This edition of the Chicago Jazz Festival delivers the usual tributes to a handful of jazz greats, living and dead--underappreciated local pianist Willie Pickens in the former category, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Oscar Brown Jr., and recently deceased trumpeter Malachi Thompson in the latter. And this year's artist in residence is genius alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. A native Chicagoan and key acolyte of pianist Lennie Tristano who played with Miles Davis on the legendary Birth of the Cool sessions, he's been one of the most distinctive voices on his instrument since the late 40s. But the strongest theme in the 2006 bookings is the rich musical heritage of New Orleans, imperiled when Hurricane Katrina made landfall just days before last year's fest.
The program touches on many facets of Crescent City music: WWI-era trad jazz (Dr. Michael White), raucous second-line street funk (the Rebirth Brass Band), hard bop (Donald Harrison), even progressive postbop (the Lucky 7s). Chicago once had a special relationship with New Orleans--when Louis Armstrong left the Big Easy in the 20s, he landed here and became a national star--and 25-year-old trumpeter Maurice Brown, who plays the fest Sunday afternoon, has reenacted it in reverse, leaving Chicago to make his name in New Orleans.
The overall lineup is one of the strongest in memory, displaying plenty of the stylistic diversity that's long distinguished the fest: we get everything from the playfully chaotic Dutch free jazz of Bik Bent Braam to the greasy, crowd-pleasing organ jazz of Joey DeFrancesco. Things kick off Thursday evening with a free Konitz set at the Cultural Center and a ticketed concert ($10-$55) at Symphony Center, then moves to Grant Park, where admission to all events is free. Friday through Sunday the headliners play at the Petrillo Music Shell at Columbus and Jackson. Afternoon sets are at the Jazz on Jackson stage, on Jackson near Lake Shore Drive, and family-oriented shows and concert-demonstrations are held on the Jazz & Heritage stage, south of Jackson near the Rose Garden. PM
CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
R The festival's artist in residence kicks things off with a rare solo set. Alone or with a band, Konitz is a singular performer: on the 1996 disc Unaccompanied: Live in Yokohama (PSF) he freshens up musty standards like "Nearness of You" and "Darn That Dream" with his cool, lucid, unornamented style. This evening he'll not only play but talk with Chicago jazz writer Larry Kart, whose recent essay collection, Jazz in Search of Itself, contains some of the most trenchant observations ever made about the saxophonist's work. PM
7:30 PM, $10-$55
"A John Coltrane 80th Birthday Anniversary: Ballads and Brass," featuring the Joshua Redman Quartet and Kurt Elling with Ari Brown
The Jazz Festival added a Thursday-night ticketed concert at Symphony Center in 2003, and artist homages have been the norm from the get-go: Art Blakey, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Cannonball Adderley, and now John Coltrane. For the first part of the show, vocalist Kurt Elling will be joined by saxophonist and pianist Ari Brown, who used to work with longtime Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones, to play selections from two classic Trane albums: Ballads and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. During the second half, saxophonist Joshua Redman--who's lately seemed torn between crowd-pleasing but toothless pop covers and hard-hitting postbop--will press his fine quartet (pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Brian Blade) into service as the nucleus of a big band made up of locals; together they'll tackle the music from Coltrane's Africa/Brass. PM
JAZZ ON JACKSON
John Moulder Ensemble
A long-term member of drummer Paul Wertico's trio and a mainstay of the Chicago scene, guitarist John Moulder has just released a CD under his own name, Trinity (Origin), and here he leads a nonet featuring players from the disc--including Wertico, pianist Laurence Hobgood, and saxophonist Rich Corpolongo. JC
Best known around these parts as a longtime vocalist for the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Frieda Lee sings a few tunes on a new album the group made with arranger Charley Harrison, Keeping My Composure (C3). For this rare small-group appearance, she'll be backed by pianist Bobby Schiff, bassist Stewart Miller, and drummer Chuck Christiansen. PM
Pairing two young guns--Hammond B-3 whiz Jim Alfredson and guitarist Joe Gloss--with veteran drummer Randy Marsh, this Michigan trio makes a play for the same jam-band crowd that's made stars of Medeski, Martin & Wood, but doesn't go so far as to tidy up the bluesy grime that earned organ jazz its first audiences in the 50s and 60s. Not particularly memorable, but it gets the job done. PM
