented by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Chicago singer Dee Alexander will discuss her involvement in the AACM and how it's affected her artistic process. She'll also perform with her regular pianist, Miguel de la Cerna. Peter Margasak

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

[Recommended] 6:30 PM | Marquis Hill Blacktet

Marquis Hill stil plays often in Chicago, despite relocating to New York earlier this year (at about the same time he won the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition), but tonight's gig definitely feels like a homecoming. On last year's Modern Flows: EP Vol. 1 (Skiptone) he continues his convincing attempts to update hard bop with ideas from soul and hip-hop, creating something modern from something timeless. His long-running Blacktet consists of saxophonist Christopher McBride (another Chicagoan living in New York), bassist Joshua Ramos, drummer Makaya McCraven, and vibist Justin "Justefan" Thomas. This evening the group is joined by spoken-word artist Tumelo Khoza and singer Meagan McNeal. Peter Margasak

Henry Butler (with sunglasses), Steven Bernstein (with trumpet), and the Hot 9 - COURTESY DCASE
  • Courtesy DCASE
  • Henry Butler (with sunglasses), Steven Bernstein (with trumpet), and the Hot 9

[Recommended] 8 PM | Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein, and the Hot 9

Trumpeter Steven Bernstein is history minded but irreverent, so of course his salute to New Orleans jazz isn't straightforward. Partnered with the great Crescent City blues pianist and singer Henry Butler, he leads a sharp crew of collaborators dubbed the Hot 9—a tip of the cap to Louis Armstrong's small groups of the late 20s, the Hot Five and Hot Seven. On last year's delightful Viper's Drag (Impulse), Bernstein slyly jumbles eras in his vibrant arrangements of tunes by Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and other pioneering figures of jazz and blues, but the results never come off as John Zorn-style patchworks. The rhythms leap all over the place—trad-jazz strut, extroverted second-line brass-band grooves, present-day New York-style timekeeping loaded with complexities and displacements—but rather than sounding self-consciously clever, this approach gives chestnuts such as "Wolverine Blues" and the Bessie Smith vehicle "Gimme a Pigfoot" constantly shifting new complexions. For tonight's concert the rhythm section will consist of bassist Brad Jones, drummer Donald Edwards, and guitarist Matt Munisteri; the front line features trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, reedists Peter Apfelbaum, Doug Wieselman, and Erik Lawrence, and violinist Skye Steele. Peter Margasak

Friday, September 4

Von Freeman Pavilion

Noon | Rajiv Halim Quintet

One of the hardest-working and most talented young saxophonists in town, Rajiv Halim has just released Foundation, his overdue debut as a leader. His agile band—trumpeter Shaun Johnson, guitarist Scott Hesse, bassist Junius Paul, and drummer Michael Piolet—bring brisk, hard-hitting energy to his soulful postbop themes. Peter Margasak


The Chicago Jazz Festival

Thu 9/3 12:15-9 PM, Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Fri 9/4-Sun 9/6 12:30 PM-9:30 PM, Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Millennium Park stages: Pritzker Pavilion, the Von Freeman Pavilion (on the south promenade), the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion (on the north promenade), and the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion (on the roof of the Harris Theater).

All shows are free and open to all ages. More details at chicagojazzfestival.us.

Thursday, September 3

Saturday, September 5

Sunday, September 6

Aftershows


1:10 PM | Jeremy Cunningham Quartet

Drummer Jerry Cunningham has been attracting attention with precise, empathetic timekeeping for the likes of saxophonist Caroline Davis, trumpeter Marquis Hill, and bassist Matt Ulery. Today he shows off his own tunes, proving he has just as much promise as a bandleader as he does talent as a percussionist. His terrific band includes Ulery, alto saxophonist Josh Johnson, and guitarist Jeff Parker. Peter Margasak

2:30 PM | Neusa Sauer

The longtime vocalist of Chicago's leading Brazilian band, Som Brasil, Neusa Sauer also performs under her own name, singing samba and bossa nova with sparkling purity and a sure-handed grasp of the fundamentals. She's backed by bassist Geoffrey Lowe, reedist Steve Eisen, guitarists Mike Allemana and Luciano Antonio, and drummer Luiz Ewerling. Peter Margasak

