Jazz fests of August

Free jazz fests across the U.S. mark summer’s glorious end. Manhattan’s Charlie Parker festival (held Saturday Aug. 23 and Sunday 24 in Marcus Garvey park uptown and Tompkins Square Park downtown), the Chicago Jazz Festival (which formally starts Thursday Aug 28 with Sonny Rollins at downtown Grant Park’s Petrillo bandshell) and the Detroit International Jazz Festival (celebrating Detroit-Philadelphia music connections, Aug 29 – Sept. 1 on multiple stages along the river at Hart Plaza and down the street at Campus Martius Park) and smaller events such as the Fox Jazz Festival in Menasha, Wisconsin have become traditions. 

These events feature the cream of international jazz talent — Ornette Coleman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Randy Weston, Gerald Wilson’s Orchestra, Holland’s International Composers Pool, the Fort Apache Band, Eddie Palmieri’s Latin Jazz Band, Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer, Christian McBride, Pat Martino, Kenny Burrell and Ravi Coltrane  are among the best known performers, but many local artists and ensembles await discovery and enjoyment. Check local listings! Pack a picnic and head out there!

(I’m attending Lincoln Center’s free Roots of American Music concert featuring bassist Charlie Haden’s Family Band and poet of punk Patti Smith among others on Sunday, Aug 24; then off to Chi for all the music I can hear, including Monday night’s show by drummer Mike Reed with trombonist Julian Priester at the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park, a Tuesday fundraising gala and Africans-sing-James Brown concert, and Wednesday’s city-wide club tour. I’ve written the introduction to a splendid new Jazz Institute of Chicago-published book, Jazzography: 30 Years of the Chicago Jazz Festival in Photography — on sale at Grant Park next Saturday and Sunday; see the JIC website for details).
Sadly, the City of Atlanta is not producing the Montreux Jazz Festival 2008, but its website says it’s searching for funding to resume in 2009, and there’s a Blues in the Alley/Labor Day Latenight Bash scheduled in its place. 
Ticketed jazz fests coming right up range from the tony Tanglewood Jazz Festival in Lennox, MA Aug 29 – 31 (tickets $17 – $59) to Franklin, Tennessee‘s Aug. 30 – 31 concerts ($5 at the gate in “historic downtown Franklin”) and the first Berks County, PA Mt. Gretna Jazz Fest (a tad pricey though there’s a student discount, Aug 28 – 30). At Tanglewood the bills include Dianne Reeves, Marian McPartland, vibist Joe Locke, Terrence Blanchard and Eliane Elias. 
If jazz isn’t the music of America, where are the Labor Day weekend rock concerts? Free pop celebrations? Chamber and symphony performances? What do we want to hear on the last holiday of the season? Must be jazz, jazz, jazz.

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