Another free Chicago jazz festival: Hyde Park and local stars

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The 8th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival Sept 27 and 28th was as mellowly festive a scene as has ever graced the Midway Plaisance, the grassy fields between University of Chicago's faux Gothic buildings, originally created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Photo-journalist Michael Jackson created portraits of local fans and players such as Irvin Pierce, last-minute tenor sax sub for altoist Oliver Lake (who had been scheduled to perform with soon-to-be-famous singer Dee Alexander, but was deterred by the strange airline tower … [Read more...]

Beautiful Coltrane birthday — celebrate with “Offering”

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Today, Sept 23, is a beautiful 88th birthdate of the late revered and intrepid saxophonist/composer John Coltrane, celebrated with the release of Offering, the first professionally prepared cd of his November 1966 concert at Temple University. This is the most significant addition to Coltrane's ouevre since the 2005 discovery by Library of Congress researcher Larry Appelbaum of the concert Trane did in 1957 with Thelonious Monk at Carnegie Hall. Coltrane fans won't want to miss it. Uninitiated adventurers approaching this album may be shocked … [Read more...]

The funeral at the Hideout, with Survival Unit III

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After nine years, the free-thinking Immediate Sound  Series ended at Chicago's indie-alt. Hideout on Sept. 17. Survival Unit III, the decade-old but only  occasionally united ensemble of multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee (from Poughkeepsie) and Chicago-based cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang performed highly sympatico improvisations before a rapt and appreciative audience of aficionados and sometimes-collaborators, most of whom seemed to know each other. It was a warm, colorful, informal scene, promoted by its organizer … [Read more...]

Guelph’s jazz fest/colloquium of cosmic improvisation, Deutsch pix

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The Guelph Jazz Festival last week (Sept 3 through 7), held in a mostly placid river-run university town about 60 miles west of Toronto, climaxed with a blast-off to other worlds fueled by the Sun Ra Arkestra (led by saxophonist Marshall Allen) and Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie dance troupe. Photographer Lauren Deutsch captured the ecstasy of concert-goers joining musicians and movers onstage, more eager than Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to clamber aboard the aliens' spaceship. Attendees at that … [Read more...]

Chicago Jazz Fest highlights a la PoKempner-vision

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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...]