Bobby Lewis Sextet
Trumpeter Bobby Lewis, a UIC music instructor and veteran session man, has worked in an astonishing range of styles and settings--everything from soloing with Peggy Lee to leading the trad-jazz combo Muggles. (He even played on the "Pure brewed in God's country" jingle for Old Style beer, for Pete's sake.) Here he leads a band heavy on Chicago talent, including saxophonist Pat Mallinger, bassist Rob Amster, and drummer Jeff Stitely. JC
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
West Aurora High School Jazz Band
The jazz-education program at West Aurora High School maintains five full-time ensembles, and the best players from each have been pooled to form this group--only the second high school band in the history of the festival. PM
Art of the Solo with Nicole Mitchell and Edward Wilkerson
R These two AACM veterans are the front line of a new quartet called Frequency, which has just released a rewarding self-titled record on Thrill Jockey. (The full band plays an afterfest set at HotHouse on Sunday.) Anyone with ears could learn something about the art of the solo from Wilkerson, a towering and mercurial multiple reedist, and the glories of Mitchell's playing are enough to convert the staunchest of flute haters into fiery-eyed devotees. JC
Jazz Links All-Stars with Ken Chaney
Chicago pianist Ken Chaney leads an ensemble of students from the Jazz Links program, a joint venture of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools. PM
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
Dr. Michael White's Original Liberty Jazz Band
Veteran New Orleans clarinetist and educator Michael White is devoted to preserving what's usually called trad jazz, since "Dixieland" makes people think of tourist traps. His long-running band--which includes trumpeter Gregory Stafford, trombonist Lucien Barbarin, banjoist Detroit Brooks, pianist Steven Pistorious, bassist Roland Guerin, and drummer Herman Lebeaux--digs deep into the classic repertoire, delivering antique tunes with a danceable, melodic buoyancy and indulging in plenty of the kind of crisp, contrapuntal improvisation that made the earliest Crescent City jazz so special. The group also tackles midcentury pop numbers with equal verve, and White contributes plenty of strong originals. PM
Tribute to Malachi Thompson with Africa Brass and Billy Harper
This was originally to have been an ordinary gig by Africa Brass, a brass orchestra regularly convened by trumpeter Malachi Thompson (a la Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy), but it was tragically transformed into a tribute to Thompson after he died from lymphoma on July 16. The roster here includes trumpeters Kenny Anderson, Corey Wilkes, and Rodney Clark, trombonists Bill McFarland, Steve Berry, Omar Jefferson, and Tracy Kirk, vocalist Dee Alexander, and a fine rhythm section--plus muscular tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, one of Thompson's regular collaborators. PM
Nnenna Freelon joined a long line of female vocalists to offer their take on the music of Billie Holiday with last year's Blueprint of a Lady (Concord), an album of tunes closely associated with Lady Day. The thoroughly contemporary-sounding set proves that Freelon's no glib imitator--she uses plenty of dramatic spoken-word elocution and liberally injects the music with soul-jazz heat and hip-hop rhythms. She's joined here by keyboardist Brandon McCune (a former Chicagoan), bassist Wayne Batchelor, percussionist Beverly Botsford, and drummer Kinah Boto. PM
Charlie Hunter Trio with Ray Anderson
R Ray Anderson grew up in Hyde Park and attended the Lab School alongside fellow trombonist George Lewis in the early 70s. Like Lewis, Anderson is almost too gifted on the 'bone--you get the feeling that when he takes it away from his lips to scat or sing, he's doing it just to challenge himself. His vocals are in fact a bit of a challenge--he's got a pronounced Satchmo affectation--but when Anderson blows the horn, few can match the woozy fluidity of his playing or his constant rush of ideas. Though principally a jazz player, he's been involved in his share of funky projects over the years, so he certainly won't be at a loss for this encounter with fretboard prestidigitator Charlie Hunter. Hunter's all-hands-on-neck electric-guitar style has never quite transcended the gee-whiz factor for me, but he and his crack band can sure whip up the adrenaline--they should prove interesting foils for a deep thinker like Anderson. JC
JAZZ ON JACKSON
This local ensemble, which fuses Latin music with funk and jazz, was founded by percussionist Alejo Poveda, who's also backing a few other artists at this year's fest. Chevere has been around since the late 70s but didn't release its debut CD, Secret Dream, till 1998; the current lineup includes bassist Eric Hochberg, keyboardist Chris Cameron (who works with the pop group Sonia Dada), and stylistically ambidextrous harmonica player Howard Levy. JC
