In December the City Council approved a budget that shrank the annual Chicago Jazz Festival from three days to two. The festival had already lost its fourth day in 2009—though the absence of the usual Thursday kickoff concerts was softened by the presence of an unaffiliated jazz show that night in Millennium Park—and the Jazz Institute of Chicago, which programs the event, fought hard to head off a further reduction. In the fall, after the cut was proposed, it sent a letter arguing for a three-day festival to every member of the City Council and to the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, then urged citizens to oppose the move by contacting their aldermen. Not only was the fest a popular and important cultural event, the institute said, but “through attracting high-level sponsorship and exceeding its vendor revenue projections it is also an activity that generates much needed revenue for our city.” All to no avail.

But in May festival planners pulled a rabbit out of their collective hat, announcing that the schedule would be four days long. The Chicago Jazz Partnership, a consortium of corporations and foundations that includes Kraft, Boeing, the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, and the MacArthur Foundation, has been underwriting the festival since 2008—founded in ’05, it’s already given millions to support jazz locally, notably by funding the wonderful Made in Chicago series in Millennium Park—and for 2010 it came through with its biggest check yet. This year’s $190,000 contribution includes more than 25 percent of the total programming budget, which consists of $62,800 in CJP money and about $180,000 from the city. The fest will occupy its traditional Grant Park location only on Saturday and Sunday, while the Thursday and Friday programs will take place mostly in the relatively listener-friendly environs of Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center.

The artists performing on the first two days can’t match the bigger Grant Park bookings in popularity, but in terms of musical quality and stylistic range they’re terrific—and it’s no secret that the sight lines and sound are much better at Pritzker Pavilion than at the Grant Park stages. The marquee concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell are also great, from ruminative pianist Brad Mehldau to visionary saxophonist, flutist, and composer Henry Threadgill, a Chicago native. And as usual there will be tribute sets, including a salute to trumpeter Lee Morgan by the all-stars in Charisma and Maggie Brown’s homage to the late singer Abbey Lincoln.

This year’s artist in residence is Chicago flutist, composer, and bandleader Nicole Mitchell, current president of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. She performs four times: on Thursday she’ll duet with mercurial pianist Anthony Davis, on Saturday she’ll lead her bold new quartet, Sonic Projections, and on Friday and Sunday she’ll premiere new large-scale compositions with her Black Earth Orchestra and Black Earth Ensemble, respectively.

As always, all the music is free. Thursday’s program is mostly at Pritzker Pavilion (Randolph and Michigan), with an early-evening set in Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall (430 S. Michigan, seventh floor). Friday’s daytime shows are spread across the Randolph Cafe, the Claudia Cassidy Theater, and Preston Bradley Hall, all in the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington), and there’s music at Pritzker beginning at 4 PM. Saturday and Sunday’s events all take place in Grant Park. Afternoon sets are at the Jazz on Jackson stage (on Jackson near Lake Shore Drive), the Jazz & Heritage Stage (south of Jackson near Columbus), and the Young Jazz Lions Stage (east of the Heritage stage and south of the Jackson stage), which is back for a second year to showcase ensembles from area high schools and colleges. The Petrillo Music Shell, which hosts each evening’s headliners, is at Columbus and Jackson—and after the music ends at the lakefront, there’s more on offer around town every night—see sidebar for details. —PM


Pritzker Pavilion

Noon Umbrella Music: Bridging Improvised Music and Dance Free music has a parallel in dance called contact improv, but it’s notoriously tricky to negotiate the intersection of these art forms. So it’s great to have an experienced master like drummer Michael Zerang—who’s worked in dance settings for decades—collaborating here with the Blushing Poppy Dance Club, saxophonist Mars Williams, keyboardist Jim Baker, and bassists Kent Kessler and Nate McBride. Also performing is a regular project called Art Union Humanscape by bassist Jason Roebke, dancer and choreographer Ayako Kato, and cornetist Josh Berman, augmented today by bass clarinetist Jason Stein, dancers Julia Mayer and Lisa Gonzales, and Brian Labycz on electronics. —JC

