There are a few things you can count on the Chicago Jazz Festival to do: balance programming to reflect the music’s breadth and long history, commission original music from some present or past Chicagoan, book some splendid European act rarely heard stateside, revive music from some classic jazz record, call attention to underappreciated veteran players, spotlight plenty of locals, resist pop acts that increase crowds but dilute jazz content.

The formula has worked very well for most of the past 22 years, and the programmers have dutifully followed it again this year. But if the featured players seem to climb onstage a little more slowly, if they look oddly familiar, it’s not your imagination. There are a number of repeat bookings from previous years, many of them older players who may not be around much longer. (Indeed, saxophonist Harold Land, who was slated to play two gigs, died of a stroke in late July.)

But some of those elders are good enough to see whenever you can, including bandleader Gerald Wilson and tenor saxists Teddy Edwards and Benny Golson. And really, the jazz greats are all getting grayer. Even self-proclaimed avant-gardists have been at it for 35 years, and those Jazz Fest headliners who were hot new talents not long ago–Cassandra Wilson, Terence Blanchard, Greg Osby–are pushing into their middle years. So grab those opportunities while you can–it pays to hear any style played by folks who were there at its creation.

As always, Jackson Boulevard in Grant Park is the main drag. The big evening concerts, Thursday, August 30, through Sunday, September 2, are held at the Petrillo Music Shell at Jackson and Columbus. If that setting seems too mammoth for good listening, try the Saturday and Sunday afternoon sets at the Jazz on Jackson stage, near Lake Shore Drive. They start at noon; bring a picnic, jams will be provided. Starting at 12:30 those same afternoons, there’s more action close by at the kid-friendly Jazz and Heritage Family Stage, south of Jackson near the Rose Garden. The Chicago Cultural Center’s aperitif concerts are a short walk away at Michigan and Washington: Jason Moran solo, Thursday at 4:30, and Ralph Alessi’s pianoless quartet Modular Theatre, Friday at noon. Like all Jazz Festival gigs, they’re free–for more details, see Neil Tesser’s sidebar on pre- and postfest happenings.

Thursday, August 30

Petrillo Music Shell

6:00 PM Tribute to the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens With Orbert Davis

Jazz Fest presents two tributes to jazz’s first genius in the year of his centennial–and oddly they’ll both star local trumpeter Orbert Davis. Why not offer another point of view, perhaps present the fine Pops devotee Yves Francois? Nothing against Davis, who’s a superb modern player; it’ll be interesting to hear what he brings to the classic material Louis Armstrong recorded here in Chicago during the 20s. Last year Columbia released The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings, a box set that traces how Armstrong pushed jazz out of Dixieland’s collective improvisation paradigm and made it a true soloist’s art. The shoes of sidemen like Johnny Dodds, Kid Ory, Lil Armstrong, and Baby Dodds are pretty tough to fill, but clarinetist Brent Courtney, trombonist Steve Berry, pianist Ryan Cohan, bassist Lorin Cohen, and drummer Leon Joyce will give it their best. PM

7:10 PM Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio With Pharoah Sanders

The welcome reissue of the 1967 debut album by Philip Cohran & the Artistic Heritage Ensemble (on Aestuarium) earlier this year shed light on a key influence on Kahil El’Zabar’s two-decade-old Ritual Trio. The hypnotic, kalimba-based grooves that have been a staple of the group’s repertoire for years can be traced back to Cohran’s mesmerizing concoctions. But with the exception of one cut, El’Zabar leaves the thumb piano off the group’s most recent album, Africa N’da Blues (Delmark), and no wonder: it would be awfully difficult for the trio to support guest tenor titan Pharoah Sanders’s fiery flood of split tones and overblown cries without someone manning some far more serious percussion. Sanders remains one of the most fervent disciples of his former employer John Coltrane, and his enormous presence frees the trio’s own saxist, Ari Brown, to display his expansive approach to piano, which is highly reminiscent of Coltrane’s longtime partner McCoy Tyner. As ever, bassist Malachi Favors anchors even the most far-flung flights with stunning gravity and warmth. PM