Craig Taborn - JOHN RODGERS
  • John Rodgers
  • Craig Taborn

[Recommended] 3:30 PM | Craig Taborn Trio

Beginning in the early 90s, pianist Craig Taborn slipped gradually into the jazz world's consciousness as a young member of heavyweight bands led by Roscoe Mitchell, James Carter, Steve Coleman, and Dave Douglas, but after spending more than 20 years establishing his own restless, exploratory sound, he's no longer in the background—he's one of the three or four most exciting keyboardists of his generation. Taborn has forged a productive relationship with the ECM label, making several recordings as a sideman, a great solo outing (2011's Avenging Angel), and a trio album with two New York compadres, drummer Gerald Cleaver and resourceful bassist Thomas Morgan (2012's Chants). The trio executes a distinctive and uncompromising blend of composition and improvisation, with Taborn moving between acoustic piano and electric keyboards (including the Fender Rhodes, which in his hands becomes something virtually brand-new). It's a wise choice for the festival, and should be a highlight of the weekend; bassist Chris Lightcap replaces Morgan. John Corbett

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

Chad McCullough and Kobie Watkins of the Spin Quartet - JIM LEVITT
  • Jim Levitt
  • Chad McCullough and Kobie Watkins of the Spin Quartet

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Spin Quartet

Trumpeter Chad McCullough, leader of this gritty quartet, recorded its debut album, In Circles (Origin), in 2013 in his old home of Seattle—he's since settled in Chicago and now teaches at DePaul. His powerful playing and no-nonsense compositions make the move to the Windy City seem foreordained: the propulsive, sculptural grooves of bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Kobie Watkins leave plenty of space for McCullough and saxophonist Geof Bradfield to trade sly jabs and feints, traverse deftly voiced melodies, and take off on extended solos. The two horn players have keen intuition, interjecting accents and adding cool counterpoint as though they're passing a baton. Peter Margasak

Art Hoyle - STEPHANIE DOWELL/POST-TRIBUNE
  • Stephanie Dowell/Post-Tribune
  • Art Hoyle

[Recommended] 2 PM | Art Hoyle Sextet: Clark Terry Tribute

There's no classier guy in jazz than Art Hoyle, period. With a voice of molten lava and a debonair smile, he's a trumpeter from another era, and even among his peers he's a cut above. Musically the long-term Gary resident is likewise impeccable, having lived through the full spectrum of jazz since the mid-1950s, from Lionel Hampton to Sun Ra. Today Hoyle and a saxophoneless ensemble pay tribute to another open-minded trumpeter, the legendary Clark Terry, who died this year at 94. By my count the band is a nonet, not a sextet, with three trumpets (Hoyle, Art Davis, Shaun Johnson) and three trombones (Andy Thornburg, Tracy Kirk, Steve Berry). John Corbett

Bobby Lewis - KEN CARL
  • Ken Carl
  • Bobby Lewis

3:30 PM | Bobby Lewis Sextet

Bobby Lewis's fluent phrasing and warm tone have made him a reliable presence on Chicago's recording-studio and jazz-club scenes since the 60s, when he moved here from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And though in decades past he's made concessions to the currents of commerce, the sextet he brings today, with longtime pianist Jim Ryan and assertive saxophonist Pat Mallinger, should sail plumb in the middle of the jazz mainstream. Bill Meyer

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Chico Freeman - MARCEL MEIER
  • Marcel Meier
  • Chico Freeman

5 PM | Chico Freeman: The Chicago Project featuring George Freeman

Saxophonist Chico Freeman, son of Chicago legend Von Freeman, lives in Switzerland these days, but his new project helps keep him tight with his relatives here. All in the Family (Southport) connects him with his 88-year-old guitarist uncle, George Freeman, for a wide-ranging program that touches on hard bop, funk, free jazz, and blues. Most of the players on the record reconvene for this set: guitarist Mike Allemana (a fixture in Von's final band), bassist Harrison Bankhead, pianist Kirk Brown, and Swiss percussionist Reto Weber (who plays the steel-drum-like "Hang," an instrument of his own design), along with nonalbum drummer Ernie Adams. Peter Margasak

