Chicago Jazz Fest highlights a la PoKempner-vision


No one was shot at any jazz festivals held throughout the U.S. over Labor Day weekend, unless artists and audiences captured by photography count. Marc PoKempner was among the expert photogs creating views of the sounds at the 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival. Marc is especially good incorporating into his compositions the huge video image projected behind artists on the stage of the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion. Some fest highlights he depicts: Cecile McClorin Salvant, as powerful an actress as she is nuanced a singer, making … [Read more...]

Chicago Jazz Festival club tour images

peppers po

The 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival (mostly free) kicked off Wednesday with a trolley tour of neighborhood clubs. Marc PoKempner captured performers' and crowds' spirits in his images: The Jazz Festival continues tonight -- Saturday -- with headlining vibist Gary Burton receiving JJA Jazz Awards for his playing and Best Book of the Year -- Learning To Listen, his autobio-graphy. Also on the bill tonight: trumpeter Tom Harrell's Colors of a Dream, bassist Dave Holland's quartet Prism, and Chi's own sax colossus Ari … [Read more...]

New Hyde Park venue tests Chicago north-south split


The Promontory, a large, flexible, shiny new performance hall in Chicago's upswinging Hyde Park neighborhood (home to the Obamas) opened for music last weekend with the South Side Big Band, directed by veteran composer/arranger Tom Tom Washington. It's an audacious attempt to restart commercial entertainment in an area that for decades has mostly been served by University of Chicago events. It's also a test of the city's South Side/North Side  (read: black/white) divide. For the musical launch (The Promontory restaurant has been open for a … [Read more...]

Jazz venues in Chicago: Parks, bars, clubs


Chicago is relatively new in bringing jazz to its many small, diverse parks but the Neighborhood Nights experiment,  conducted by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, works just fine, as drummer Michael Zerang's Blue Lights in Logan Square last Sunday proved. Last of these free shows is Saturday (tomorrow) at 1 pm at Woodson Regional Library on the South Side, featuring pianist Willie Pickens. Zerang's original compositions, many of them based on belly-dance music he'd grown up with, were performed by a front line of Chicago aces: tenor saxist … [Read more...]

Chi venues beyond jazz: Billy Martin @ Space, Beat Kitchen outcats


Evanston Il's cross-genre club Space showcased drummer Billy Martin's lively, upbeat Wicked Knee brass band last night, and the neighborhood tavern Beat Kitchen hosted its weekly exploratory jam by Extraordinary Popular Delusions the night before. I've barely scratched the surface but clearly Chicago's got a broad range of performance venues fun to poke into, considering the bookings. Billy Martin, the man at the tubs for jam band jazzers Medeski, Martin and Wood, is a generous player, just trying to give everyone (band and himself … [Read more...]

Most scurrilous, unfunny New Yorker “humor” re jazz

rollins not plased

I'm aghast at The New Yorker's rip-off of Sonny Rollins' good name and great heart to slag jazz in the guise of "humor." A Daily Shouts piece, bylined "Django Gold" (surely a pseudonym) purports to be "Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words" and controverts the very essence of the art form this grand hero has embodied for more than half a century -- without raising a chuckle (at least from me). See for yourself -- then write the editor a letter saying "This ain't funny." Not that jazz is sacrosanct, but this ain't funny. Ok, call me sensitive. I … [Read more...]

Ferocious memorial to good-humored avant-gardist

russell concert

Saxophonists Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark played like wild beasts before a tight and determinedly transgressive troupe recalling little-known but regionally influential multi-instrumentalist/bandleader Hal Russell (1926-1992) last night in Millenium Park's swanky Pritzker Pavillion (the one designed by Frank Gehry) as part of the city's free Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz series. With bassist Kent Kessler, percussionist Steve Hunt and guitarist-bassist-trumpeter Brian Sandstrom -- like Williams, stalwarts of Russell's 1979-'92 NRG … [Read more...]

Hypnotic Brass on tour, clan-dad Cohran in Chicago


While Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, comprising eight sons of jazz-beyond-jazz seer Kelan Phil Cohran, was tearing it up in the midst of its Bad Boys of Jazz tour at the Enclave de Agua African American Music Festival in Soria, Spain, the patriarch himself held forth nearer home at the Garfield Conservatory, on the first of four free Neighborhood Nights concerts presented this month by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. The elder Cohran, an early member of Sun Ra's Arkestra and original co-founder  (though soon ex-member) of the 49-year-old … [Read more...]

Charlie Haden, anchoring free play

Dewey Redman. Charlie Haden and Branford Marsali

Charlie Haden, who died July 11 at age 76, was the man who anchored the free flights of many musicians to the foundations of music: rhythm and harmony. This photo by Enid Farber shows how I felt about being around him, Dewey Redman and Edward Blackwell (not pictured; the saxophonist is Branford Marsalis, but the occasion was a Blackwell tribute concert).   Haden was a man who made connections. Ornette Coleman, who Charlie called his guru, was able to extend blues and jazz beyond limits of convention to flights of melodic … [Read more...]

Jazz and beyond “jazz” — NYC to Chicago

ornette, threadgill, murray, roney

Jazz above and beyond established conventions of jazz in and around NYC last month was super abundant -- and I'm going to miss a lot about this scene when I move base of operations to Chicago in mid-July. In the past 30 days I heard:  The Eric Dolphy Freedom of Sound 2-day conference/concerts at Montclair State University, NJ May 30 and 31, the JJA's NYC Jazz Awards party at the Blue Note (with music by Stephanie Richards Trumpet Quartet, beautiful Sheila Jordan singing with great bassist Cameron Brown and for a finale pianist Elio … [Read more...]

NEA 2015 Jazz Masters – who stretched “jazz”

joe segal

The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters of 2015, announced today, are musicians Carla Bley, George Coleman and Charles Lloyd -- all personal favorites who provoked my earliest interests in jazz going beyond "jazz." So here are listening recommendations -- and my special shout out to Jazz Master Joe Segal of Chicago's Jazz Showcase  (receiving the A.B. Spellman Award for Jazz Advocacy) who let teenage me in free to hear real jazz to begin with: Coleman Hawkins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Jimmy Forrest, Sun Ra, Rahsaan, Mingus, great … [Read more...]

Hail visionary Charles Gayle (from The Wire, 1994)


Saxophonist and pianist Charles Gayle has one of the largest, most urgent and original saxophone sounds to be heard since the 1990s. That was 20 years after he moved from Buffalo to NYC and started playing on the streets, then was "discovered," promoted and booked by Michael Dorf, operator of the original Knitting Factory. Today (June 11) Gayle is receiving Lifetime Achievement honors and performing with three ensembles at the 19th Vision Festival. I interviewed and profiled Charles for The Wire in March, 1994 -- and read part 2, as originally … [Read more...]

Attn time-travelers: Dolphy & Ayler this week in NY/NJ


If saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler, icons of bust-loose and beautiful improvisation, were alive today . . .they'd be pleased by and maybe attending the festival and concert in their honor this week in Montclair, NJ and Brooklyn. Dolphy died of undiagnosed diabetes in 1964, and Ayler either jumped or was pushed into the East River in 1970, however their music is imbued with immortal spirit. Eric Dolphy: The Freedom of Sound Festival is an extraordinary convening of musical survivors and admirers of the flutist/bass clarinetist/alto … [Read more...]