:20 PM Dee Dee Bridgewater

In addition to having impeccable credentials as a jazz singer–including a stint with the great Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra–Dee Dee Bridgewater has spent quite a bit of time on Broadway, even earning a Tony as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz. In other words, she’s a natural performer. On her latest album, Live at Yoshi’s (Verve), the mad scatter puts on a show that ranges from pure pyrotechnics (“Cherokee”) to cheeky, wordless sexiness (“Love for Sale”) to more subtle but still remarkable horn emulations (“Slow Boat to China”). She never sounds precious or cutesy: her sense of humor favors the bawdy, and there’s an undeniable streak of soul in even her most daring acrobatics. Backed by a couple of players from her high-octane Parisian group, bassist Thomas Bramerie and pianist and organist Thierry Eliez, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, a cohort of Greg Osby, she’s guaranteed to end the festival’s first night with a blowout. PM

Friday, August 31

Petrillo Music Shell

6:00 PM uThe Three Tenors: Von Freeman, Eric Alexander &

Ed Petersen

As he approaches 80, Von Freeman’s rep as the grand old man of Chicago tenor saxophone is more and more appropriate–even though he looks and plays like a man half his age. He emerged on the scene as a young hotshot playing in the prebop style of Lester Young in the late 30s; today he hosts a jam session every Tuesday at the New Apartment Lounge on 75th Street, where, if you catch him in the first set of the night, you’ll most likely be pinned to the wall by an hour and a half of burning straight-ahead jazz. Vonski’s been an inspiration to many younger musicians, not least Ed Petersen and Eric Alexander, both of whom cut their teeth in Chicago and then went on to mature in other jazz metropoles. Like Freeman, they both fare well when chewing on standard changes with a propulsive band–like the one that recorded with Freeman and Petersen on Delmark’s Von & Ed in ’99. That same band, with widely traveled bassist Brian Sandstrom, stalwart pianist Willie Pickens, and rock-steady drummer Robert Shy, will support them here. Expect complementary blowing rather than a cutting contest–these guys are true gentlemen. JC

7:10 PM Kurt Elling With Orbert Davis, Jim Gailloreto & Pat Mallinger

Kurt Elling’s brand of creativity isn’t for everyone, but you have to hand it to him: he never goes at it half-assed. The Chicagoan’s brand-new Flirting With Twilight, fourth in a series of Blue Note albums that have made him one of the most talked-about male jazz singers in the country, extends the vocalese tradition popularized by Jon Hendricks in the 50s. Elling scats wildly, tosses in some of his favorite beat poetry, indulges in a stratospheric falsetto, and puts lyrics to his favorite solos. It’s mostly the instrumentalists he chooses to emulate–including free-era John Coltrane and Charlie Haden–that set him apart from his predecessors. The new recording, a slightly more traditional all-ballad collection, features his longtime partner, the pianist Laurence Hobgood, along with imported talent like saxophonists Jeff Clayton and Bob Sheppard, but for this fest gig Elling and Hobgood will be joined by the other half of the singer’s working group, drummer Mike Raynor and bassist Rob Amster, plus guest trumpeter Orbert Davis and reedists Pat Mallinger and Jim Gailloreto. PM

:20 PM uDave Brubeck

The west-coast cool school sprang mostly from the New York-based nonet that recorded Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool circa 1950. But since 1946, Mills College student composer and pianist Dave Brubeck had in fact been developing some of the same ideas out west: pastel harmonies and lacy counterpoint that injected the delicacy of chamber music into jazz without wimping it out. Those charts can be found on the album Dave Brubeck Octet. But by the time Brubeck became a jazz star, a few years later, he’d slimmed his band down to a quartet, and the octet never returned. At the urging of the Jazz Fest organizers, though, several extra musicians will join Brubeck and his current quartet–saxist Bobby Militello, bassist Michael Moore, and drummer Randy Jones–to present a few of those octet arrangements, sometimes with a substitute pianist, Brubeck’s teenage protege Taylor Eigsti. The expanded ensemble includes the clarinetist from the original octet, Bill (aka composer William O.) Smith, who’ll stick around after the other ringers leave, as well as superior trumpeter Art Hoyle. KW

Saturday, September 1

Jazz and Heritage Family Stage

12:30 PM Ameen Muhammad

& the Griot Band:

When the Griot Sings

Trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, a pillar of the New Horizons Ensemble, fronts this lineup of AACM veterans, which regularly performs in schools around the state. Muhammad is a natural charmer, with a joyful onstage demeanor, and here, in the role of the griot, he’ll bring to life the history of jazz and its complex tangle of influences with a lively annotated performance. He’s joined by reedist Mwata Bowden, drummer Avreeayl Ra, and electric bassist Louis Satterfield, a vet of the Pharaohs and Earth, Wind & Fire who’s recently moved back to Chicago. PM

1:45 PM Alyo Children’s Dance Theatre

This youth dance troupe, based at Olive-Harvey College, performs traditional dances from Africa and the African diaspora to djembe accompaniment.

3:00 PM Meet Louis Armstrong With Orbert Davis, Franz Jackson & Ryan Cohan

Any single Satchmo tribute can only hint at everything he was and is, but this one, aimed at the kids, looks like it’ll come closer than most. Slick trumpet modernist Davis is an unlikely Armstrong specialist, but then Armstrong knew a thing or two about artfully bent notes and dramatic long tones too. Octogenarian tenor saxist Franz Jackson has as good a feel for a limber two-beat rhythm as anybody living, a softly patinaed tone, and a gravel-voiced singing style that sounds less like a bad impersonation than a natural adaptation. Pianist Ryan Cohan will set them up. If the kids show interest, play them the real thing when you get home, OK? KW

4:15 PM Tatsu Aoki’s Rooted: Origins of Now

Bassist Tatsu Aoki, a regular in the trio led by tenor sax great Fred Anderson, is perhaps best known as the driving force behind Chicago’s Asian American Jazz Festival. Many of his own projects explore the intersections of disparate musics: for instance his ambitious Miyumi Project, presented at the city’s jazz and world-music festivals last year, brought together jazz and traditional Asian percussion. Rooted, a new work commissioned by the Chicago Composers Project, has similar aims. The group that will perform it, billed as Chicago’s first Asian-American big band, features a three saxophonists (among them Mwata Bowden), three taiko drummers, and blues singer Yoko Noge. PM

Jazz on Jackson

Noon Damon Short Quintet

Drummer and percussionist Damon Short has been a fixture on the creative music scene in Chicago since the late 80s, when he released his debut LP, Penguin Shuffle. He’s active as a composer and bandleader, having amassed a hefty book of pieces for several ensembles, and since ’94 he’s recorded three CDs for Southport. Nonetheless, frustrated by the overall lack of opportunities to release his music, Short has recently taken the unusual step of starting his own limited-edition archival label, Depth Perception, and earlier this year he issued three more CDs, whose contents date back to 1981 and document the changing shape of his concept up through ’94. Short’s composing comes out of the post-free-jazz restructuralist tradition, incorporating elements of earlier jazz subgenres (a Mingus-y sense of sectionality, boppish lines), open improvising, and challenges to conventional jazz form. Here he’ll be working with some of his long-term comrades, including Paul Scea on tenor sax, Chuck Burdelik on alto, Ryan Shultz on bass trumpet, and Kevin Tkacz on bass. JC

1:00 PM Jeremy Kahn

Piano man Jeremy Kahn has plied his trade in the bars and lounges of Boston and New York as well as his hometown, Chicago. While for some ticklers that’s life in hell, Kahn seems to have used his residencies to build up a broad repertoire–on a 1995 trio CD he mixes Mingus, Shorter, Weill, and Beiderbecke–and to stock the depths below the music’s placid surface with all sorts of fish, from quietly altered blues licks to chromium chords and terse asides to serpentine left-hand bass lines that unexpectedly take over. Get a seat up front if you really want to catch any of them. KW

1:30 PM John Young

Von Freeman’s longtime pianist John Young is a master of that mix of southern bluesiness and southwestern swing developed at the Chicago crossroads. He’ll lag far behind the beat to build suspense, then make his statement with economy when he does break silence, lest he fall behind. He can pour on the chromatic waterfalls, but his elliptical side is the real attraction. KW