José James - JANETTE BECKMAN
  • Janette Beckman
  • José James

6 PM | José James: Billie Holiday Tribute

Singer José James has frequently experimented with jazz over the past decade, but on his recent albums for Blue Note, he found a sweet spot closer to funk and R&B. His new confidence has led him back to jazz, though, and to Billie Holiday—his biggest jazz influence, he says. Released this spring, 100 years after her birth, Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday (Blue Note) features nine of her best-known songs redone in a restrained, spartan style, with sensitive, pin-drop delicate accompaniment by a trio that includes pianist Jason Moran. James doesn't have the greatest range or tonal depth, and in his gossamer delivery he wisely refrains from any attempt to imitate Holiday. Tonight he's joined by keyboardist Leo Genovese, bassist Solomon Dorsey, and drummer Nate Smith. Peter Margasak

Fred Hersch - VINCENT SOYEZ
  • Vincent Soyez
  • Fred Hersch

[Recommended] 7:10 PM | Fred Hersch Trio

Pianist Fred Hersch turns 60 in October, and he's kicking off the celebration early with the brand-new Fred Hersch Solo (Palmetto), his tenth one-man album, recorded live last year in an acoustically lovely church in the Catskills. His sublime lyricism, exquisite touch, sensitive dynamic control, and lush harmonizations are unequaled in a solo setting, and he can carry those gifts into a trio setting—which is how he's making his overdue Chicago Jazz Festival debut. His remarkable combo with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson balances swift, elegant propulsion with Hersch's crystalline tone and tunefulness. Peter Margasak

Billy Strayhorn - CHUCK STEWART
  • Chuck Stewart
  • Billy Strayhorn

[Recommended] 8:30 PM | Billy Strayhorn Tribute with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra playing arrangements of Strayhorn songs by Edward Wilkerson, John Hollenbeck, Steven Bernstein, and Gordon Goodwin

This performance of Billy Strayhorn compositions by the Chicago Jazz Ensemble kicks off the Billy Strayhorn Festival, a ten-week series of concerts and educational events programmed by the Auditorium Theatre on the occasion of the centenary of the composer-pianist's birth. Strayhorn's accomplishments are so monumental, though, that American music celebrates his place in its firmament constantly, with no anniversaries needed. During his long association with Duke Ellington, Strayhorn melded his talents (as an arranger, composer, and bandleader) with Ellington's own, creating a body of work that constitutes the acme not just of big-band jazz but of all pre-rock 'n' roll American urban music—I defy you to hear "Take the A Train" without feeling at least a bit better about being alive. The CJO will play new arrangements of Strayhorn's tunes by (among others) Edward Wilkerson Jr., John Hollenbeck, and Steven Bernstein; the always amazing Dee Alexander will sing. Bill Meyer

Saturday, September 5

Young Jazz Lions Pavilion

11:30 AM | Jones College Prep Jazz Combo

12:15 PM | Chi Arts Jazz Combo

1 PM | Whitney Young Magnet High School Jazz Ensemble

1:55 PM | Rich Central Jazz Ensemble

2:50 PM | Columbia College Jazz Ensemble with Dave Douglas

Von Freeman Pavilion

Michael Zerang - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Michael Zerang

[Recommended] Noon | Trio WAZ

From 2001 till 2006, Trio WAZ was a reliable and regular presence in town, but the group never released a record. That's a shame, because the high concentration of soulful lyricism, ceremonial solemnity, and rhythmic and textural freedom in their playing made every second of it worth revisiting from multiple perspectives. In recent years Edward Wilkerson (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Tatsu Aoki (bass), and Michael Zerang (percussion) have convened as WAZ only rarely, which makes this set a particular treat. Bill Meyer


The Chicago Jazz Festival

Thu 9/3 12:15-9 PM, Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Fri 9/4-Sun 9/6 12:30 PM-9:30 PM, Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Millennium Park stages: Pritzker Pavilion, the Von Freeman Pavilion (on the south promenade), the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion (on the north promenade), and the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion (on the roof of the Harris Theater).

All shows are free and open to all ages. More details at chicagojazzfestival.us.

