Satoko Fujii plays at the Von Freeman Pavilion.
Satoko Fujii plays at the Von Freeman Pavilion. Credit: Toru Sasaki

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Garland Room, Chicago Cultural Center

What Is This Thing Called “Jazz”?
12:30 PM & 3:15 PM
The Jazz Institute presents drummer Paul Wertico, bassist Larry Gray, and multi-­instrumentalist David Cain in a program called “The Rhythm Method II,” an insider’s view of the intricacies of jazz performance. The Garland Room is on the Cultural Center’s first floor, on the Washington Street side.

Von Freeman Pavilion

Frank Russell Band
Electric jazz has stirred up its share of controversy, and the festival has never booked much of it—the Frank Russell Band is the genre’s sole representative this year. Given that Russell is just as proficient with hyperactive, slap-bass funk as he is with smoother sounds, I reckon that folks looking for a taste of the stuff will be able to get their fill in this one set. Bill Meyer

Hamid Drake Quartet with Kidd Jordan, William Parker, and Cooper-Moore
1:10 PM
Imagine someone who, through the sheer force of positive energy and cultural productivity, could lift up an entire city. Hamid Drake is probably as close as we will ever get. A generous and sincere soul, a massive rhythm maker, and an integrative musician who’s created his own way of playing trap kit—he treats it as a sort of vastly expanded hand drum—Drake has been powering various groups in and out of Chicago for the past 30 years. This set is an indirect homage to late, great tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, who hosted an annual afterfest at his Velvet Lounge, where Drake and voluble Crescent City saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan were regular attractions. In this quartet, Drake and Jordan partner with bassist William Parker, a long-term teammate, as well as Parker’s New York comrade Cooper-­Moore, who plays piano and homemade instruments. John Corbett

Ernie Krivda Quartet
2:20 PM
Cleveland, Ohio, has launched some of the greatest tenor saxophonists in jazz, including Albert Ayler and Joe Lovano. Unlike them, Ernie Krivda never left his hometown, preferring the Forest City to the Big Apple. But by any standard, Krivda is a terrific talent—he has a big, bright, booting sound, and can hang with an up-tempo straight-ahead groove; he’s also extremely sensitive when it comes to melodic variation, with an expansive, curious temperament. Indeed, Krivda is well equipped to move between convincing swing-era balladry and searching contemporary solo saxophone. His quartet features pianist Lafayette Carthon, bassist Jeff Halsey, and drummer Renell Gonsalves. John Corbett

Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Chicago
3:30 PM
Pianist Satoko Fujii, who maintains residences in Berlin and Tokyo, is a fluent free improviser who can command the stage without assistance. But when she plays in big-band settings, she often reins in her playing in order to set up sturdy frameworks that draw out the improvisational potential of her collaborators. For this performance, she’s composed a new suite for jazz orchestra—the lineup consists of her working quartet, KAZE (drummer Peter Orins and trumpeters Christian Pruvost and Natsuki Tamura, the latter of whom is also Fujii’s husband), surrounded by an all-star crew of Chicagoans (and one former Chicagoan) that includes reedists Dave Rempis, Ernest Dawkins, and Keefe Jackson, trombonist Jeb Bishop, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, bassist Kent Kessler, guitarist John McLean, and percussionist Michael Zerang. KAZE’s excellent new CD, Tornado (Circum-Libra), performs a balancing act between bold, turbulent statements and hushed explorations of extended technique; if Fujii can coax a similar dynamic out of this orchestra, it could make for one of the festival’s best sets. Bill Meyer

Young Jazz Lions Pavilion

Whitney Young High School Jazz Combo
11:30 AM

Kelly High School Jazz Ensemble
12:15 PM

Rauner College Prep High School Ensemble
1:10 PM

Pritzker College Prep High School Jazz Ensemble
2:05 PM

Kenwood Academy High School Jazz Ensemble
3:45 PM

Jazz & Heritage Pavilion

Nick Mazzarella Trio
12:30 PM
It’s worth wondering what Nick Mazzarella‘s sweet little 1934 Conn alto thinks when he takes it for a ride. The volcanic Chicago saxophonist is more technical than many fire-­breathing horn men; an overdriven parry may consist of a series of precisely articulated arpeggios rather than a giant slur. In his trio with bassist Anton Hatwich and drumer Frank Rosaly, Mazzarella tips his hat to some of his heroes—Ornette Coleman especially—but his buoyant freebop has a joyous sound and feel all its own. John Corbett

