Hard times will bring out anyone’s true colors, and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival certainly showed what it was made of when COVID-19 brought live music to a halt in 2020. Its organizers emulated the music that the festival supports, improvising ways to support local jazz. First, they arranged the Jazz Postcards series, small-scale outdoor concerts that popped up around the city. Then, while most festivals took the year off, they staged the 2020 festival in parks and on sidewalks around Hyde Park and adjacent neighborhoods. This year, the HPJF resumes business as usual, staging concerts inside churches, museums, and performance spaces as well as on two big outdoor stages that face each other on the Midway Plaisance. The programming combines a complement of musicians who have maintained lifelong commitments to the south side—including storyteller Maggie Brown, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, and singer Dee Alexander—with adventurous artists from the rest of the city and far beyond. Pianist Jim Baker and the drums-and-reeds duo of Mike Reed and Hunter Diamond exemplify the city’s robust avant-garde community; the Chris Greene Quartet represents the mainstream. Darren Johnston, a New York-based Canadian trumpeter, will reunite with the splendid Chicago-based band he enlisted to record his briskly lyrical new album, Life in Time (Delmark). The Chicago-Amsterdam quartet These Things Happen will celebrate the release of their debut mini album, which balances deeply felt originals with swaggering interpretations of material by Herbie Nichols, Dewey Redman, and Thelonious Monk. Electric guitarist and former Chicagoan Jeff Parker will reveal the ways that old soul and new technologies enrich his playing. New York-based pianist David Virelles, whose recent CD Nuna (Pi) reconciles classical rigor and Cuban rhythms, will present a solo recital. And in a first-time encounter, pan-national string trio Hear in Now, which includes local cellist Tomeka Reid, will workshop and perform a set of new material with improvisational Ethiopian-based ensemble Qwanqwa.
Hyde Park Jazz Festival Today the festival takes place at 13 venues around the neighborhood, including two outdoor stages on the Midway Plaisance, the Logan Center for the Arts, Rockefeller Chapel, the Smart Museum, and Little Black Pearl. Sat 9/24, 11 AM-10:30 PM, complete schedule at hydeparkjazzfestival.org, $10 suggested donation, all ages
Hyde Park Jazz Festival The second and final day of the fest takes place at two outdoor stages on the Midway Plaisance. In order of performance, the Wagner Stage (at S. Woodlawn) features the Orbert Davis Sextet, the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective with Dee Alexander, and the Victor Garcia Sextet; the West Stage (at S. Ellis) features Johnny Blas and Clif Wallace + Five. Sun 9/25, 2-7 PM (Wagner Stage) and 3-6 PM (West Stage), complete schedule at hydeparkjazzfestival.org, $10 suggested donation, all ages