2:10 PM David Young-

Maurice Brown Quintet

If Chicago trumpeter David Young can withstand the tsunami of hype to which he’s been subjected over the last year, he’ll probably have a long and fruitful career ahead of him. Reputedly he turned down an invitation by Wynton Marsalis to join the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra while still in school; now 21 and just out of Northwestern, he’s been lauded extravagantly by some local critics. Hard to keep your bearings under those pressures, but he is clearly a gifted trumpeter, with a bold, bright sound, fairly imaginative melodic sense, dexterity with a mute, and a propensity to half-valve that might elicit comparisons to Dave Douglas. If he has a problem, it’s that he doesn’t know what he wants to do yet–he’s got connections to both mainstream and creative jazz lineages, and they sometimes pull his music into somewhat untoward shapes. On his first CD, Appassionata (Big Chicago), released earlier this year, he slips into rabid sentimentality on down-tempo tunes, but when he’s really blowing it’s a hearty, exciting earful. For this concert, Young will be joined by another promising trumpeter, Maurice Brown, who’s been a consistent standout at various jam sessions of late, as well as guitarist Bobby Broom (who has a solid new Delmark CD out), first-call bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Kobie Watkins. JC

3:20 PM Marshall Vente’s Project 9 With Billy Harper

Marshall Vente obviously inspires loyalty: trombonist Steve Berry, saxist Chip Gdalman, guitarist Frank Dawson, bassist Scott Mason, and drummer Isidro Perez have all played in the pianist and composer’s Project 9 for more than 20 years. Vente studied in the 80s with arranger Gil Evans, whose impressionist harmonies built on right wrong notes is one inspiration here; like Evans, Vente also likes a bit of boogaloo. Few students can measure up to such a master, but Vente’s penchant for Latin rhythms and percussion gives his music its own signature. The 9 will be 13 strong this time out, and among the extra hands is tenor sax turbine (and former Evans sideman) Billy Harper. Harper’s hard, brawny sound and rhythmic permutations marked him as one of the tenor’s great hopes in the 1970s, and he can still light a fire under a complacent band. I missed Harper’s first appearance with Vente last winter, but word is they clicked. KW

Petrillo Music Shell

5:00 PM uDavid Boykin Expanse

Tenor saxophonist David Boykin sounds like he could have come out of the New York free-jazz renaissance of the 90s, but he’s in fact he’s one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets. His is a rough-and-ready free jazz, the kind that ESP Records documented in NYC in the late 60s, featuring short, utilitarian themes, searching group improvisation, plenty of ferocious blowing (very involved solos, sometimes tinged with an Ayleresque melancholy), and an overall Afrocentric vibe. His 1999 debut, Evidence of Life on Other Planets (Thrill Jockey/Boxmedia), is an excellent first effort, featuring his group the Outet, with Chicago Underground Duo drummer Chad Taylor (who, sadly, has since moved to New York), bassist Josh Abrams, Nicole Mitchell on flute, and Glenda Baker on (mostly) wordless vocals. Last year, Boykin issued The Nextspiritmental Musics (on his own label, Dreamtime), an engaging set of duets for his big, muscular tenor and Bakari Davis’s multidirectional drum work. At the fest, he’ll bring a group with Abrams, drummer Isaiah Spencer, vocalist Marquecia Jordan, and great pianist Jim Baker. JC

6:00 PM uBobby Sanabria Big Band

New York percussionist Bobby Sanabria has played in bands led by Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, and Tito Puente, among others, but as heard on last year’s superb Afro-Cuban Dream . . . Live & in Clave!!! (Arabesque) he’s got an outsize personality of his own. His orchestra plays with precise pyrotechnic energy, its huge, brassy swagger propelled by a perpetually charged rhythm section. Sanabria gathers up numerous traditions–Yoruban chants, straight-up jazz ballads, Machito-styled Cubop, Latinized pop standards, and screaming avant-garde saxophone soloing–to nonchalantly demonstrate Latin music’s wonderfully accretive aesthetic. The band’s blazing frontline features four trumpeters, four saxophonists, and four trombonists–including Chris Washburne and Joe Fiedler, regular collaborators of the excellent avant-garde composer and saxophonist Chris Jonas–and the rhythm section includes three percussionists in addition to the leader’s drums. If the only Latin jazz you’ve heard is the nostalgic Cuban variety that’s so trendy these days, you’re in for a real treat. PM