Earma Thompson with John Whitfield
R One of the great unheralded talents of old-school Chicago jazz, pianist Earma Thompson is a product of the fabled music program at DuSable High School, where her classmates included John Young, Dorothy Donegan, and Johnny Hartman. A couple years ago the local label the Sirens made a long-overdue attempt to redress her undeserved obscurity, releasing her elegant debut album, Just in Time, which could double as a time capsule of jazz history up through the hard-bop era. Her sure-handed playing drips with deep blues feeling, and she projects both technical and stylistic authority with the ease of someone with nothing left to prove. She's supported by the steady hand of bassist John Whitfield, who also accompanies her on the disc. PM
A regular sideman for singers Jackie Allen and Grazyna Auguscik, this local mainstream pianist has a deft hand for melodic embroidery and a warm touch with straight-ahead postbop. PM
Lee Konitz workshop
So many of jazz's legendary figures have passed away, but thankfully Chicago-born alto saxophone master Lee Konitz, who's nearing 80, is still around. Konitz was a key player on Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool sessions and a member of the influential and aesthetically groundbreaking bands led by pianist Lennie Tristano in the 40s, and his buoyant style is like a modernized version of Lester Young's, augmented with the hyperadvanced harmonic concept and darting linearity that were Tristano's hallmarks. In this workshop setting, he'll lead a group of students from the Merit School of Music on what may well be the most exciting ride of their budding careers. JC
Dana Hall Quintet
Though he's been driving well-known bands for ages, Chicago drummer Dana Hall first made an impression on me just a few years ago, when I heard him anchoring guitarist Bobby Broom's trio for one of its regular gigs at Pete Miller's in Evanston. In that stripped-down context, it became obvious immediately what a powerhouse Hall is--he can be sparse, sensitive, and suggestive but at the same time packs a decisive one-two. His group includes Ron Perillo on piano and the two-sax front line of Steve Wilson on alto and Tim Warfield on tenor. JC
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
Dos Claves Orquesta
Led by Richard Pillot and Marc Jacoby, this local community big band is devoted to the brassy sounds of classic Latin jazz, playing tunes by the likes of Machito, Mario Bauza, and Tito Puente. PM
Percussion Discussion with Paul Wertico
Paul Wertico drummed with Pat Metheny from 1983 till 2001, and he's still best known for that gig--but he's also a seasoned educator, currently on the faculty at Northwestern University, and the other musical contexts he's worked in range from the unsung vanguard group Spontaneous Composition (which he cofounded) to the relatively commercial jazz-folk studio bands on Terry Callier's comeback albums. He's more than qualified to talk percussion, both personally and pedagogically. JC
Muntu Dance Theatre
Since 1972 this local company has been a living archive for the cultures of ancient Africa. In its carefully researched dance-and-percussion performances Muntu explores the rhythms that are the earliest ancestors of jazz. PM
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
Tribute to Oscar Brown Jr. with Maggie & Africa Brown
With the words he wrote for his version of "Dat Dere" (originally an instrumental number by soul jazzer Bobby Timmons), Oscar Brown Jr. painted an endearing portrait of his young son, Oscar Brown III, better known as Bobo. When the elder Brown died last year at 78, jazz was robbed of a great patriarch--and tragically he'd already outlived Bobo, who'd become an accomplished bassist by the time he was killed a decade ago in a car accident. One of Chicago's finest singers as well as an actor, playwright, and activist, Oscar Brown Jr. is remembered fondly for a long list of achievements both artistic and political, notably his pioneering civil-rights lyrics on Max Roach's 1960 masterpiece We Insist! And his legacy lives on in the form of yet more musical offspring: his daughters Maggie (who's recorded with Abbey Lincoln, for whom her dad wrote "Driva' Man" on the Roach record) and Africa, both singers, will pay tribute to their father here. JC
Bik Bent Braam