Thursday, September 3

Friday, September 4

Sunday, September 6

Aftershows


1:10 PM | Mike Schlick Trio

Not too many folks in Chicago move back and forth between the city's deep-blues and jazz scenes, but drummer Mike Schlick has cred in both—and unsurprisingly, this crosstown traffic has led him into blues-infused organ jazz. His trio features guitarist Kyle Ashe and organist Demos Petropolous. John Corbett

Brian Gephart - COURTESY DCASE
  • Courtesy DCASE
  • Brian Gephart

2:20 PM | Brian Gephart Sextet

Soprano and tenor saxophonist Brian Gephart has a chameleonic quality that serves him well in gigs around town. If need be, he can melt smoothly into the background, but on the recent Standing on Two Feet (Origin) he musters plenty of hard-bop muscle. Bill Meyer

3:30 PM | Ryan Cohan Quartet featuring Joe Locke

One of the city's most reliable mainstream jazz pianists, Ryan Cohan has devoted much of his energy lately to ambitious, programmatic suites. Tonight, however, he returns to small-group improvisation, complementing his working band (bassist Lorin Cohen and drummer George Fludas) with acclaimed New York vibist Joe Lock, who appeared on Cohan's 2010 album Another Look. Peter Margasak

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

Makaya McCraven - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Makaya McCraven

[Recommended] 12:30 PM | Makaya McCraven Quartet

On Makaya McCraven's recent In the Moment (International Anthem), the drummer reminds the audience at several points that they're hearing improvisations "Made up on the spot!" What he doesn't say (but what's evident throughout the album) is that his practice of free improvisation is rooted in a commitment to groove that weds hip-hop beats to the swing he learned coming up in Bobby Broom's band. For this afternoon's set, McCraven's ensemble will feature four players who made trenchant contributions to the album: trumpeter Marquis Hill, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, and vibraphonist Justin "Justefan" Thomas. Bill Meyer

Juan Pastor - COURTESY DCASE
  • Courtesy DCASE
  • Juan Pastor

2 PM | Juan Pastor's Chinchano

Peruvian percussionist Juan Pastor moved to Chicago from his native Lima in 2006, lured by the reputation of the city's jazz scene. In his group Chinchano, he merges the Afro-­Peruvian traditions he practiced back home with the bluesy postbop he refined while studying at Northern Illinois and DePaul. The band's self-titled debut opens with Pastor playing the box drum, or cajon, on an elegant rendition of "Fina Estampa"—a song by Chabuca Granda, who introduced Afro-Peruvian rhythms to an international audience in the 1940s and '50s. The album's chattering, simmering polyrhythms notwithstanding, trumpeter Marquis Hill and reedist Rich Moore play pure jazz on the front line. Pianist Stu Mindeman and bassist Patrick Mulcahy round out the live lineup. Peter Margasak

Jason Roebke - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Jason Roebke

[Recommended] 3:30 PM | Jason Roebke Octet

Complex but ingratiating compositions, deftly deployed tonalities, and a rhythm section that just won't stop make High/Red/Center (Delmark), the debut of the Jason Roebke Octet, one of 2014's best albums from a local bandleader. The bassist has already recorded its follow-up, Cinema Spiral (No Business), but since two of the octet's members live out of town, the public hasn't had many opportunities yet to hear the material live. The new record is an album-length suite that alternates between muscular ensemble charts and bursts of obstreperous free improvisation, and both modes bring out the players' distinct personalities and empathetic support for one another. Bill Meyer

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Douglas Ewart - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Douglas Ewart

[Recommended] 5 PM | Douglas Ewart & Inventions

One reason the AACM has endured for half a century is that it's never limited itself to music. Performances often weave in poetry, theater, and visual pageantry in order to express the struggles and hopes of the African diaspora. No set at this festival will more likely represent the breadth of the AACM's multimedia vision than this one from Inventions, an ensemble of drums, woodwinds, and voice led by Jamaican-born multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart. Ewart is a splendid clarinetist and saxophonist, but this group subordinates virtuosic displays to the unfolding drama of spoken narratives and the hypnotic influence of rhythm workouts—informed as much by the nyabhingi drumming gatherings of Rastafarian spiritual leader Count Ossie, which Ewart attended as a child, as by the rolling force of spiritual jazz. Bill Meyer