7:10 PM uGreg Osby Quartet

Saxophonist Greg Osby spent the 80s and the first half of the 90s struggling toward a sound: he helped forge the jazz-funk-hip-hop melange advocated by Brooklyn’s M-Base collective, contributed to one of pianist Andrew Hill’s most narcotic lineups, and fumbled while producing his own hip-hop tracks, but by the late 90s he’d found it–and documented it, on his ’98 live album Banned in New York, where he adapted the flow of his favorite MCs for his breathless improvisations. Osby has a deep understanding of jazz’s far-flung history and particular affection for bebop’s high-velocity runs and the deep funk of early-60s Lee Morgan, and he’s found the perfect foil in Jason Moran, a pianist nearly two decades his junior but equally versatile. Their latest adventure together is Symbols of Light (A Solution) (Blue Note), which pairs Osby’s quartet with a string quartet. Rather than arranging the strings into overstuffed romantic cushions, Osby integrates them thoroughly, using them like another unison horn line here or letting them improvise collectively there. In recent gigs at the Green Mill his group has been superb, applying stuttering rhythms and ambiguous harmonies to both originals and old warhorses and reinventing everything from “Jitterbug Waltz” to “The Sidewinder.” Joining Osby and Moran here will be bassist Calvin Jones and drummer Derek Phillips. PM

:20 PM uGerald Wilson Orchestra With Teddy Edwards

When it comes to writing for and directing a big band, one of the crucial issues is the articulation of a relationship between the section and the soloist. For some bandleaders, it’s a question of using charts to create backdrops or diving platforms, for others the arrangements are frames or transitions for lengthy solo excursions. Gerald Wilson’s idiosyncratic solution, though, has primarily been to write charts that are as melodically involving as the improvisations themselves. Wilson began his big-band career in the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra at the end of the 30s, arranging, conducting, and playing trumpet in the band. He led his own bebop-influenced big band featuring stellar trumpeter Snooky Young in Los Angeles in the mid-40s, then took a break to woodshed. He did some arranging for Duke Ellington and worked with Count Basie and Billie Holiday, then emerged again in the mid-50s with a very happening band that in 1961 began recording a string of LPs for the Pacific Jazz label. Working in the immense west-coast ecosystem, Wilson’s also managed excursions into TV and film, for which his bold, brassy writing was clearly appropriate, and in 1995 released a widely praised CD, State Street Sweet (MAMA)–which contained material composed for his ’94 Jazz Fest performance. In LA Wilson’s had his pick of fantabulous musicians, among them two tenor saxophonists, Harold Land and Teddy Edwards, who appear together on great Pacific Jazz releases like Moment of Truth, Portraits, On Stage, and The Golden Sword. The plan for this concert was to bring in that dynamic duo, but with Land’s recent passing that won’t be possible. Edwards, however, will be featured in an orchestra with many long-term Wilson sidemen, among them Young. JC

Sunday, September 2

Jazz and Heritage Family Stage

12:30 PM Bethany Pickens Trio

This local fave, the daughter of Chicago institution Willie Pickens, has tickled the ivories behind plenty of great jazzmen, including Von Freeman, Clark Terry, and Branford Marsalis. Here she’ll give something of a 101 course on what makes jazz jazz, using popular tunes to make her point.

1:45 PM A Spiritual Journey Percussion Ensemble

This percussion outfit will trace the spread of African rhythms around the world, starting in Nigeria, and illustrate the way those grooves mutated when mingled with musics around the globe, jazz included.

3:00 PM “Clave: The Key” With Bobby Sanabria

The New York Latin percussionist demonstrates the clave rhythm–the building block of virtually all Afro-Caribbean music–and discusses its history.

4:15 PM Jazz Tap Dance With Jimmy Payne Jr. & Sara Payne

Brother and sister jazz tappers Jimmy Payne Jr. and Sara Payne will conduct a clinic in this syncopated descendant of clogging.

