As usual the Chicago Jazz Festival is recognizing a few big-name anniversaries–40 years of the AACM, 70 of Down Beat magazine, and what would’ve been Charlie Parker’s 85th birthday–and celebrating a handful of jazz greats both living and dead. (This year it’s Roy Haynes and Eddie Johnson in the former category and Tony Williams, Charlie Weeks, King Oliver, Vandy Harris, and Cannonball Adderley in the latter.) The Jazz Institute of Chicago, which books the fest, apparently sees little point in tinkering with its formula to establish an overarching theme, so we get the customary breakdown once again–a healthy dose of topflight mainstream jazz, a bit of traditional stuff, and a few token avant-garde acts.
The current improvised-music community in Chicago is represented only by percussionist Michael Zerang and by the three veterans backing Italian reedist Daniele D’Agaro on Saturday. The thriving freebop scene in New York, where musicians reference a wide variety of styles from throughout jazz’s history, fares even worse. Neither have the programmers made a discernible effort to entice new listeners, either with crossover sets or with acts that dabble in electronics–John Medeski might count as an exception, but he’s playing solo acoustic piano, which suggests he won’t be getting too funky. But the rigidity of the Jazz Institute’s booking preferences has an upside: the lineup may be more of the same, but most of it is excellent.
The fest opens Thursday evening with two special indoor events: a free show at the Chicago Cultural Center with Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch and a ticketed concert at Symphony Center with Medeski, the Zawinul Syndicate, and the aforementioned Adderley tribute. The festival is again forgoing the use of Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, though it’s been open for more than a year–particularly disappointing because the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Jazz Institute presented a series of boldly conceived concerts there this summer that proved it’s an ideal venue for jazz. Friday through Sunday the festival’s 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 kid-oriented shows and concert-demonstrations are held on the Jazz & Heritage stage, south of Jackson near the Rose Garden. All Grant Park events are free. –PM
R = recommended
CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER
Eddie Palmieri & Brian Lynch
R A few years back Puerto Rican pianist Eddie Palmieri re-formed his classic salsa band, La Perfecta, which in the 60s transformed the genre’s typical three-minute dance tunes into extended blowing sessions, adding jagged rhythms and avant-garde harmonies to the deeply soulful vocals, irresistible percolating percussion, and punchy contrapuntal arrangements that make salsa so thrilling and sensual. But Palmieri also loves jazz–he’s been coming back to it for decades–and earlier this year, after two terrific albums with the new La Perfecta lineup, he released Listen Here! (Concord Picante), a hard-core Latin-jazz set that mixes originals and, for the first time in the pianist’s career, standards (including tunes by Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, and Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo). Palmieri has enlisted a crowd of hotshot guests–Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Nicholas Payton, Regina Carter–but what really makes the disc special are the drum-tight arrangements (most by trombonist Doug Beavers of La Perfecta) and the handful of intimate small-group numbers, among them a quicksilver duet with bassist John Benitez (“Tema para Eydie”) and a knotty trio with Scofield and Benitez (“La gitana”). At this show Palmieri will duet with trumpeter Brian Lynch, also a regular member of La Perfecta, which all but guarantees an emphasis on the pianist’s prodigious skills as an improviser. Palmieri will also play at 5 PM on Sunday with La Perfecta as part of the annual Fiesta Boricua, on Division between Western and Mozart, and at noon on Thursday, September 1, his medallion on the Paseo Boricua Walk of Fame will be unveiled at 2733 W. Division. PM
A Down Beat 70th Anniversary Concert with John Medeski, Louis Hayes & the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, and the Zawinul Syndicate
R As it has for the past two years, the Jazz Festival hosts a paid-admission concert at Symphony Center the night before things get under way in Grant Park; this time it’s hooked to the 70th birthday of Down Beat magazine, which was founded in Chicago in 1934. Second on the bill is tremendously powerful drummer Louis Hayes, a veteran of groups led by Horace Silver, Oscar Peterson, and Cannonball Adderley, who leads an Adderley tribute band with a repertoire stretching from the 50s to the 70s and a lineup starring fiery trumpet wunderkind Sean Jones and splendid alto saxist Vincent Herring (who took Cannonball’s place opposite his brother, Nat Adderley, in the late cornetist’s last bands). Another Adderley alumnus, keyboardist Joe Zawinul–better known for his work with Miles Davis in the 60s and with Weather Report in the 70s and 80s–closes the show with the Zawinul Syndicate, whose recent double live CD, Vienna Nights (Birdjam), creates a gleeful, chugging momentum with its leader’s signature mix of jazz, fusion, and African and South American rhythms and sonorities. Curtain-raiser John Medeski, severed for the night from his bandmates in Medeski Martin & Wood, will rely solely on an unelectrified piano to explore the grooves and ostinatos that have made MM&W a byword among jam-band fans. NT
JAZZ ON JACKSON
Tom Garling Sextet