1:05 PM Jodie Christian Quintet Chicago pianist Jodie Christian has returned after a protracted illness for a regular stint at Katerina’s on Irving Park. He’s long been a bridge builder, working in mainstream contexts in the 50s and 60s and later on with the city’s leading experimentalists—including members of the AACM, which he helped found—but never choosing camps. A rich, imaginative soloist and supportive accompanist, Christian has a florid streak that he tempers with an exhaustive understanding of momentum and well-placed moments of tension. His granite-solid quintet includes a fellow elder statesman, drummer William “Bugs” Cochran—an alumnus of several early incarnations of Sun Ra’s Arkestra—and tenor saxophonist John Brumbach, a fabulous straight-ahead player whose extensive discography includes sessions with Parliament-Funkadelic and the Gap Band. —JC

2:10 PM The Miyumi Project Big Band When bassist Tatsu Aoki first moved to Chicago in 1977, he gravitated to the radical, wide-ranging music of the AACM. With the Miyumi Project, he’s reconciled those sounds with traditional Japanese music. The project, which fluctuates in size from gig to gig, will appear today as a big band with strings, four stouthearted saxophonists, and fearlessly swinging drummer Dushun Mosley—who’ll get some extra firepower from the Japanese American Service Committee’s home-grown Tsukasa Taiko drumming troupe. They’ll debut Trans-Rooted, the third installment in Aoki’s series of large-scale works about cultural heritage and exile. —BM

3:15 PM Jim Wagner’s All-Stars featuring Willie Pickens, Ari Brown, Jimmy Ellis, Robert Shy, Frank Russell, Corey Wilkes, and Maggie Brown

Ganz Hall

5 PM Nicole Mitchell and Anthony Davis Flutist Nicole Mitchell performs with idiosyncratic pianist, scholar, and composer Anthony Davis, who rarely performs in Chicago; his restless experimental bent has carried him as far afield as opera and gamelan, but he never breaks his connection to his jazz roots. —PM


Randolph Cafe

Noon Hector Silveira Septet

1:30 PM Grilly Brothers Sextet

Claudia Cassidy Theater

12:15 PM James Dapogny: Art of the Solo

1:45 PM AACM Experimental Ensemble It’s been 45 years since a group of young jazz adventurers, determined to carve out a space to play what they wanted to play in the face of dwindling artistic and economic opportunities, formed the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Like the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, the 13-piece AACM Experimental Ensemble uses exotic percussion, bristling reeds, and theatrical vocals that encompass the centuries-long sweep of African American music from its imagined prehistory to its imagined future. —BM

Preston Bradley Hall

12:30 PM Tomeka Reid’s Hear in Now Trio This trio came together for what was supposed to be a one-off performance at last year’s all-female Woma Jazz festival in Italy, but the strength of the rapport between Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid (a regular in Nicole Mitchell’s bands and a member of Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly), Italian bassist Silvia Bolognesi (Open Combo), and New York singer and violinist Mazz Swift (Burnt Sugar) convinced them to keep going despite the geographic barriers to their collaboration. They mix through-composed work and free improvisation, and though I haven’t heard them—their debut recording is still in process—all three members have such distinctive talents and powerful personalities that I’m already more than persuaded to check out their Chicago debut. —PM

2 PM Jim Cooper’s Mallet Madness featuring Kathy Kelly

Pritzker Pavilion

4 PM Lincoln Park High School Jazz Ensemble and Noteworthy: CPS Jazz Band Teachers

5 PM James Dapogny

Nicole Mitchell
Nicole MitchellCredit: Hyde Park Cultural Alliance/Marc Monaghan

6 PM Mike LeDonne Trio with Eric Alexander For many years Mike LeDonne, one of New York’s most reliable and tasteful postbop pianists, kept his love for the Hammond organ largely to himself; he’d play it for sideman gigs, but he didn’t use it when he led his own bands. That changed a decade ago when he put together an organ combo for a five-week Tuesday-night engagement at a club called Smoke—which was such a hit that he’s still playing the gig today. Tonight he brings his regular Smoke band to Millennium Park: drummer Joe Farnsworth, preeminent organ-trio guitarist Peter Bernstein, and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who made his name playing with one of LeDonne’s organ heroes, onetime Chicago fixture Charles Earland, back when he lived here. —PM