R Over the past few years, Dutch pianist and composer Michiel Braam has been visiting Chicago regularly with his odd and rhythmically nimble little piano trio--which includes Wilbert de Joode, one of the most ferocious and resourceful bassists in the world, and marvelous drummer Michael Vatcher, an expatriate American. Braam's ambitious large band, Bik Bent Braam, which also features de Joode, turns 20 this year, but it hasn't graced a Chicago stage till now; the current lineup is a topflight batch that includes trombonist Wolter Wierbos and cornetist Eric Boeren, both from Holland, as well as German clarinetist and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski. Able to swing like a manic Basie band and open up into total improvisation, the group is a key part of the fertile Amsterdam creative-music scene, and it's clear that its roots run deep in that well-tended soil. For 2004's "Bonsai" project, Bik Bent Braam played without charts or a set list, which isn't such a strange thing in Amsterdam--like its trailblazing predecessor, Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra, this is a big band that won't let anybody onstage just blend into the crowd, instead forcing every player to take the initiative and listen carefully to the others. JC
Jason Moran & the Bandwagon with Bunky Green
R Most mainstream jazz artists cling to orthodoxy almost by definition, but pianist Jason Moran continues to take risks and challenge himself. A fiercely adventurous spirit unifies the forthcoming Artist in Residence (Blue Note), a mixed bag of pieces collected from three major commissioned projects Moran completed in 2004 and '05. Two numbers incorporate spoken word from artist Adrian Piper, extracting kernels of melody from her speech patterns, and two others are from a collaboration between Moran and video and performance artist Joan Jonas, who chimes in spontaneously with hand percussion and a variety of noisemakers. Much of the album features bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits--aka the Bandwagon, Moran's current working group--and they shadow and cajole him with remarkable empathy. Here they'll support Moran and special guest Bunky Green, a great alto saxophonist with a sweet, crying tone; a Milwaukee native, he spent some key years in Chicago in the early 60s. Moran and Waits also appear on Green's recent quartet album, Another Place (released by the French imprint Label Bleu), which is inexplicably unavailable in the U.S. PM
The Joe Lovano Nonet revisits Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool
This set could provide a scintillating new look at one of the landmark recordings of the 20th century, or it could turn out to be a calculated festival project that looks better on the program than it sounds onstage. Thankfully a band almost identical to this one has already investigated Miles Davis's canonical LP on Joe Lovano's latest album, Streams of Expression (Blue Note), so the odds favor the former. It also seems likely that Lovano and company will invite alto saxophonist Lee Konitz--who participated in the Birth of the Cool sessions and is already here at the fest--to join them. To hear Konitz rip into a tune like "Move" with all he's learned in the past 50 years would really be a treat, and I can't imagine why anyone would pass up an opportunity to make it happen. In any case it's a pleasure to have Lovano in town--his serious tenor playing, lent extra gravitas by his paternal presence, is arguably the most influential sound among the past decade's batch of New York saxophonists and always excellent fodder for thoughtful appreciation. The nonet includes rich-toned baritone saxist Gary Smulyan, who'll cover Gerry Mulligan's parts, and altoist Steve Slagle, who's distinctly un-Konitz-like but excellent in his own right. JC
JAZZ ON JACKSON
With four winds, the Lucky 7s might well blow the house down--which would only be fitting, since this seven-piece cross-country creative-music band was formed in response to Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the storm, four Chicago improvisers--Jeb Bishop on trombone, Josh Berman on cornet, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, and Keefe Jackson on tenor sax--teamed up with three key New Orleans players: trombonist Jeff Albert (who founded the group with Bishop), drummer Quin Kirchner, and bassist Matthew Golombisky. JC
Crescent City/Windy City Jam with Maurice Brown and Corey Wilkes
Leading this jam are two fine young trumpeters who've made the rounds and paid their dues in innumerable Chicago sessions. Maurice Brown, for years an almost legendary wunderkind, has worked with all sorts of mainstream heavies, including Johnny Griffin and Jon Faddis. Corey Wilkes is a bit more adventurous--he's playing trumpet in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, such as it is in its post-Malachi Favors state. JC
Rebirth Brass Band
R Now in its third decade, Rebirth carries a torch for the classic New Orleans brass-band sound and simultaneously pushes the envelope, funkifying familiar pop and rock tunes and even cutting some brash hip-hop into the mix. Last year's The Main Event: Live at the Maple Leaf (Mardi Gras) bubbles over with fat sounds, fleet rhythms, and relentless polyphonic energy--these guys could go head-to-head with any Balkan brass ensemble. PM