The Claudia Quintet - SIGNE MAEHLER
  • Signe Maehler
  • The Claudia Quintet

[Recommended] 6 PM | The Claudia Quintet with Theo Bleckmann

Led by percussionist John Hollenbeck, the Claudia Quintet has grown more ambitious over its lengthy history in its subversion of the language of jazz—its tunes demand breathless precision and broad stylistic mastery, and find their inspiration and structural concepts all over. On the quintet's 2013 album, September (Cuneiform), Hollenbeck derived the melody and arrangement of "Sept. 29, 1936: Me Warn You" from a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, demonstrating his abiding interest in the musicality of language. The group's 2011 album, What Is the Beautiful?, further explored that territory, setting the work of poet Kenneth Patchen—a onetime collaborator of John Cage and a favorite of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann—to Hollenbeck's wildly zigzagging compositions and the band's translucent timbres. For this set the Claudia Quintet will play as a sextet, with vibist Matt Moran, reedist Jeremy Viner, accordionist Red Wierenga, bassist Drew Gress, and pianist Fabian Almazan. Vocalist Theo Bleckmann will reprise his role on What Is the Beautiful?, and since Kurt Elling also appears on the album, I'm betting he'll end up being the promised "surprise guest." Peter Margasak

Mark Turner - PAOLO SORIANI
  • Paolo Soriani
  • Mark Turner

[Recommended] 7:10 PM | Mark Turner Quartet

Since 2000, New York-based tenor saxophonist Mark Turner has worked in collective trio Fly with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, and since 2003 he's employed his lovely, striated tone as the ruminative melodic voice of the Billy Hart Quartet. But until last year's Lathe of Heaven (ECM), he hadn't made an album as a leader since 2001—and it's great to have him back. Turner writes serpentine themes for himself and his trumpet foil (Avishai Cohen on the record, Jason Palmer here), their parts swerving in unison and slaloming alongside each other in long passages of yin-yang improvisation. He prefers a simmer to a boil in his measured, melodic compositions, and bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore (the latter best known from the Vijay Iyer Trio) push against the supple arrangements to create plenty of friction and spark. Peter Margasak

Dee Dee Bridgewater - MARK HIGASHINO
  • Mark Higashino
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater

8:30 PM | Dee Dee Bridgewater

On her brand-new album, Dee Dee's Feathers (Okeh), Memphis-born, Los Angeles-based vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater salutes the musical legacy of the Big Easy. Fronting Irvin Mayfield's ebullient New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, she uses her outsize phrasing to artfully connect tunes as disparate as "What a Wonderful World," "Big Chief," and "Do Whatcha Wanna," illustrating the deep continuity that links them without surrendering her own commanding personality. This evening she leads her nimble working band, led by young, forward-looking trumpeter Theo Croker (grandson of New Orleans great Doc Cheatham). It can follow her wherever she leads, whether it's a Billie Holiday tune or a traditional Malian jam. Peter Margasak

Sunday, September 6

Young Jazz Lions Pavilion

11:30 AM | Taft Jazz Combo

12:15 PM | Northside College Prep Jazz Combo

1 PM | Pritzker High School Jazz Ensemble

1:55 PM | Thornridge High School Jazz Ensemble

2:50 PM | Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble

3:45 PM | Kenwood Academy Jazz Ensemble celebrates the AACM's 50th Anniversary with Tomeka Reid

Von Freeman Pavilion

Noon | Jordan Baskin Trio

Pianist and Chicago native Jordan Baskin is a fixture on the local mainstream jazz scene (especially at Andy's), both as a bandleader and as a sideman. He's a superb accompanist, in part due to his restraint—a quality he also brings to his own bands. His congenial themes work well as improvisational frameworks, and his solos are thoughtfully constructed. Peter Margasak


The Chicago Jazz Festival

Thu 9/3 12:15-9 PM, Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Fri 9/4-Sun 9/6 12:30 PM-9:30 PM, Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Millennium Park stages: Pritzker Pavilion, the Von Freeman Pavilion (on the south promenade), the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion (on the north promenade), and the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion (on the roof of the Harris Theater).