7:10 PM Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Orchestra This sporadically convened big band, led by flutist and festival artist in residence Nicole Mitchell, is an expansion of her flagship group, the Black Earth Ensemble. But Mitchell doesn’t use the extra personnel merely to tweak material written for the smaller band. Tonight she’s premiering a new suite called The Arc of O with an impressive lineup that deploys its instruments in twos: she’s pairing up with flutist Kegdrick Pullum, and the rest of the orchestra consists of violists Renee Baker and Robert Fisher, cellists Tomeka Reid and Teddy Rankin-Parker, bassists Joshua Abrams and Nate McBride, saxophonists David Boykin and Ari Brown, trumpeters David Young and Jaimie Branch, pianists Anthony Davis and Craig Taborn, drummers Chad Taylor and Mike Reed, and singers Mankwe Ndosi and Zahra Baker. —PM

8:30 PM Ramsey Lewis 75th birthday celebration The Chicago Jazz Festival is always on the hunt for milestones to celebrate, especially birthdays and deaths—and sadly they’ll have quite a few of the latter to choose from next year. On the brighter side, this year they’re honoring the very much alive Ramsey Lewis, a pianist whose visibility away from the keyboard—as a radio and TV host—should never distract anyone from his significance as a musician. In the 1950s and ’60s, his long-lived trio with bassist Eldee Young and drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt helped keep Chicago jazz connected to the mainstream pulse, with the poppy hit “The In Crowd” and covers of “Never on Sunday” and “Hang on Sloopy,” waxed on a series of sensationally beloved LPs for Chess Records subsidiary Argo. He’s still going strong at 75, fronting a redoubtable trio with bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce. And on Thursday at 5:30 PM he’ll join Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich for a free public talk at the Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater. —JC


Jazz on Jackson

Noon Douglas Ewart Nyahbingi Drum Choir Though multi-instrumentalist Douglas Ewart has made his home in the midwest for more than 40 years, he grew up in Jamaica and has never forsaken his roots—they come to the fore in his Nyahbingi Drum Choir. Nyahbingi drumming originated in Africa, but Ewart, who plays reeds, digeridoo, and invented percussion instruments, encountered it in ceremonies called groundations convened by drummer and bandleader Oswald “Count Ossie” Williams outside Kingston. In a groundation participants usually preach and sing over a steady 4/4 drum pulse; Ewart’s version adds spirituals, poetry, comedic skits, commentaries on current events, swinging horn riffs, and woolly free-jazz solos. —BM

1:10 PM Paul Giallorenzo’s GitGo Local keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo has been involved in countless ensembles and played in a myriad of styles, from experimental electronics to chamber jazz to synth pop, but in GitGo he restricts himself to piano and the music to angular yet swinging jazz. Giallorenzo’s compositions owe their existence to the moment a half century ago when iconoclasts like Andrew Hill cast off the harmonic bonds of bebop without sundering their ties to its melodicism and swing, but the quintet’s music never sounds dated. That’s because Giallorenzo, reedist Mars Williams, trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Marc Riordan are as involved with modern pop and avant-garde improvised music as they are with jazz, and they apply their broad experience to this band to keep it fresh and unpredictable. —BM

2:20 PM Maggie Brown: A Tribute to Abbey Lincoln

3:30 PM Dana Hall Quintet with Nicholas Payton Though the recent Into the Light (Origin) is Dana Hall’s debut as a bandleader, he’s hardly shy about asserting himself. The veteran drummer favors a furious attack—and you never get the sense he’s just hitting hard because he’s got nothing to say. Hall swings with great nuance and negotiates the tempo changes built into many of the album’s tunes with sublime grace. With an energy level worthy of Elvin Jones, he stokes the fires under his brawny, restless reimagining of 60s postbop, giving his excellent band—trumpeter Terell Stafford, saxophonist Tim Warfield Jr., bassist Rodney Whitaker, and pianist Bruce Barth—plenty to respond to. The album opens with an explosive take on Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream,” with Hall changing up the groove and working in fresh accents every couple of bars. The title track makes effective use of live and postproduction electronics, from abstract swooshes that pan back and forth to swirling, spacey effects on Stafford’s trumpet, and on “Jabali” the horn men push into full-on free-jazz territory. Everyone’s performances on Into the Light are excellent, but even more impressive is the strength of Hall’s leadership—through every shift in style and approach, he’s able to hold the band to a coherent musical identity. They’re joined today by brilliant trumpeter Nicholas Payton. —PM