Erin McDougald Quartet
2 PM
This Chicago singer performs standards in a wide variety of arrangements; she’s backed by her working band, which consists of pianist-guitarist Ron Block, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer Eric Montzka. Peter Margasak

Chevere de Chicago
3:30 PM
Percussionist Alejo Povedo formed this group in 1976, and ever since then it’s been expanding its stylistic reach atop a firm foundation of Afro-­Caribbean sounds. Its current lineup includes percussionists Ruben Alvarez and Joe Rendon, bassist Eric Hochberg, keyboardist Chris Cameron, trumpeter Mark Ohlsen, guitarist Ernie Denov, reedist Steve Eisen, and pianist and harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy; today guest trumpeter Orbert Davis sits in. Peter Margasak

Pritzker Pavilion

Stafford James String and Percussion Ensemble featuring M’Boom
5 PM
Bassist and Evanston native Stafford James made quite a name for himself after moving to New York in 1969, playing and recording with some of the biggest names in mainstream and avant-garde jazz, including Dexter Gordon, Gary Bartz, and Andrew Cyrille. He’s been living in Europe since 1989, and on this rare trip home he pays tribute to the great drummer Max Roach, leading a string-driven group that’s joined by Roach’s percussion ensemble M’Boom (Akira Tana, Warren Smith, Ray Mantilla, Eli Fountain, and guest Geraldo de Oliveira). Peter Margasak

Gregory Porter
6:10 PM
I’m hardly the biggest fan of vocal jazz, but with his forthcoming third album, Liquid Spirit (his Blue Note debut), Gregory Porter has made a believer out of me. Restrained and soulful, he trusts in his warm baritone to get the job done without bombast or grandstanding, and his rare extroverted flourishes tend to borrow from the soul and gospel that permeate his music. Though he doesn’t avoid standards—the album closes with a lovely reading of “I Fall in Love Too Easily”—he wrote most of the tunes on the new record himself. A few of the ballads leave me cold, but Porter clearly understands the intersection of groove and melody; at his best he reminds me of Bill Withers in his hard-hitting mode. He does a killer version of the Abbey Lincoln-Max Roach tune “Lonesome Lover,” and he nails the Ramsey Lewis staple “The ‘In’ Crowd.” Porter’s working band, which backs him here, consists of pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold, and saxophonist Yosuke Sato. Peter Margasak

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak
7:25 PM
Earlier this year alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa released Gamak (ACT), an electric quartet session that collides fusion, hard bop, and Indian classical music, among other sources. Propelled by the high-octane rhythm section of bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss, it’s one of Mahanthappa’s best records yet, and certainly his most bruising; he solos like a man possessed, and guitarist David Fiuczynski proves himself a masterful front-line foil, breathlessly leaping from funk vamps to snaking microtonal lines that sound like something played on a sarod. Mahanthappa has never delivered such a masterfully balanced and potent hybrid sound—it feels like every element is constantly at his fingertips. Peter Margasak

Jason Moran: Fats Waller Dance Party
8:45 PM
Pianist Jason Moran pays homage to the music of pianist, singer, and composer Fats Waller with this production, which he’s been tweaking since it premiered in May 2011 as part of the first Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival. Moran and company use only fragments of Waller’s tunes, building new music that references styles and sounds—Motown, house, hip-hop—that have emerged in the decades since his death in 1943. Oh, and for part of the show Moran wears a giant papier-mache mask of Waller’s head made by Haitian artist Didier Civil. His band includes bassist Earl Travis, trombonist Joshua Roseman, trumpeter Leron Thomas, drummer Charles Haynes, singer Lisa E. Harris, and guitarist Martin Sewell, as well as dancing choreographed by Maija Garcia. Peter Margasak