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
Civic & Arts Jazz Ensemble
The winners of the annual jazz competition hosted by the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation spend their yearlong tenure playing together at events throughout the Chicago area; the current lineup includes guitarist Dan Effland, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, drummer Nils Higdon, and pianist Ben Paterson. PM
Led by Syrian percussionist Omar Al Musfi, this local band weds the improvisational language of jazz to Arabic rhythms and modes. The players negotiate what could be a lumpy mix with skill and flash, but a whiff of jazz-rock fusion often taints their music. PM
A History of Jazz with John Watson
Onetime Count Basie trombonist John Watson delivers a history lesson that aims to cover a century of jazz in 60 minutes. He's a bit of a stand-up artist as well as a musician--in his regular gig with Yoko Noge's Jazz Me Blues, he's fond of punctuating the tunes with tall tales and off-color remarks--so this should be anything but a dusty lecture. JC
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
Donald Harrison Quintet
Although alto saxophonist Donald Harrison made his name as one of the last members of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, his commitment to hard bop hasn't diminished his deeply rooted love for New Orleans jazz. He's still chief of his late father's Mardi Gras Indian tribe, and on his 2004 album Free Style (Nagel Heyer) he spikes his fluid solos with plenty of Crescent City funk. He's joined here by young lion trumpeter Christian Scott (who's also his nephew), bassist Luques Curtis, drummer John Lamkin, and pianist Dan Kauffman. PM
Willie Pickens 75th birthday celebration
R Pianist Willie Pickens is so young at heart it's hard to believe he's been on the Chicago jazz scene since the late 50s. When he sits at the keys, though, it gets a little easier: you can hear all that experience in everything he plays. Not only is he fantastic out front, as a soloist or bandleader, but he's also the ultimate rhythm-section pianist, beloved for his good taste, restraint, and thorough command of postbop's harmonic possibilities--he adds his own great ideas without drawing too much attention away from the soloist, a skill he deployed notably as a member of Elvin Jones's Jazz Machine. Of late Pickens has been paying more attention to a different side of his musical personality as a deacon at the Hyde Park Union Church, and on the two volumes of JazzSpirit, his wondrous new Southport release, he walks several Chicago all-star groups through a selection of sacred songs--a project that recalls Gene Ammons's great old dip into the ecclesiastical book. Here he'll be playing as part of a fine local quintet that includes saxist Pat Mallinger and trumpeter Tito Carrillo, but no matter what the setting it'd be a treat to celebrate three quarters of a century with Mr. Pickens. JC
Lee Konitz Nonet directed by Ohad Talmor
R Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz is that rare breed of musician who, even at age 78, still challenges himself with new contexts. He's one of the greatest improvisers jazz has ever produced, and though he uses different formats to propel and refract his glorious, lyrical solos, he's always instantly recognizable. He clearly prefers small groups--his discography is full of wonderful duo outings with a dazzling range of collaborators--but here he'll perform with a nonet. (Though the classic Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool, which Konitz recorded for back in 1949 and '50, also used a nine-piece, this one's lighter on brass and heavier on strings.) Tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor, who assembled the group playing here, is a trusted collaborator--he's also served as musical director for two fascinating projects pairing Konitz with string quartets, including the brand-new Inventions (OmniTone), and on the superb New Nonet (OmniTone) his gorgeous arrangements provide rich and varied harmonic backdrops for Konitz's improvisations. Most of the band on the latter album is back for this set: the lineup consists of Talmor, trumpeter Russ Johnson, trombonist Jacob Garchik, clarinetists Oscar Noriega and Denis Lee, cellist Greg Heffernan, guitarist Pete McCann, bassist Bob Bowen, and drummer Matt Wilson. PM
Joey DeFrancesco Trio with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Ron Blake
For its finale the fest presents a rousing round of Hammond B-3 jazz, featuring one of the old greats, the beturbaned Dr. Lonnie Smith, alongside younger star Joey DeFrancesco and saxophonist Ron Blake. On Smith's newest CD he reworks tunes by Marvin Gaye and other soul stirrers--wonder if he'll seduce DeFrancesco to do the same. JC
Thinking Outside the Park
By Neil Tesser
The fest calls it a night before ten, but the jazz doesn't stop then.
