• Courtesy of ECM Records
  • Hal Russell’s NRG Ensemble

Earlier this week the city formally announced the lineup for Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz, another of its free summer concert series at the Pritzker Pavilion. (Full disclosure: I served as a volunteer on the committee that programmed this series.) The program kicks off on Thursday, July 24, and continues for the next six weeks, culminating with an August 28 concert by Ernest Dawkins that’ll help launch this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival. You can see the full lineup below.

July 24 Milton Suggs Big Band: The Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Suggs, an excellent young singer now based in New York, has set the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar—an important early-20th-century African-American writer—to original compositions, performed here by a 15-strong big band.

July 31 NRG Ensemble with Michael Shannon: The Hal Russell Story

The surviving members of Hal Russell’s NRG Ensemble (reedist Mars Williams, bassist Kent Kessler, bassist/guitarist Brian Sandstrom, and drummer Steve Hunt) perform the autobiographical 1992 album by the singular drummer, saxophonist, and trumpeter, who narrates the record, his last, with characteristic irascibility. The group is rounded out by reedist Ken Vandermark (whose first steady gig in Chicago was as a sub for Williams in the band) and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. I’m particularly psyched that Russell’s narrative will be handled by the brilliant actor Michael Shannon.

August 7 John Moulder‘s “Earthborne Tales of Soul and Spirit”

The progressive guitarist leads a strong band—New York saxophonist Donnie McCaslin, pianist Jim Trompeter, trumpeter Marquis Hill, bassist Eric Hochberg, and drummer Xavier Breaker.

August 14 Matana RobertsCoin Coin Chapter Two: “Mississippi Moonchile”

Dynamic alto saxophonist, singer, and sound artist Matana Roberts, who also lives in New York these days, returns home after a long absence to present the second chapter of her historical epic, Coin Coin. The recording of this suite from last year was a knockout.

August 21 Fareed Haque—Chicago: Crossroads of the World

The guitarist presents two very different projects: a straight-ahead quartet with pianist Willerm Delisfort, bassist Alex Austin, and drummer Greg Fundis, and a larger band featuring organist Tony Monaco and several Indian and Arabic musicians, who’ll play the polyglot fusion featured on his recent album Trance Hypothesis (Delmark).

August 28 Homage to Nelson Mandela: Ernest Dawkins‘s Memory in the Center, an Afro Jazz Opera

The veteran reedist is putting together a large band with players from South Africa and the UK to pay tribute to the legendary freedom fighter. Dawkins has spent lots of time in Johannesburg, and his long-running New Horizons Ensemble has amply demonstrated its facility in mixing the free jazz of the AACM with township sounds. His group will feature the dynamic Chicago singer Dee Alexander.

Today’s playlist:

Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan, Two of a Mind (Bluebird)
Slide Hampton Octet, Somethin’ Sanctified (Atlantic)
Juhani Aaltonen Trio, Mother Tongue (TUM)
Orquestra Imperial, Fazendo as Pazes com o Swing (MP,B Brazil)
Radar, In Sight (Challenge)