Young Jazz Lions Stage

Noon Chi-Arts Jazz Combo

12:45 PM Jazz Ambassadors Combo

1:30 PM Kenwood Academy Jazz Ensemble

2:25 PM Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School Jazz Ensemble

3:20 PM Lincoln Park High School Jazz Ensemble

4:05 PM Roosevelt University Special Septet

Jazz & Heritage Stage

12:30 PM West End Jazz Band

2 PM Cameron Pfiffner’s Marco Polo Though he’s been on the scene for a quarter century, Cameron Pfiffner is probably best known to denizens of late-night Green Mill gigs—he’s the bushy-bearded tenor saxophonist in the front line of Sabertooth. Pfiffner’s wonderful, burly sound and often ingenious writing and arranging are highly regarded in divergent Chicago jazz camps but remain a well-kept secret from much of the listening public. Here he’s at the helm of a sparkling six-horn tentet, featuring such local greats as massively resourceful pianist Tom Vaitsas—another talent uncommensurate with its reknown—and versatile drummer Tim Daisy. —JC

3:30 PM Nicole Mitchell’s Sonic Projections The quartet Sonic Projections is the newest project from flutist Nicole Mitchell, the fest’s artist in residence, and she and her bandmates—tenor saxophonist David Boykin, pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Chad Taylor—can tear into her open-ended themes with fierce improvisational energy or tease them out with an empathic, featherlight touch. She writes both episodic suites and terse melodic kernels, and the group spontaneously reshapes the material with such seat-of-the-pants daring that it gives their recent debut, Emerald Hills (Rogue Art), a pleasantly rough-around-the-edges feel. More than any of Mitchell’s other groups, Sonic Projections is about volatility—highly attuned in their interactions and refreshingly willing to take risks, the musicians fearlessly leap out of her zigzag unison melodies and postclassical rhythmic schemes. In the album’s liner notes Mitchell says she’s “afraid of being comfortable—that seems the opposite of being alive.” Her music here rarely does more than reference “comfortable” traditions—this band is all about navigating the unknown. —PM

6 PM Corey Wilkes Trumpeter Corey Wilkes’s work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory established his avant-garde credentials, and his commanding playing with his combo Abstrakt Pulse on last year’s Cries From tha Ghetto (Pi Recordings) confirms his impeccable straight-ahead chops. But with Black Slang he makes music that he can put on for the neighbors—it’s an electric ensemble that’s equally at home delivering fluent jazz solos and laying down grooves behind KRS-One. —BM

8 PM Steve Cole

Petrillo Music Shell

5 PM Chuchito Valdes Afro-Cuban Ensemble It can’t be easy to be an Afro-Cuban pianist when your grandfather is the great Bebo Valdes and your father is tireless innovator Chucho Valdes, but that hasn’t stopped Chuchito Valdes. He’s a fine pianist and bandleader, and while his work has yet to suggest the brilliance of his forebears, his jazz-heavy band is as solid and swinging as any in Latin jazz. —PM

6 PM Rene Marie High Maintenance Quartet Skilled jazz singers are hardly an endangered species, and an increasing number seem to be making their debut albums in their teens. Though Rene Marie grew up with music, she didn’t tackle it full-time till the late 90s, when she was in her early 40s, and her life experience showed through in the old-school vibe and easy maturity of her first records, which consisted mostly of standard repertoire. More recently she’s followed the lead of the late Abbey Lincoln, creating music with a strong social and political thrust—a very rare tack for jazz vocalists. Last fall she mounted a one-woman musical-theater show addressing incest and child sexual abuse, Slut Energy Theory, and in December she released a strong collection of songs from the production on an album of the same name; in contrast to her early work, they’re a contemporary-sounding mix of pop, gospel, and R&B. She performs with her regular trio: pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan, and drummer Quentin Baxter. —PM