All shows are free and open to all ages. More details at chicagojazzfestival.us.

Thursday, September 3

Friday, September 4

Saturday, September 5

Aftershows


1:10 PM | Elaine Dame

Elaine Dame sings standards with old-school insouciance, bringing plenty of rhythmic oomph to the swing she generates with her band (pianist Dennis Luxion, bassist Jake Vinsel, drummer Jon Dietemyer, and guitarist Andy Brown). But her devotion to classic jazz aesthetics doesn't prevent her from mining gold from more contemporary sources—she makes agile vehicles of songs by the likes of Richard Thompson and Joni Mitchell. Peter Margasak

2:20 PM | Ryan Shultz Quartet

Bass trumpeter Shultz has maintained a long-game presence on the Chicago scene for decades, notably in the excellent multi­directional ensembles led by drummer Damon Short. Shultz stepped out as a leader on last year's Hair Dryers (Origin), showing off his coat of many colors—among them a bright, fusiony late-Miles orientation that displays his prodigious skill on his rare instrument particularly well. John Corbett

3:30 PM | Robert Irving III Generations

Chicago keyboardist Robert Irving III worked in one of Miles Davis's last bands, and he shares the legendary trumpeter's ability to develop talent—over the past decade or so, many of the city's finest musicians have worked in his groups, which blend postbop, fusion, and funk. Today's lineup includes guitarist Scott Hesse, saxophonists Rajiv Halim and Irvin Pierce, bassist and singer Emmy Dayhuff, and drummer Charles "Rick" Heath IV. Peter Margasak

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

12:30 PM | Bob Dogan Quintet

Stalwart Chicago pianist Bob Dogan is easy to take for granted, but that'd be a mistake. He's a rigorous bandleader who deftly mixes past and present, playing an old-fashioned repertoire with a contemporary sense of harmony. His terrific band features bass trumpeter Ryan Shultz, saxophonist Juli Wood, bassist Dan DeLorenzo, and drummer Joe Adamik. Peter Margasak

2 PM | Bill McFarland Chicago Horns

Trombonist Bill McFarland, tenor saxophonist Hank Ford, and alto saxophonist Kenny Anderson have long been first-call session cats on blues and R&B dates, and as the Chicago Horns they dole out sturdy hard bop that makes room for soul melodies, flourishes of New Orleans groove, and quiet-storm chill. The band's rhythm section consists of pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Yosef Ben Israel, and drummer Ben Johnson. Peter Margasak

Steve & Iqua Colson - COAL-SUN PRODUCTIONS
  • Coal-Sun Productions
  • Steve & Iqua Colson

3:30 PM | Steve & Iqua Colson: 40 Years in the Movement

Steve and Iqua Colson were affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians starting in the early 1970s. The husband-and-wife team left Chicago for New Jersey a decade later, but their spiritual connection to the AACM remains. Steve's piano has graced many outstanding recordings of the creative-music diaspora, among them Baikida Carroll's Door of the Cage (1995) and David Murray's New Life (1985), and he's about to release his first solo record, Tones For (Silver Sphinx). But the work he's done with Iqua, a versatile singer, is perhaps their most indelible. John Corbett

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Jeff Parker - MICHAEL JACKSON
  • Michael Jackson
  • Jeff Parker

[Recommended] 5 PM | Jeff Parker Trio

One of the most important (and most self-­effacing) musicians to emerge from Chicago in the past 20 years, guitarist Jeff Parker has worked in a wide variety of settings—including with organist Charles Earland, in drummer Brian Blade's Fellowship, and as a longtime member of dub-rock ensemble Tortoise. A tireless experimenter with a radarlike sense of harmony, a gentle cooperative vibe, and an eviscerating fifth gear, he's arguably best heard in his own trio, with Chris Lopes on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. Their most recent record, 2012's Bright Light in Winter (Delmark), shows the band's progress over the course of a decade (it's their third album if you count 2005's The Relatives, with Sam Barsheshet on electric piano) as well as all the ways Parker has continued to hone his own sound, integrating gnashing metal, free improvisation, and the influence of Jim Hall into a euphoric mix. John Corbett