"New location. Same old Velvet," reads the poster for Fred Anderson's storied avant-garde club, the VELVET LOUNGE, which has been up and running since late July in a space around the corner and down the block from its former digs--and though the new Velvet looks a lot spiffier, it does indeed share the homey, funky spirit of the original. In the past the club's late-night afterfest jams have often drawn its biggest crowds of the year, attracting younger listeners the way Republicans attract lobbyists, and the improved sound system and sight lines in the new space can only make it a more popular destination. Tonight intrepid local saxist John Goldman anchors the jam with his own group.
At the JAZZ SHOWCASE, the now traditional afterfest jam sessions once again feature the now traditional festival-week house band. Leading the sturdy rhythm section of bassist Larry Gray, drummer Robert Shy, and pianist Willie Pickens is the continually surprising, often stupefying Ira Sullivan, who juggles instruments--alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, trumpet, sometimes flute--as well as tempos, soloists, and even arrangements, all at the drop of a hat mute. Sullivan and company will start things off each evening, then invite onstage those festival performers who've made the short trek from Grant Park to Grand Avenue; already confirmed for tonight are former Chicagoans Ron Blake (saxes) and Maurice Brown (trumpet), and you can count on that list growing to include a half-dozen festival headliners by the end of Sunday night.
Even on the rare occasion when the Chicago Jazz Festival fails to feature a set from indefatigable octogenarian Von Freeman, you can bet he'll find work somewhere in town that weekend. This year the hard-charging tenorist is booked at the GREEN MILL for tonight and Saturday, leading a quintet that includes pianist Ben Paterson and guitarist Mike Allemana.
This year, instead of borrowing main-stage artists from Grant Park for its afterfest sets, HOTHOUSE offers true alternative programming. Tonight saxist and AACM cofounder Roscoe Mitchell leads his Chicago Quartet, with bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Vince Davis setting the stage both for Mitchell's wizardry and the vivid playing of young trumpeter Corey Wilkes. Throughout his career, Mitchell has exploited extended techniques--overtones, multiphonics, circular breathing--to create music at once analytical and passionate, and this coiled serpent of a band has become an especially satisfying vehicle for one of the most important jazz musicians of the past half century.
All summer DANK HAUS has been presenting a monthly "Jazz on the Terrace" concert series, and this final installment of the season, featuring the local trio led by bassist Karl E.H. Seigfried, doubles as an afterfest jam. Seigfried, drummer Isaiah Spencer, and rising-star saxist Greg Ward will welcome guests yet to be announced--they promise an "intergenerational, interracial, and interstylistic" selection from the subscenes of Chicago's jazz community. But no matter who else shows up, you can count on the trio for music that's both edgy and grounded, played against a beautiful backdrop (weather permitting) of the city skyline seven miles distant.
Afterfest sessions continue at the JAZZ SHOWCASE. Likely to sit in with Sullivan's group are puckish trombonist Ray Anderson, galvanic saxist Billy Harper, and piano wunderkind Jason Moran.
At the VELVET LOUNGE, reedist and flutist Douglas Ewart leads his band Inventions.