R Local trombonist Tom Garling may be better known in the rest of the country than here in Chicago, thanks to six years of touring as Maynard Ferguson’s musical director in the 90s. He’s an exceptionally fluid player, still in demand as a traveling guest artist, and an equally impressive composer and arranger: he makes the three-horn sextet on his self-released 2004 disc Campin’ Out sound bigger and deeper than its size should allow, with dense counterlines, inventive voicings, and big-band-style accents. This standout Chicago lineup includes pianist Ron Perrillo and saxist Louis Stockwell. NT
Hanah Jon Taylor Artet
Primarily a flutist, Hanah Jon Taylor first gravitated toward the wild and woolly approach to the instrument exemplified by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but as he matured into a more thoughtful (though no less adventurous) player, he also became an expressive tenor saxist, bearing the stamp of Fred Anderson. A fixture on Chicago’s progressive-music scene in the 70s and 80s, Taylor left for Wisconsin in the 90s, and his return visits are few and far between; for this one he’s bringing his Artet, which presently includes frequent collaborator Burton Greene, an expatriate experimental pianist now in his late 60s. NT
Larry Gray Trio
Though working musicians form the nucleus of any good jazz scene, they’re often the least acknowledged members of the community. Chicago fixture Larry Gray has been the bassist of choice at the Jazz Showcase for decades, and there’s a reason for that: he’s dependable. With a solid time feel, a good sense of harmony, and a decent sound, he’s got what any visiting bigwig might want in an accompanist. But Gray’s also broken out on his own, surprising folks who know him as a sideman by recording Gravity, a self-released solo outing–and this autumn he plans to cut a trio CD under his own name with the group he’s bringing to the fest, which features pianist Jim Trompeter and secret-weapon drummer Dana Hall. JC
Slide Hampton’s Trombone Choir
The tendency in jazz to mass like instruments, which probably stems from the choral tradition in African-American music, dates back to the saxophone ensembles and novelty bands of the 1920s. Slide Hampton has long been piling up trombones–this one-off “choir” is similar to his own World of Trombones group–and in some ways, the trombone is a natural horn to use for a choral-style ensemble, since its timbre is close to that of the human voice and various plunger and mute techniques can help it articulate in a voicelike way. (Think of the schoolteacher in the Peanuts cartoons.) This group includes five local trombonists–Steve Berry, Audrey Morrison, Tim Coffman, Tracy Kirk, and John Blane–and Hampton has reportedly devised new charts especially for the occasion, as well as arranged some preexisting material. Born in Indianapolis, Hampton rose to prominence in the late 50s, when he played in Maynard Ferguson’s band and led his own orchestras and small groups; this year he’s received a Jazz Masters award from the NEA and been named the Jazz Festival’s artist in residence. JC
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
Students of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians School
When the AACM was founded in 1965, its mission was to create better conditions for the pursuit of adventurous music, and one of its chief concerns was education. The group’s school has been active in varying degrees since its inception in 1969, serving as a sort of alternative or underground conservatory, and at this concert director Ann Ward and a few of the institution’s teachers will show off their students. JC
Art of the Solo featuring Bradley Parker-Sparrow and George Freeman
Pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow improvises within a narrow band of emotions, employing a similarly limited technique; guitarist George Freeman plays with mischievous wild-card originality through an amp that sounds like it predates transistors. But their personalities, if not their musical styles, make these two locals perfect to unpack jazz soloing for the kids. Both Sparrow and Freeman are just big kids themselves, each constantly on patrol for a silly joke and more than happy to poke fun at himself (though only Freeman does it in his playing). You’ll definitely learn something, and it might even be about music. NT
Radio Maqam: Middle Eastern Improvisation
R Improvisation is usually considered one of the most essential components of jazz–next to swinging, of course–but it’s hardly unique to the genre. Improvising has been a crucial facet of Arabic classical music at least since the tenth century, when Abu Nasr Al-Farabi wrote the Grand Book of Music–the definitive word on maqamat, the elaborate system of modes that governs nearly all traditional music produced in the Arab world, whether composed or extemporaneous. At this workshop Palestinian oud maestro Issa Boulos, who directs the University of Chicago’s Middle East Music Ensemble, will illustrate how this system has been adopted and inflected by diverse peoples throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. He’s joined by a superb group that includes clarinetist Jim Stoynoff, violinist Wanees Zarour, cellist Kinan Abou Afach, and percussionist Omar al-Musfi. PM
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
Denny Zeitlin Trio
R Only a few pianists in jazz have played as well for as long as Denny Zeitlin without becoming marquee names, but Zeitlin’s low profile you can chalk up to his demanding day job–he’s a full-time psychotherapist and professor. You won’t find a more analytical pianist anywhere, but Zeitlin augments his glittering cerebralism with an intuitive emotional punch. You can hear it in his glorious solo outings, like the recent Solo Voyage (MaxJazz); in compositions like “Quiet Now,” which found its way into Bill Evans’s repertoire and has since become a jazz standard; and especially in his playing with this trio, which also includes iconic postbop bassist Buster Williams and spirited postmodern drummer Matt Wilson. Though Zeitlin grew up in Highland Park and has legions of fans in the area, this set is his festival debut–a tribute to the recently departed Charlie Weeks, longtime president of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and an amateur drummer who played in Zeitlin’s first trio when they went to high school together in the mid-50s. NT
Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra
RThis has been quite a year for Angel Melendez. The self-titled debut album by his 20-piece 911 Mambo Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy in December; the band’s performance at SummerDance in early July drew an estimated 3,500 people, the series’s largest crowd ever for a non-DJ event; and later that month the group collaborated with the great Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez for a concert at Millennium Park. Chicago has never had a shortage of great Latin American musicians, but Melendez is the first local salsero to make a splash nationally. He crafts wonderfully compact, brassy arrangements in a wide variety of Afro-Latin dance styles–mambo, cha-cha, guaguanco, merengue, and cumbia–and his razor-sharp band boosts them aloft with buoyant, playful improvisation. Even the Jazz Institute, which rarely books Latin jazz at the Petrillo, seems to recognize that there’s something special about Melendez’s propulsive, joyful music. PM
The music world abounds in female vocalists of a certain age with a style descended from Dinah Washington’s, and the Jazz Festival seems dead set on bringing every one of them to town: Lorez Alexandria, Etta Jones, Irene Reid, and this year Gloria Lynne. Like Washington, Lynne found popular success in the 1960s with a blues-inflected jazz style–her big song was “I Wish You Love”–and her voice was still commandingly earthy on her most recent album, This One’s on Me (HighNote), recorded when she was 65. But that was eight years ago–I’ve no idea how she sounds now, and even then she lacked the insouciance and inventive phrasing that distinguished many of her peers. NT
Roy Haynes’s 80th Birthday Celebration
R A massive presence packed into a diminutive body, Roy Haynes is one of the few truly monumental drummers from the bebop and hard-bop eras who’s still with us. Far from creaky at 80, he’s as dynamic and powerful as ever, with an immense propensity to swing–and despite his light touch on the cymbals and crisp address to the skins, he has a propulsive drive more relentless than any basher could manage. A die-hard hipster as dedicated to style as Miles Davis ever was, he’s worked with a laundry list of jazz icons, from Lester Young and Charlie Parker to Eric Dolphy and Pat Metheny, and recently he’s been recording assiduously with his own bands, which inevitably include the hottest hotshots in mainstream jazz. On this visit he’s got excellent saxophonist Marcus Strickland in tow, along with pianist Martin Bejerano and bassist John Sullivan. If Haynes keeps the between-song patter to a minimum, this may well be the best straight-ahead gig of the festival. And dig his killer duds! JC
JAZZ ON JACKSON
The Frontburners: A Tribute to Vandy Harris
A key characteristic of Chicago’s jazz scene is the soft borders between its mainstream and nonmainstream communities: the avant-garde, in its local manifestation, has never been completely alienated from the straight-ahead, and since the 50s players have moved back and forth between the two. Tenor saxophonist Vandy Harris, who died earlier this year at 63, spent his professional life hopping from work with the AACM–including a stint with the Muhal Richard Abrams Big Band–to gigs with soul jazzers like organist Brother Jack McDuff. Harris’s own band, the Frontburners, was a longtime regular on AACM stages, and it effectively integrated these two spheres, infusing dissonance and clamor with a gutsy dose of blues. Harris stopped performing a few years before his death, and as a result the band effectively ceased to exist, but trumpeter Robert Griffin, saxophonist Ari Brown, pianist Ken Chaney, bassist Yosef Ben Israel, drummer Dushun Moseley, percussionist Art Turk Burton, and vocalist Taalib Din Zayid have come back together for this special set in memory of Harris. JC
If it’s Saturday afternoon, it must be time for two half-hour sets of solo piano, one blues and one jazz–I don’t recall why, exactly, but traditions are traditions. This year Sumito Ariyoshi, who arrived in Chicago two decades ago from his native Japan, will handle the blues half. He’s performed with guitarists Jimmy Rogers and Otis Rush, and on his 1998 disc Piano Blues (P-Vine) his playing is clearly indebted to the usual blues piano giants–but he also pushes the envelope with busy, roiling rhythms and sizzlingly precise technique. NT
R These days Dan Trudell is probably best known for his work on the Hammond organ–the instrument anchors his band the B3 Bombers, and he cut his teeth driving the Sabertooth Organ Quartet every Saturday at the Green Mill–so the Jazz Festival has provided us with a rare opportunity by booking him for a solo set on the 88s. Trudell infuses almost everything he plays with at least a whiff of funky jazz, no matter how sophisticated the tune or how complicated the solo–I wouldn’t miss him. NT
Chicago Overtones: Daniele D’Agaro with Jeb Bishop, Robert Barry, and Kent Kessler
