A major event in the history of the Chicago Jazz Festival occurred eight years ago when it commissioned Randy Weston to compose a major work honoring the African sources of jazz. Weston and his arranger-orchestrator Melba Liston came up with African Sunrise, a huge, sprawling composition that the Machito Orchestra played–with guests Dizzy Gillespie, Weston, and others–in an exciting performance. African Sunrise didn’t appear on record until this year, when a reworked version was included on Weston’s Spirits of Our Ancestors CD. Weston’s Spirits septet, directed by Liston, will play at this year’s festival on Sunday night. Will they offer a new African Sunrise? In any case, Weston as a soloist has taken Duke Ellington’s piano discoveries a step further, and like Ellington he’s long worked at uniting the rhythmic worlds of America and Africa. Antic trumpeter Lester Bowie and his Brass Fantasy will be the festival’s finale on Sunday, and that day will also include a performance by versatile piano soloist Jaki Byard. Saturdays show features tenor sax colossus Sonny Rollins, who almost never fails to deliver an exciting, creative live show; the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, which has offered brilliant Chicago-style free jazz at past fests; and a sextet of bop Old Masters led by trumpeter Art Hoyle, to show us youngsters how the music is supposed to be played. And though Friday is GRP Records night, it’ll be infiltrated by straight-ahead swingers Mike Smith (alto sax), Bobby Broom (guitar), and their groups. Now that the Chicago Jazz Festival has been cut back to two days plus the GRP show, it’s no longer a major international event–but there’s still a lot of variety in this sampler, and much good music is virtually guaranteed. Friday, 6-10:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 3-10:30 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 744-3370 or 744-3315.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Cheung Ching Ming, Lauren Deutsch.