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

6 PM | Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Canadian soprano saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett is committed to collaborating with musicians from Cuba, and her latest project looks toward the island's musical future. The sextet Maqueque provides a lush, seductively sashaying polyrhythmic foundation for Bunnett's melodically probing solos, and the five young Cuban women joining her in the group—three percussionists, a pianist, and a bassist and tres player—add lovely chants, vocal harmonies, and countermelodic exposition, revealing musical knowledge that extends well beyond Cuban traditions. Peter Margasak

Cyrille Aimee - COURTESY DCASE
  • Courtesy DCASE
  • Cyrille Aimee

7:10 PM | Cyrille Aimee

French-born singer Cyrille Aimee keeps her music fun and playful, combining the jazz manouche of her homeland with a pop-savvy approach­—she sings plenty of standards, but she's also recorded "Stand by Me" and Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall." Aimee is a member of the style-hopping Hot Club of Detroit, and her own band is even more eclectic. It consists of bassist Shawn Conley, drummer Rajiv Jayaweera, and two guitarists, Michael Valeanu and Adrien Moignard, who draw from Django Reinhardt. Peter Margasak

Muhal Richard Abrams - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • Courtesy the artist
  • Muhal Richard Abrams

[Recommended] 8:30 PM | Muhal Richard Abrams's Experimental Band with Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith, Amina Claudine Myers, George Lewis, Leonard Jones, Thurman Barker, LaRoy Wallace McMillan, and Reggie Nicholson

If you go to the MCA's joyous exhibition "The Freedom Principle," as well you should, you'll see a 1994 painting by Wadsworth Jarrell depicting five venerable members of the AACM—among them pianist Muhal Richard Abrams at the helm and Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill manning the horns. All three will perform as part of this much-anticipated festival congress, but you're unlikely to hear any of the AACM's "greatest hits," because the modus operandi of the association has always been exploratory rather than nostalgic. Abrams, who's graced the festival's stage several times in recent years, leads a large ensemble in celebration of the AACM's half-century mark, drawing on some of the same players from his original Experimental Band, which rehearsed on the south side in the mid-1960s. More than an all-star assembly, this is a conference of the intrepid, featuring reedists Mitchell, Threadgill, and LaRoy Wallace McMillan, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, trombonist and AACM chronicler George Lewis, and percussionists Thurman Barker and Reggie Nicholson (a younger member). Special mention goes to bassist Leonard Jones, an early AACMer who moved to Germany in 1969; he's also a fine photographer, and his wonderful vintage images of AACM members can be seen in "The Freedom Principle." John Corbett


The jazz doesn't end with the festival

Bobby Broom appears with his trio Thursday through Saturday at the California Clipper. - JOHN BROUGHTON
  • John Broughton
  • Bobby Broom appears with his trio Thursday through Saturday at the California Clipper.

One of the most exciting parts of the Chicago Jazz Festival is the looser, more spontaneous shows that happen around town each night (and sometimes in the mornings too). Trumpeter and reedist Ira Sullivan returns from Florida to host the traditional Jazz Showcase jam sessions, backed by pianists Stu Katz and Ron Perrillo, bassists Larry Gray and Marlene Rosenberg, 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 Chico Freeman, Makaya McCraven, Fred Hersch, Marquis Hill, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mark Turner, and José James.


The Chicago Jazz Festival

Thu 9/3 12:15-9 PM, Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Fri 9/4-Sun 9/6 12:30 PM-9:30 PM, Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph)

Millennium Park stages: Pritzker Pavilion, the Von Freeman Pavilion (on the south promenade), the Jazz & Heritage Pavilion (on the north promenade), and the Young Jazz Lions Pavilion (on the roof of the Harris Theater).

All shows are free and open to all ages. More details at chicagojazzfestival.us.