R Italian reedist Daniele D’Agaro made his Chicago debut in 2001 as part of the Empty Bottle’s long-running Wednesday-night jazz series, playing with a variation on this excellent lineup of locals. The series has fomented several such ongoing collaborations over the years–visiting musicians form an ad hoc group for a one-off performance, but the chemistry is so good that they decide to keep working together. (The Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet and School Days are better-known examples.) Today’s program takes its name from the just-released album Chicago Overtones (Hatology), which D’Agaro recorded with this Chicago band on his most recent visit in February 2004. His gorgeous music masterfully combines small-group swing–D’Agaro has dedicated himself to resurrecting the music of tenor great Don Byas, who’s fallen into undeserved obscurity–with contemporary progressive techniques. Trombonist Jeb Bishop shares the front line, and he and D’Agaro dance around each other’s lines with easy grace and exquisite harmonic empathy. The album includes lovely takes on a couple Ellington tunes and even a fine spin on Leadbelly’s “Dick’s Holler,” and D’Agaro’s originals, with their sophisticated melodies and levelheaded rhythms, fit right in with the classics. Bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Robert Barry round out this excellent quartet, which also plays the Green Mill on Wednesday, September 7. PM
A New Apartment Jam with Von Freeman
R When I’m giving a visiting friend a list of mandatory Chicago sights to see, first place always goes to the weekly Tuesday-night jam session at the New Apartment Lounge down on 75th Street–tenor saxophonist Von Freeman hosts the evening, and it’s a perfect way to hear the magnificent octogenarian ply his trade. Vonski has made a string of beautiful records for Premonition lately, the most recent an encounter between the loyal Chicagoan and a veteran New York rhythm section. That session set a very high bar for Freeman, and it’s wonderful to hear what such a challenge can bring out of him, but it’s also a treat to hear him play in the context where he’s most comfortable, with his New Apartment band–bassist Matt Ferguson, drummer Michael Raynor, and guitarist Mike Allemana, an outstanding player with a bright future of his own. Their Tuesday-night opening sets often last more than an hour, with Freeman calling tunes, setting tempos, and diving deep into an idiosyncratic reservoir of ideas drawn from experiences that go back to when (as Freeman has put it) Count Basie was the avant-garde. Later in the evening the proceedings open up, and jam sessioners young and old–Freeman refers to them as his “horses”–come onstage to sing or play. The Jackson Street stage won’t have the Apartment’s smoky atmosphere or amoeba-shaped bar, but the band will re-create the jam-session feel by bringing up a few friends, including the fine baritone saxophonist Aaron Getsug. JC
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
Morikeba: Griot of Senegal
R Senegal’s Morikeba Kouyate was stranded in Chicago back in 1991, when the dance troupe he was touring with ran out of money, and later chose to stay for good–a decision that has greatly enriched the city’s music scene. Born into a griot family, he’s a storyteller and historian, spinning tales and accompanying himself on the kora, a harplike instrument with a gourd resonator and a sweet, spindly sound. The traditional music he plays, more circular than most jazz but with a similar emphasis on improvisation, is among the distant progenitors of the genre–if it weren’t for stuff like this we might not be having a Jazz Festival at all. PM
Percussion Discussion with Michael Zerang
R An eminence in Chicago’s creative-music scene since the early 80s, when he helped found the free-improvising trio Liof Munimula, percussionist Michael Zerang has also been a major catalyst as a presenter, serving as artistic director and major instigator of a performance series at Link’s Hall for four crucial years toward the end of that decade. But as a drummer he really hit his stride in the 90s, when his tenure in saxophonist Ken Vandermark’s important early group the Vandermark Quartet helped launch him on an international career that’s taken him to every corner of the creative-music world–he toured Italy and Lebanon in June and July, for instance, and last month he played in Norway and Belgium with Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet. He’s also uncommonly well equipped for this sort of workshop, having made music for Redmoon’s all-ages public spectacles and Blair Thomas’s subsequent puppet-theater projects. Terrible decision to book this across from the Daniele D’Agaro group, though. JC
Slide Hampton & the Jazz Links All-Stars
Trombonist Slide Hampton earned his spot as the festival’s artist in residence in part through his enduring commitment to jazz education–over the years he’s led master classes at the University of Massachusetts, DePaul, Indiana University, and Harvard, to name just a few. The Jazz Institute’s Jazz Links program, founded in 2002, organizes clinics where the area’s finest high school jazzers can study with working musicians; this week the students have been meeting with Hampton, and today, with the added support of pianist and educator Ken Chaney and his trio, they’ll show off what they’ve learned. PM
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
A Salute to Eddie Johnson with Eric Schneider and friends
RTenor saxophonist Eddie Johnson has seen almost all the major changes in jazz firsthand–he’s 85 years old and started playing in the 1930s. Though he’s worked with his share of superstars in decades past, it wasn’t till he retired from his day job in 1979 that he really started to attract attention for his great sound, which bears the sedimented traces of many different styles. This big-stage celebration of Johnson–a Jazz Festival regular–is hosted by fellow tenor man Eric Schneider, leading a Chicago band anchored by drummer George Fludas. JC
Ballin’ the Jack
