Your comprehensive guide to the 37th annual Chicago Jazz Festival | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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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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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

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