Thursday, September 3

Friday, September 4

Saturday, September 5

Sunday, September 6


The Jazz Showcase jams tend to be pretty mainstream, but those of you looking for something more avant-garde have a few good options too. David Boykin's Hereafter Fest, now in its ninth year, returns to its former home at Heaven Gallery on Friday and Saturday, and at the Hairpin Arts Center on Saturday the AACM and Asian Improv Arts Midwest join forces for a late concert (the Hanah Jon Taylor Artet plays the first set, and the second set features Taylor, Dushun Mosley, Francis Wong, Edward Wilkerson, Kioto Aoki, and guests). Constellation hosts two outward-­bound performances by a quartet that includes New Orleans saxophonist Edward "Kidd" Jordan, Mississippi drummer Alvin Fielder, and formerly Chicagoan guitarist Jeff Parker. Harrison Bankhead will play bass on Friday, and Joshua Abrams will play on Saturday; before each set ends, the group will be joined by local fire-breathers (including drummer Mike Reed, reedist Douglas Ewart, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz) as well as a few out-of-towners.

Southport Records used to host an afterfest show at Katerina's, but that venue has closed—this year the event is at Lange's, where keyboardist Bradley Parker-­Sparrow and singer Joanie Pallatto host a Sunday jam session with drummer Luiz Ewerling and bassist Mitch Straeffer. PianoForte not only hosts concerts on the three days preceding the fest but also presents free morning sets on Saturday and Sunday by Robert Irving III and Ryan Cohan, respectively (both simulcast by WDCB 90.9 FM); Bobby Broom's excellent trio holds court at the California Clipper from Thursday through Saturday. Finally, the Jazz Record Mart's annual Sunday jazz brunch is back in action after a hiatus, with sets from the Ernest Dawkins Quartet and Frank Catalano with Jimmy Chamberlin. Peter Margasak

Wednesday, September 2

Rob Clearfield 5:30 PM, PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan, 312-291-0291, pianofortefoundation.org  free, all ages

Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz Club Tour 6 PM till midnight, multiple venues (Andy's, Green Mill, Jazz Showcase, M Lounge, City Life, 50 Yard Line, the Drake Hotel, Norman's Bistro, the Promontory), jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest/jazz-club-tour, $40, $35 in advance ($35 and $30 for members), 21+

Thursday, September 3

Bobby Broom Trio 9:30 PM, California Clipper, 1002 N. California, 773-384-2547, californiaclipper.com, $3, 21+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, jazzshowcase.com, $20, 21+

Friday, September 4

Bobby Broom Trio 10 PM, California Clipper, 1002 N. California, 77-384-2547, californiaclipper.com, $3, 21+

Hereafter Fest: Microcosmic Sound Orchestra, Participatory Music Coalition, DJ Ayana Contreras 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597, heavengallery.com, $10 suggested donation, all ages

Edward "Kidd" Jordan, Alvin Fielder, Jeff Parker, and Harrison Bankhead 9:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, constellation-chicago.com, $20, $15 in advance, 18+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, jazzshowcase.com, $20, 21+

Saturday, September 5

Bobby Broom Trio 10 PM, California Clipper, 1002 N. California, 77-384-2547, californiaclipper.com, $3, 21+

Hereafter Fest: David Boykin Expanse, DJ Ayana Contreras 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597, heavengallery.com, $10 suggested donation, all ages

Robert Irving III 10 AM, PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan, 312-291-0291, pianofortefoundation.org, free, all ages

Edward "Kidd" Jordan, Alvin Fielder, Jeff Parker, and Joshua Abrams 9:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, constellation-chicago.com, $20, $15 in advance, 18+

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, jazzshowcase.com, $20, 21+

Hanah John Taylor, Dushun Mosley, Francis Wong, Edward Wilkerson, Kioto Aoki, and guests; Hanah John Taylor Artet 10 PM, Hairpin Arts Center, 2810 N. Milwaukee, 773-437-6966, hairpinartscenter.org, $15, $10 for students, all ages

Sunday, September 6

Ryan Cohan 10 AM, PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan, 312-291-0291, pianofortefoundation.org, free, all ages

Ernest Dawkins Quartet, Frank Catalano & Jimmy Chamberlin 10:15 AM, Jazz Record Mart, 27 E. Illinois, 312-222-1467, jazzmart.com, free, all ages

Joanie Pallatto, Bradley Parker-Sparrow, Luiz Ewerling, and Mitch Straeffer 9 PM, Lange's, 3500 N. Southport, 773-472-6030, 21+, free

Afterfest jam sessions hosted by Ira Sullivan 9 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, jazzshowcase.com, $20, 21+  v

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