R New York reedist Matt Darriau spends much of his time exploring eastern European folk, both as a member of the Klezmatics and as leader of the Paradox Trio, but with his septet Ballin’ the Jack he turns his attention to a great American folk tradition–jazz. They focus on the early work of Duke Ellington, with bits of Coleman Hawkins, Django Reinhardt, and Benny Goodman thrown in, and though the group can swing ferociously and nail the velvety voicings of the great 30s bands, they also incorporate many of the stylistic developments that’ve occurred during the intervening seven decades of jazz history. Their second and most recent album, 2001’s The Big Head (Knitting Factory), with its wild saxophone squealing and thoroughly modern harmonies, tackles the task of reconciling past and present with exuberance and a sense of fun. Darrian is joined in Ballin’ the Jack by trumpeter Frank London, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring, reedist Andy Laster, keyboardist Anthony Coleman, bassist Joe Fitzgerald, and drummer George Schuller. PM
40th Anniversary Celebration of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians featuring the Great Black Music Ensemble
This year the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians–home of pioneers from Muhal Richard Abrams to Kahil El’Zabar and given its most memorable public face by the Art Ensemble of Chicago–turns 40. The Jazz Fest celebrates the occasion by reconvening the 35-piece group that closed out the AACM’s anniversary festivities at the MCA this May–itself a nod to the origins of the organization, which grew out of the large-scale Experimental Band that Abrams assembled in the early 60s. Its marvelous, deeply flawed, you-had-to-be-there set at the MCA lasted well over an hour: the larger ensemble divided and redivided into floating subgroups as potent as they were unkempt, and for every blistering solo it seemed another got lost in the shuffle. With several vocalists, a host of reedists (always the AACM’s strong suit), and no dearth of percussionists, the band certainly lives up to both senses of the word great. NT
Celebrating Tony Williams featuring Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, and Larry Goldings
Tony Williams was one of a handful of drummers to serve as a bellwether for the evolution of jazz: in Miles Davis’s great quintet, alongside keyboardist Herbie Hancock and bassist Ron Carter, he forever changed everyone’s notions about what was possible in that format, peeling off polyrhythms, dropping in provocative displacements, and playing loosey-goosey with the pulse. Then he left Davis’s group in 1969 and formed one of the first and most interesting fusion groups, Lifetime, which wedded rock firepower and funk beats to the spontaneity and rigor of jazz. It’s hard to think of a better drummer to pay tribute to Williams’s genius than Jack DeJohnette, who followed him in the Davis quintet and has likewise explored diverse avenues of expression throughout his career, bringing an unflagging drive to everything from graceful, self-assured swing to complex, chopped-up rhythms. The rest of the roster here makes less sense, however. At one point Lifetime consisted of Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin, and organist Larry Young, but though DeJohnette’s trio with John Scofield and Larry Goldings mirrors that instrumentation, it’s hard to imagine these guys bringing the hammer down like the old Williams lineup. They’re undeniably talented, and they’ve had the good sense to work up a set of Lifetime material–but I’m not expecting fireworks. (And no matter how this gig goes, Scofield still deserves a horsewhipping for his recent cash-in tribute to Ray Charles, one of the most egregious and unlistenable records I’ve heard all year.) PM
JAZZ ON JACKSON
Jerry Coleman’s Nineburners
Jerry Coleman, an experienced local session drummer with a lengthy career in jazz–he’s backed Peggy Lee and Billy Eckstine as well as Zoot Sims and Teddy Wilson–founded this nine-piece orchestra back in 1985. JC
Wendell Harrison Quartet
R With the possible exception of New York, every city has its local heroes, ignored by the national press despite their powerfully individual styles and enviable staying power (think Von Freeman in Chicago). Reedist Wendell Harrison has plied his craft in Detroit for the better part of four decades, releasing nearly 20 discs without developing much of a following outside Michigan–a big-league jazz festival a few hours away is a step in the right direction, even if he is booked on the small stage early in the day. He plays tenor well enough to have shared a stage with Eddie Harris back in 1994 (their set has been released by Enja as The Battle of the Tenors), but his true calling is the clarinet: with his slipstream phrasing and blessedly smeary tone, he’s created a compelling modern voice for this notoriously temperamental instrument. NT
Bobbi Wilsyn & SHE
In the 1930s, the all-female jazz band was a novelty act–but though such a group is still a novelty, it’s no longer just an act. More and more women have devoted their lives to jazz over the years, and all the players in SHE have solid resumes–though it’s the horn players out front, like trombonist Audrey Morrison and saxist Juli Wood, who have the highest profiles (just like it is with the guys). Vocalist and bandleader Bobbi Wilsyn, a seasoned pro, navigates the transit between “nuanced” and “earthy” with disarming ease, coloring her exacting technique with a touch of glamour. NT
Charlie Johnson Quartet
In recent years Chicago pianist Charlie Johnson has been leading a working band that includes bassist Chuck Webb, drummer Charles Heath, and sometimes a guest vocalist. Johnson had originally planned to bring just his rhythm section to this set–some festival materials still bill this band as a trio–but he added trumpeter Pharez Whitted late in the game. JC
JAZZ & HERITAGE STAGE
El Trio Tropical: Latin Rhythms