Jazz on Jackson

Noon Katherine Davis Quintet

Chicagoan Katherine Davis has sung both classic blues (in the mid-80s she performed as both Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith in the Kuumba Theater production of In the House of the Blues), and traditional jazz (with Roy Rubenstein’s Chicago Hot Six), and on her recent Dream Shoes (Southport) she delivers a pleasing mix of the two. She’s joined here by tenor saxophonist Sonny Seals, pianist Joe Johnson, bassist Derrick Polk, and drummer Leon Joyce. PM

1:00 PM Kathy Kelly Quartet

One of the first groups vibist Kathy Kelly worked with in Chicago was the NRG Ensemble, led by staunch avant-gardist Hal Russell. But that was more than two decades ago; on her latest album, the breezy A Different Vibe (Kanani Music), Kelly’s music goes down like a tropical drink, though likewise its sweetness can occasionally be sickening. Her compositions emphasize the coolness of her instrument; the music is buoyant and hypermelodic, merging bebop with Brazilian and soul jazz with Latin rhythms. Her interaction with guitarist John McLean in particular is impressively intuitive. PM

2:00 PM Original Salty Dogs

With Franz Jackson

By the time the Salty Dogs were formed, in 1947–as a student jam-session band at Purdue University–tenor saxophonist Franz Jackson was already a 20-year jazz veteran. He started playing in Chicago in the mid-20s, and over the following seven decades he’s worked with all manner of great bands, including ones led by Albert Ammons, Jimmie Noone, Roy Eldridge, Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Cootie Williams as well as some lower-profile greats, like Reuben Reeves. Von Freeman immediately mentions Jackson when discussing great living tenor men, and like Freeman, Jackson maintains an omnivorous relationship to the history of his instrument. As he approaches 90, he’s still a strong, if old-fashioned, player combining a very trad New Orleans sensibility–no newfangled bass fiddles here, just tuba–with the influence of later stylists, in particular Coleman Hawkins. He first worked with the Salty Dogs in ’56 (only pianist John Cooper and cornetist Lew Green from the current lineup were in the band at that time), and they’ve just released a new collaborative record, Yellow Fire (Delmark); this concert promises to combine the familiar and the fresh in just the way hot jazz should. JC

3:15 PM uTeddy Edwards

Tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards repeats his double duties from the 1994 fest: backing Gerald Wilson on the main stage and headlining on the midway. Now 77, he has slowed down a mite since his last visit, but his ballad playing remains exquisite. Like his fellow Angeleno Dexter Gordon, he’s fond of swaggering riffs and delayed notes that catapult out from behind the beat. Also like Gordon, Edwards was profoundly inspired by booting and sleek-toned Lester Young, although he picked up some tricks from the boppers and Coltrane too. Replacing the late Harold Land as his friendly foil this year is Eric Schneider, whose more aggressive posture should keep Edwards on his toes–the onetime Earl Hines discovery sounded right at home in Sonny Stitt’s shoes on a program with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra last winter. (Stitt liked a good tenor battle himself.) The rhythm section is the reliable Jodie Christian on piano, Marlene Rosenberg on bass, and Robert Shy on drums. The secret hero of many Chicago gigs, Shy is an expert at pulling together joyfully loose jams just when they threaten to collapse. KW

Petrillo Music Shell

4:45 PM Milt Hinton: A Tribute by Four Bassists

Milt Hinton was one of the most widely recorded musicians jazz has produced–he turned up on sessions by everyone from Ethel Waters to Paul McCartney. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1910 but raised mostly on the south side of Chicago, he graduated from Wendell Phillips High School and made his bones in the 1930s with Cab Calloway’s big band. There trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie used him as a sounding board for new ideas, giving Hinton a leg up on later developments. A skilled reader and effortless swinger, Hinton disappeared into studio work in the 1950s, turning up on a zillion jazz and pop records but rarely surfacing as a leader. (As his 1988 coffee-table autobiography, Bass Line, revealed, he was also a great jazz photographer.) Hinton, who died in December, inspired great affection in fellow bassists. Four of them–John Bany, Dan Shapera, John Whitfield, and James Willis–will honor his memory in an improbable format: a bass quartet plus George Hughes on drums. Even two good jazz bassists can have trouble playing in tune and avoiding collisions, so how well it’ll work is anyone’s guess. KW