7:10 PM Charisma: A Lee Morgan Tribute Taking its name from one of the best records by singular hard-bop trumpeter Lee Morgan, this tribute band assembled by New York trumpeter David Weiss—perhaps best known for leading the New Jazz Composers Octet—has a ringer its ranks in the form of reedist Bennie Maupin, who played in Morgan’s final groups. The other members of this killer lineup—reedist Billy Harper, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, drummer Victor Lewis, bassist Dwayne Burno, and pianist George Cables—have all mastered the style as well. It’s a gutsy move for any trumpeter to attempt to pay homage to such a formidable player, but Weiss’s explosive new quintet outing with saxophonist J.D. Allen, Snuck In (Sunnyside), proves he’s got the chops and the vision to pull it off. —PM

8:30 PM Either/Orchestra with Getatchew Mekurya and Teshome Mitiku Russ Gershon, saxophonist and leader of the open-eared and eclectic Boston-based Either/Orchestra, was one of the first American jazz musicians to pick up on the importance of Ethiopian popular music, much of which has a strong affinity with jazz. The Either/Orchestra, which has incorporated elements of the distinctive Ethiopian sound since the late 90s, was invited to play in the country in 2004, resulting in the band’s own entry in the Ethiopiques series, the widely acclaimed Live in Addis. On that outing the big band grappled with one of the titans of Ethiopian music, Getatchew Mekurya, who plays tenor saxophone with the emotional intensity of Albert Ayler and the raw melodic power of Gene Ammons, albeit with a pentatonic Ethiopian accent. The Ethio-Either/Or merger has yielded fantastic results to date—including great playing by veteran baritone saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, trumpeter Tom Halter, and a newish batch of band members. For this set, sure to be one of the most exciting of the festival, the group is joined by Mekurya and Teshome Mitiku, who’s among the profound and important pop singers to come out of Ethiopia’s bustling 60s recording scene. —JC


Jazz on Jackson

Noon Paulinho Garcia Quintet

1:10 PM Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble Among the proliferating bands led by Chicago flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell, the Black Earth Ensemble is the longest running and most reliable. The lineup frequently changes according to who’s available and what context the group is playing in, but she’s put together a strong one for today’s concert, the long-delayed premiere of Mother Nature, a work she composed for Black Earth and the remarkable New York-based Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda—due to a severe winter storm they had to debut it without him in February at the Chicago Cultural Center, but he’s here now. The rest of the band consists of tenor saxophonist David Boykin, trumpeter David Young, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Marcus Evans, and vocalist Mankwe Ndosi. —PM

2:20 PM Brad Goode Quartet Trumpeter Brad Goode was such a fixture on the Chicago scene for so long, including a dozen-year weekly gig leading a group at the Green Mill, that it’s still hard to believe he left to teach at the University of Cincinnati in 1998. (He’s now a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.) The depth of Goode’s musicianship is always the focal point of his bands—he plays serious mainstream jazz, steeped in hard-bop tradition, with little use for fashionable trappings. His quartet, whose members hail from all over North America, includes Chicagoan Kelly Sill on bass. —JC

Brian Blade
Brian BladeCredit: Michael Jackson

3:30 PM Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band Lately drummer Brian Blade has spent much of his time playing in Wayne Shorter’s excellent quartet, but he’s managed to work on a variety of side projects as well, from last year’s surprising singer-songwriter collection Mama Rosa (Verve) to a stint with Daniel Lanois’s bluesy Black Dub. But his long-running Fellowship Band best showcases his full range as a composer, bandleader, and percussionist. On the group’s most recent album, 2008’s Season of Changes (Verve), he favors slow to medium tempos, and his plangent, pretty rock-flavored tunes unfold with exquisite patience in the hands of a front line composed of reedists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, pianist Jon Cowherd, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. They frequently bypass the usual strings of solos to focus on airy elucidation of Blade’s melodies, but when they do improvise they strike sparks. Bassist Chris Thomas rounds out the group; they’ll play without Rosenwinkel today. —PM