A Latin-jazz trio led by percussionist Ruben Alvarez? That’s like a spring-training game with Mark Prior starting: no matter who else is on the field, you know you’ll see something terrific. Pianist Edwin Sanchez and bassist Richie Pillot have worked together for a decade or so–they played the Jazz Festival in 1997, in Pillot’s group Havana–and like every other Latin musician in Chicago, they’ve also worked with Alvarez before. Both a traps drummer and a Latin percussionist, Alvarez is a gifted educator as well, and seems able to broadcast his work ethic and enthusiasm. NT
A Personal History of Bebop with Stu Katz
“Bebop is the music of the future,” says legendary Chicago jazz presenter Joe Segal. At this workshop, pianist and vibes player Stu Katz, who’s been a member of Chicago’s mainstream jazz community since the 50s (and has graced many of Mr. Segal’s stages), will flesh out that statement, providing a bird’s-eye view of the music and explaining why it’s still relevant 60 years after its heyday. JC
Chicago Park District Gallery 37 in the Parks Youth Jazz Ensemble
Under the direction of Ron Carter and associates Jim Kaczmarek and Ruben Cooper, this jazz orchestra of local high school and college students performs big-band classics by the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie as well as pieces from more contemporary composers. PM
PETRILLO MUSIC SHELL
Homage to King Oliver with Le Petit Jazzband
Trailblazing New Orleans cornetist King Oliver settled in Chicago in 1919, where he introduced his protege Louis Armstrong to an unsuspecting world. To celebrate the 120th anniversary of Oliver’s birth, the festival reaches across the pond to France, which provided the first significant audience for the earliest American jazz as well as the first serious written critiques of it–and even today nurtures some of the best groups still playing in that idiom. Le Petit Jazzband–founded by cornetist Jean-Pierre Morel, who shares the front line with clarinetist Alain Marquet–doesn’t fall into the fundamentalist trap, copying Oliver’s licks or slavishly imitating the flaws of his original groups, but instead builds on the time-tested elements of his style. NT
Joseph Jarman Sextet featuring Leroy Jenkins and Myra Melford
R One of the most anticipated sets of this year’s fest comes from this expanded version of the trio that saxophonist and Art Ensemble of Chicago cofounder Joseph Jarman has long maintained with violinist Leroy Jenkins and pianist Myra Melford. The core threesome have cultivated a rare mutual sensitivity in their years of improvising together, so it’ll be interesting to see how they integrate the new members–Jarman regular Jessica Jones on flute and saxophones plus the rhythm section of drummer Dushun Mosley (best known from 8 Bold Souls) and bassist Tatsu Aoki. Ever since Jarman returned to music in the mid-90s, after a hiatus to attend to spiritual matters (he’s a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest and a fifth-degree black belt in aikido), he’s worked to banish the ornament of yesteryear from his performances and compositions, breaking them down to their simplest elements. (One of the few things he’s added is a bit of singing and chanting, sometimes to deleterious or distracting effect.) But that austerity doesn’t prevent him from playing some ferocious tenor, and when he’s inspired Jarman is a force to be reckoned with. Melford, who’s similarly attracted to simplicity, is the perfect foil for him, and Jenkins remains one of the AACM’s greatest figures, a monumental soloist and important composer. JC
Slide Hampton and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble
Under its founder, the late William Russo, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble built its repertoire around big-band pieces by Ellington, Kenton, and Russo himself, but under the stewardship of current artistic director Jon Faddis it’s loosened up considerably, tackling different sorts of classics and commissioning new works. Enter trombonist Slide Hampton, the festival’s artist in residence, who’ll present a program that includes several of his own compositions. The Faddis-era ensemble should fit Hampton like a custom-tailored tux: he won a Grammy for instrumental arrangement last year working with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in New York, and in terms of personnel and experience the CJE is only a notch below that long-running band. Hampton has established himself as one of the major modern jazz writers, his arrangements turning up in sets by top-notch orchestras (Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson) and serving as staples for the better college jazz ensembles. I wish his compositions had a little more depth and a greater range of colors in their voicings, but his pieces pack a nice rhythmic punch and can build to an impressive level of intensity. NT
Jammin’ for Bird: A Charlie Parker 85th birthday event featuring the Charles McPherson Quartet, plus special guests Frank Morgan and Donald Harrison
R One of the Chicago Jazz Festival’s favorite things to do is celebrate birthdays. This year’s most arbitrary party is for what would’ve been Charlie Parker’s 85th–but it stars alto great Charles McPherson, and any excuse to bring him out is good enough for me. Two other accomplished saxists, Frank Morgan and Donald Harrison, will join McPherson and his backing band, which features his son Chuck on drums. Harrison, the youngest of the three and a former Jazz Messenger, has been much praised despite his frustrating propensity to switch to soprano–his playing on that instrument isn’t nearly as compelling as his pungent alto work. Morgan is rightly cited as a great Parkerite–his career has its roots in the bebop era, when a childhood meeting with Bird inspired him to pick up his first horn–and it’s a treat to have someone with his breadth of experience on the bill. All in all this crackling mainstream gig ought to be a fine way to cleanse the palate at the end of the fest. For next year, perhaps a 103rd birthday bash for Bix Beiderbecke? JC
Thinking Outside the Park
Where to go when it’s lights out at Petrillo.