5:10 PM Johnny Frigo Quartet

Milt Hinton started on violin but switched to bass; fellow Chicagoan Johnny Frigo did the same, but when he reached retirement age, in the early 1980s, he returned to violin. Better late than never–he plays it like a man with nothing to lose. Frigo can evoke florid Gypsy traditions, Stephane Grappelli’s French elegance, and the scratchy blues feel of Stuff Smith in the course of a chorus or two, which makes him an upredictable character: you can never be entirely sure which way he’ll jump. His playing sounds like a voice from long ago–which it is, considering he started fiddling during the Coolidge administration. The band that gives him room to shine and spells him between solos includes pianist Joe Vito, bassist Jim Cox, and drummer Rick Frigo. KW

6:10 PM uBenny Golson Quintet

Benny Golson the composer is the author of such jam-session perennials as “I Remember Clifford,” “Stablemates,” and “Five Spot After Dark.” His tunes have such shapely lines that soloists can weave broad variations and still sound anchored to the material. In 1959 he also cofounded the six-piece Jazztet, one of the great tight but oh-so-soulful hard-bop groups, which he’s revived periodically. But Golson the tenor saxophonist deserves far more acclaim. Like his old Philly running buddies John Coltrane and Jimmy Heath, he combines jaunty phrasing with a hearty but not quite heavy sound, but his plump tone is his own, and subject to endless subtle variations. He’ll dicker with the shape or speed of his vibrato, rocket from a fast slurred sequence into short staccato notes, raise his volume from a whisper to a shout and then abruptly cut himself short. Like his tunes, his solos are full of logical developments you didn’t hear coming. This weekend’s quintet includes the Jazztet’s original trombonist, Curtis Fuller, a master in his own right whose dark burnished tone and nimble articulation are a good match for the leader’s. The promising rhythm section consists of Mulgrew Miller (piano), Buster Williams (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). KW

7:10 PM uNDR Bigband

In western Europe, where state-sponsored radio is a potent cultural force, there are a number of radio jazz orchestras. One of the most respected and longest running is Hamburg’s NDR Bigband, at it since 1947. In Chicago they’ll feature music by their landsman Kurt Weill, composer for Brecht and Broadway, whose tunes found favor with Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin (“Mack the Knife”), the Doors (“Alabama Song”), Gil Evans and Dave Douglas (“Bilbao Song”), and many other jazz musicians (“My Ship,” “Speak Low,” “Lost in the Stars”). Weill’s oddly compatible mix of lyrical melodies and four-square harmonies have also inspired composers Carla Bley and Willem Breuker. The NDR Bigband’s CD The Theatre of Kurt Weill (ACT), recorded live last year, includes all the tunes just named, as arranged by English composer and pianist Colin Towns. He takes a few cues from early Gil Evans (atmospheric harmonies that set off but don’t compete with a soloist) and some from later Evans (deliberately modern but sometimes intrusive colors, like electric guitar with ostentatious delay), without neglecting Weill’s fits of Germanic oompah. The results are not wholly persuasive, but having lived with the music longer, and with their usual conductor Dieter Glawischnig up front, the band should loosen the music up–or play other stuff that will get them moving. KW

:20 PM Terence Blanchard

With Cassandra Wilson

Terence Blanchard’s most recent outing, Let’s Get Lost (Sony Classical), is a mixed bag of meetings between the trumpeter and different singers–Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, newcomer Jane Monheit, the overrated Diana Krall–and instrumentals, all drawn from the songbook of Jimmy McHugh. The pieces sans voice are some of the record’s strongest, featuring tenor saxophonist Brice Winston, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Derek Nievergelt, and drummer Eric Harland to good advantage. That’s the band Blanchard will have in tow for the festival, and you can expect to hear him play much of the material from the CD, which of course places his supple, gauzy tone out front. He’ll also be joined by Wilson, one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of the last decade. In the 80s and early 90s she worked with forward-looking folks like Henry Threadgill and M-Base members Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, but she gained a much broader audience with her late-90s Blue Note releases, Blue Light ’til Dawn, New Moon Daughter, and the Miles Davis tribute Traveling Miles. Her own projects have grown increasingly precious and contrived, so it’s often nicest to hear her guesting in someone else’s band; her two contributions to Let’s Get Lost are in fact the disc’s best moments. She has a complex voice, sometimes husky, sometimes velvety, and she knows how to phrase a line intelligently, unlike Krall or the less mature Monheit. Don’t know if it’ll happen but it would be interesting to hear Wilson’s take on some of the McHugh classics less convincingly covered by her colleagues. JC