Afterfest sessions continue at the JAZZ SHOWCASE, with likely participants including saxists Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano as well as members of Lovano's nonet--among them alto saxist Steve Slagle and peerless baritone saxist Gary Smulyan.
Last summer KATERINA'S presented a screening of Shut-Eye, a tough nut of a crime drama by local indie director John Covert, that included live music by Chicago pianist and composer Bradley Parker-Sparrow, who wrote the film's score. This year the restaurant-club is hosting Sparrow and his Machine Band, who'll perform excerpts from the score minus the movie; this release party for their sound-track CD (brand-new on Southport) promises to evolve into a jam session involving half the artists on Southport's roster, among them trumpeter Bobby Lewis, keyboardists Marshall Vente and Corky McClerkin, bassist Tatsu Aoki, and vocalists Joanie Pallatto and Linda Tate.
Tonight the new VELVET LOUNGE honors the late Malachi Thompson, the trumpeter, entrepreneur, and community activist who lost his battle with cancer in July at age 56. Thompson showcased his brash, raw trumpet style in two long-term ensembles, the Freebop Band and Africa Brass; this big-band tribute, assembled by reedist Mwata Bowden, nods to the scope and repertoire of the latter.
Jazz Fest sets tend to be relatively short--it's the only way to pack in all those bands before Grant Park's 9:30 curfew. Many visiting musicians thus leap at the chance to stretch out with their colleagues, either in the jam sessions at the Showcase and the Velvet or in small ad hoc groups like those the HUNGRY BRAIN hosts tonight, assembled from members of the nonet supporting festival headliner Lee Konitz--including trumpeter Russ Johnson, guitarist Pete McCann, cellist Greg Heffernan, and reedists Oscar Noriega and Ohad Talmor, the band's director. Joining the out-of-towners will be some of the usual suspects from the Brain's Sunday-night concert series.
Reedist Frank Gratkowski and bassist Wilbert de Joode, two key members of the visiting Dutch big band Bik Bent Braam, play HOTTI BISCOTTI in a quintet that's rounded out by Bay Area bassist Damon Smith and two inimitable locals, ARP synth maestro Jim Baker and percussionist Jerome Bryerton.
Tonight at the HUNGRY BRAIN, members of Bik Bent Braam, the 13-piece big band led by Dutch pianist Michiel Braam, will reconvene in small groups with assorted locals to play music they couldn't squeeze into their Saturday-night festival gig. Among the confirmed participants are several genuine European giants, including trumpeter Angelo Verploegen, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, and reedist Frank Gratkowski.
At the JAZZ SHOWCASE's final afterfest session, expect saxist Donald Harrison and trumpeters Maurice Brown and Christian Scott to sit in--and don't be surprised if Joey DeFrancesco forgoes his customary Hammond B-3 to take a turn on piano.
At the VELVET LOUNGE, Fred Anderson puts down the bar towel and scoops up his tenor, this time to lead a power trio with the well-traveled, much-in-demand, and always spectacular Hamid Drake on drums.
At HOTHOUSE a new quartet called Frequency throws a CD-release party for its self-titled Thrill Jockey debut (for sale at the door). The band comprises flutist Nicole Mitchell, reedist Edward Wilkerson, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Avreeayl Ra, and the album is a fine melange of influences borne along by a strong current of mutually empathetic free improvisation; augmenting the characteristically distinctive compositions by Mitchell and Wilkerson are pieces by Bankhead and Ra and several tunes credited to the entire group.
4740 N. Western, 773-561-9181, music at 9 PM Friday F
4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, music at 9 PM Friday and 8 PM Saturday, $10
31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, music at 10 PM both Friday ($20) and Sunday ($12)
3545 W. Fullerton, 773-772-9970, music at 10:30 PM Saturday, donation encouraged
2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, music at 10 PM Saturday and Sunday F
59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, music at about 9:30 PM Thursday through Sunday, $20
1920 W. Irving Park, 773-348-7592, music at 9:30 PM Saturday, $10
67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, music at about 9 PM Thursday ($10) and Friday through Sunday ($20)
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.