by Peter Margasak
Chicago native and multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan–fluent on trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano–plays host to the traditional afterfest jam sessions at the JAZZ SHOWCASE, fronting the rock-solid combo of pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Marlene Rosenberg, and drummer Robert Shy. A quintessential hard bopper who was cutting it up in local clubs with Johnny Griffin back in the 50s, Sullivan also has a handle on the developments in jazz that’ve happened since–and he can switch directions on a dime, making him the perfect ringleader for these hard-swinging gatherings. Tonight he’s expecting a visit from members of the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, including drummer Louis Hayes, saxophonist and Adderley disciple Vincent Herring, and up-and-coming trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and it’s well represented both in Grant Park and in the city’s jazz clubs. Tonight reedist and former AACM chairman Douglas Ewart will perform with his group Inventions at the VELVET LOUNGE, the endangered south-side institution owned and operated by tenor great Fred Anderson.
AACM charter member and Art Ensemble of Chicago cofounder Roscoe Mitchell holds court at HOTHOUSE with his Chicago quartet–bassist Harrison Bankhead, drummer Vincent Davis, and fabulous young trumpeter Corey Wilkes. (Wilkes, Davis, and Mitchell will also play Saturday at the festival with the Great Black Music Ensemble.) Few AACM alumni have accomplished as much for as long as Mitchell–a master reedist, he’s extended the vocabulary of each of his many instruments by incorporating abstract sonic explorations, a daring use of silence, and elements from all kinds of nonjazz styles, from contemporary classical to traditional Asian. His group shares the bill with the duo of pianist Burton Greene and multi-instrumentalist Hanah Jon Taylor, who’s fresh from a set with his Artet in Grant Park. Greene, a Chicago native, arrived in New York in the early 60s and stayed through the height of the New Thing era, working with the likes of Bill Dixon and Gato Barbieri. In 1969 he joined an exodus of American free-jazz players to Europe, where he’s lived ever since, but in the 80s he reoriented himself toward eastern European music, exploring his Jewish roots in groups like Klezmokum.
At SPAREROOM new-generation AACM member Nicole Mitchell and reedist David Boykin present the first night of their second Hereafter Festival, kicked off by the Microcosmic Sound Orchestra, a scaled-down version of the unwieldy improvising big band that performed at last year’s event. Bassist Karl E.H. Seigfried plays second in a trio with Mitchell and drummer Andre Beasley, and Mitchell’s excellent Black Earth Ensemble–with Boykin, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Marcus Evans–headlines the show. One of the strongest working groups in the city, it’s a full-bodied outfit that brings an outsize orchestral depth and splendor to Mitchell’s dense, memorable tunes.
Tonight is also the ninth annual jazz cruise aboard the TALL SHIP WINDY, with keyboardist Marshall Vente and his band Tropicale. They’ll be joined by saxophonist Jim Massoth, bassist and singer Eldee Young, and a pair of Brazilians–percussionist Felipe Fraga and vocalist Dill Costa.
And at Ira Sullivan’s JAZZ SHOWCASE jam session, the likely guests include trombonist Slide Hampton.