Young Jazz Lions Stage

Noon Northside College Prep Jazz Combo

12:45 PM Whitney Young Magnet High School Jazz Combo

1:30 PM Lakeview High School Jazz Ensemble

2:25 PM John Hersey High School Jazz Ensemble

3:30 PM University of Chicago Jazz X-Tet

Jazz & Heritage Stage

12:30 PM Bethany Pickens Trio

2 PM Nomo Midwestern sextet Nomo are hugely influenced by Afrobeat, the combination of jazz soloing and grooves from Nigerian popular music and American R&B that was pioneered in the 70s by Nigerian Fela Kuti, and the way they build tunes out of electronically looped thumb pianos and jagged electric guitar on their latest album, Invisible Cities (Ubiquity), has more to do with contemporary dance and rock than jazz. But on the title track, when they float roof-raising saxophone solos over variations on a riff from Sun Ra’s “Space Is the Place” and a swinging, second-line rhythm by Chicago drummer Quin Kirchner, they not only show their mastery of jazz elements; they provide a reminder that jazz has always had a place for music that engages the hips and feet as well as the head. —BM

3:30 PM Saalik Ziyad’s 5 After 7 Project

6 PM Harlan Jefferson

8 PM Nick Colionne

Petrillo Music Shell

5 PM Brad Mehldau Trio Pianist Brad Mehldau is one of the most eloquent musicians in jazz, if occasionally a bit long-winded—the amount of romantic grandeur he can pour into his playing is just as impressive as his technique. Recently he’s stretched beyond the genre, collaborating with opera singers like Renee Fleming and Anne Sofie von Otter; this year he became the first jazz artist to be named to the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall. In March he released his second collaboration with sophisticated LA pop auteur Jon Brion, Highway Rider (Nonesuch), a double album that leaves behind the electronic textures and sometimes stiff rhythms of its predecessor, 2002’s Largo—its sound is both more symphonic, with a full orchestra on many tracks, and more spacious, thanks particularly to guest saxophonist Joshua Redman. All the same, I find Mehldau a little fussy in this context—I prefer hearing him lead his long-running trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, which focuses on his improvisational fluidity and harmonic inventiveness. —PM

6:15 PM Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls Drummer Ted Sirota has led this group through a variety of lineups since its inception in 1995, along the way recording four CDs for Naim (the most recent, Seize the Time, came out last year) and one for Delmark. Mindful of the creative-jazz legacy as well as relatively straight-ahead lineages, Sirota incorporates lots of disparate musics, notably African and Afro-Caribbean, into his inventive writing for this outfit. The front line of the current quintet version of the band includes two killer saxophonists, alto Greg Ward and tenor Geof Bradfield—the latter an original Rebel Soul—as well as guitarist Dave Miller, who has his hands full taking over for Jeff Parker. —JC

Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill

7:20 PM Henry Threadgill’s Zooid Former Chicagoan Henry Threadgill kept a low profile for most of the aughts, but his return with the quintet Zooid proved he wasn’t idle all that time—the band released my favorite album of 2009, This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (Pi). The scientific meaning of the group’s name—a cell that can move independently within an organism—is reflected in its methodology, where for each tune the players are assigned clusters of intervals within which they can range freely. That might sound a bit heady, but the music itself is pure pleasure. Guitarist Liberty Ellman, drummer Elliot Kavee, bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, tubaist-trombonist Jose Davila, and Threadgill sculpt elaborate pieces, generating a constant flux of rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic juxtapositions, but despite the surfeit of detail and information, the arrangements stay airy. Most important, the parameters Threadgill has established for the band’s improvisations—intended to push players out of their habits and vocabularies—result in music that’s uniquely and beautifully idiosyncratic. This is Threadgill’s first Chicago performance in six years; since recording This Brings Us To, Zooid has been joined by cellist Christopher Hoffman to become a sextet. —PM

8:30 PM Kurt Elling Quintet with Ernie Watts For his festival set, Grammy-winning singer Kurt Elling revisits the repertoire he tackled on last year’s Dedicated to You (Concord)—songs from Coltrane’s 1962 album Ballads and his 1963 collaboration with vocalist Johnny Hartman. Rather than attempt to duplicate the record’s string-quartet-plus-jazz-quartet arrangements, he’s adding guitarist John McLean to a four-piece group that also includes bassist Harish Raghavan and three players from the album: pianist and longtime musical director Laurence Hobgood, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., and saxophonist Ernie Watts as featured soloist. —PM