There’s another impressive bill tonight at HOTHOUSE, including 8 Bold Souls, led by reedist and composer Edward Wilkerson Jr., and Trio Tarana, led by Indian percussionist Ravish Momin. Momin, violinist Jason Kao Hwang, and bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz apply the malleable structures and extended improvisations of jazz to the music of the Middle East and India: on their 2004 debut, Climbing the Banyan Tree (Clean Feed), Blumenkranz doubles on the twangy oud, his sobbing phrases sometimes echoing the calls of a muezzin, and Hwang’s marvelous pitch control makes him sound like a defector from the Hot Club of France who’s getting comfortable in the scorching Sahara. Momin drives the tunes with impressive precision and discipline, yet still manages to caress and prod his bandmates’ solos. Rounding out the lineup are saxophonist Ernest Dawkins and his New Horizons Ensemble, featuring trombonist Steve Berry, bassist Darius Savage, and drummer Isaiah Spencer–and a few members of the Great Black Music Ensemble may stop by too.
At the HUNGRY BRAIN’s first afterfest set, the Chicago Luzern Exchange makes its local debut as a full quartet. In April the three Chicago members–cornetist Josh Berman, tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, and drummer Frank Rosaly–played a concert to celebrate the release of Several Lights (Delmark), but Swiss tubaist Marc Unternaher, whose presence in the band inspired its name, couldn’t make it. So far Several Lights is holding up as one of the year’s finest jazz records: the players deliver feather-stroke free improvisation that’s so deft and intuitive is feels almost composed, casually combining the muted tones and understated gestures of 50s west-coast jazz with thoroughly contemporary rumbles, snorts, and whinnies.
The Hereafter Festival concludes at the SPAREROOM with a DJ set by Supreme Court, aka funk specialist Courtland Green, and music from the David Boykin Expanse, which features Nicole Mitchell on flute, Josh Abrams on bass, Mike Reed on drums, and Boykin on saxophones and vocals–lately he’s been spending a good chunk of his band’s sets behind the mike, polishing his skills as an MC. Closing the night is the Macrocosmic Sound Orchestra, the full-blown busload-of-musicians version of the improvising band that performed Friday.
The VELVET LOUNGE hosts New Orleans free-jazz saxophonist Kidd Jordan for his raucous annual jam session with tenor titan and Velvet proprietor Fred Anderson. This year they’re joined by bassist Harrison Bankhead and Jordan’s longtime partner, drummer Alvin Fielder, a charter member of the AACM who worked in one of the earliest editions of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Expect a few hard-blowing guests, from the festival’s stages and elsewhere, to spend some time on the bandstand as well.
At KATERINA’S pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow and guitarist George Freeman will follow up on their Friday festival set by stretching out with vocalist Joanie Pallatto, bassist John E. Magnan, and drummer Joe Jenkins.
Once again Ira Sullivan will host a jam session at the Jazz Showcase, but at press time no one at the club was willing to guess who might show up to join in.
HOTHOUSE closes its afterfest series with warm-up sets by bassist Tatsu Aoki’s trio and Trifactor–percussionist Kahil El’Zabar, violinist Billy Bang, and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett–and then a grand finale from violinist Leroy Jenkins, reedist Joseph Jarman, and pianist Myra Melford, heading straight over from a set as part of a larger group in Grant Park. Under the name Equal Interest, that trio released a terrific album for the OmniTone label back in 2000, using quicksilver improvisatory reflexes to bond together neatly calibrated digressions into blues, modern chamber music, and Far Eastern folk. Melford also doubles on harmonium, and its sumptuous tone complements and deepens Jarman’s turns on flute and Vietnamese oboe.
Italian reedist Daniele D’Agaro played an afternoon set at the festival on Saturday with the excellent trio from the recent Chicago Overtones (Hatology), and tonight at the HUNGRY BRAIN he’s the featured performer, fronting ad hoc groups made up of locals, among them cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Nate McBride, pianist Jim Baker, drummer Frank Rosaly, cornetist Josh Berman, and trombonist Jeb Bishop.
The VELVET LOUNGE jam session will likely be enhanced by a raft of AACM players tonight–this set doubles as a fund-raiser for the club, which is struggling to come up with enough money to relocate around the corner on Cermak.
And finally, Ira Sullivan’s straight-ahead sessions at the JAZZ SHOWCASE should turn into an all-star alto-sax extravaganza, with Charles McPherson, Frank Morgan, and Donald Harrison expected to drop in after their festival set.
31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707,
music at 8 PM Friday through Sunday, $20
2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, music at 10 PM Saturday and Sunday, donation requested
59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, music at about 10 PM Thursday through Sunday, $20-$25
1920 W. Irving Park, 773-348-7592, music after 9:30 PM Saturday, $10
2416 W. North, 773-288-1640, music at midnight Friday and 11 PM Saturday, $10 donation requested, All ages
2128 1/2 S. Indiana, 312-791-9050, music after 9:30 PM Friday through Sunday, $10 Friday and Saturday, $20 Sunday
TALL SHIP WINDY departs at 9:30 PM Friday from Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand, 312-595-5472, $55, reservations required
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.