City of Chicago Announces 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park and Jazz Music Venues Across Chicago

April 18, 2018

Expanded schedule will run from August 24 – September 2 with headliners including Ramsey Lewis, Kurt Elling, Dianne Reeves, Maceo Parker, Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and a Tribute to Willie Pickens

Christine Carrino, 312.744.0573


The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is pleased to announce the 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival will be hosted from August 24–September 2 in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) and at venues throughout the city. Among many featured headline guests, on September 1 Chicago native Ramsey Lewis will perform his last live performance in Chicago before his retirement. For the complete lineup of performers in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, visit

“As the Chicago Jazz Festival expands from Millennium Park into venues all across the city, we are proud to feature many iconic musicians who found their voice right here in Chicago,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Ramsey Lewis has been a staple in the jazz community for more than 60 years and I look forward to welcoming him back home for his final performance in the city.”

The Chicago Jazz Festival will expand with free performances in neighborhood clubs and venues from August 24 to 29, leading up to the concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and in Millennium Park. The additional performances offer festival audiences even more free opportunities to experience Chicago’s exceptional jazz sounds at some of the city’s legendary music venues. An expanded schedule of these performances and participating locations will be announced in June.

“In honor of the 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, we hope to encourage collaboration within the Jazz community to build excitement and promote the city as a destination for Jazz by expanding the festival into the neighborhoods,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “The city is excited to support venues and Jazz presenting organizations to showcase Chicago's local talent alongside national artists to raise awareness and appreciation for one of the city’s most beloved art forms.”

The Chicago Jazz Festival showcases free live performances produced by DCASE and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC).


Millennium Park Headline Performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Wednesday, August 29

New for 2018, the Chicago Jazz Festival has added an additional evening in Millennium Park featuring Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic presentation of Legends and Lions, 6:30–9pm. The full orchestra program will feature jazz legends sharing the stage with emerging young artist “lions” in a showcase of talents. Preceding the concert, Chicago youth musicians will lead a second-line style parade through the park, encouraging attendees of all ages to join in the procession.


Thursday, August 30

Each evening, Thursday through Sunday of the festival, a half hour before the music begins at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the headline performances will kick off with a New Orleans inspired second-line procession presented by Mystic Crew of Laff Theater Co. featuring the Big Shoulders Brass Band, starting at Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) and proceeding around the Great Lawn to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

Opening the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on Thursday at 5:25pm is saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield whose work has been featured in countless projects, including six albums receiving critical accolades from the New York Times, Downbeat, the Chicago Tribune and NPR. At 6:30pm, composer and bandleader Nicole Mitchell, best known for her work as a flutist, will perform her recent multidisciplinary work, incorporating original video art with her latest Afrofuturist suite Mandorla Awakening which was cited as a top jazz recording in the New York Times and the LA Times for 2017.

One of the world’s foremost jazz vocalists and GRAMMY® Award winner Kurt Elling will close the evening at 7:45pm. Named “Male Singer of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions, Elling brings his rich baritone voice spanning four octaves and featuring both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry.


Friday, August 31

The festival will pay tribute at 4:15pm to the world-renowned pianist, composer and educator Dr. Muhal Richard Abrams who was known for his unique and diverse compositions and was at the forefront of the contemporary music scene for more than 68 years. Dr. Abrams also helped to establish the influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Chicago saxophonists Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner have been co-leading Sabertooth at the legendary Green Mill Jazz Club every Saturday night into Sunday morning for 25 years. At 5:25pm the Sabertooth 25th Anniversary set will offer a musical selection for all to enjoy, whether a newbie or veteran jazz fan. Jazz drummer Louis Hayes developed his skills in Detroit during the 1950s. During his early years, he and bassist Sam Jones became known as the "dynamic duo," recognized as the most powerful rhythm duo in jazz. Louis Hayes, who has played and recorded with jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, John Lee Hooker and others. His set, Louis Hayes: “Seranade for Horace” will start at 6:30pm.

The final performer for the evening at 7:45pm is five-time GRAMMY® Award winner Dianne Reeves, the pre-eminent jazz vocalist in the world. As a result of her breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess and unique jazz and R&B stylings, Reeves received the GRAMMY® Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for three consecutive recordings – a Grammy first in any vocal category. Most notably, Reeves is the recipient of honorary doctorates from both the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School, and most recently the National Endowment for the Arts presented Reeves with the Jazz Master Award – the highest honor the United States bestows on jazz artists.


Saturday, September 1

The evening’s opener at 4:15pm will feature a special tribute to Chicago Jazz pianist Willie Pickens. Known as a piano powerhouse, he began his career in 1961 on Eddie Harris’s national hit record Exodus. Instead of staying on the touring jazz scene, he became a Chicago Public School (CPS) teacher and a mentor to scores of upcoming musicians. Following his retirement from CPS, Willie increased his performance schedule, and by the time he passed his 80th birthday, Willie was busier, more in demand and playing better than ever.

Jazz Master Kenny Barron has an unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant piano playing, sensitive melodies and infectious rhythms. The Kenny Barron Quintet, recognized the world over as a master of performance and composition, will take the stage 5:25pm. The Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based composer and bandleader Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece ensemble Secret Society have garnered countless awards and nominations. They will hit the stage at 6:25pm with their reimagining of a 21st-century big band in a performance celebrated for its precision and sound.

Saturday’s final performer at 7:45pm is none other than Chicago jazz pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis in his last live performance in Chicago before he retires. As a major figure in contemporary jazz, Lewis plays music with a warm, open personality. Early in his career he formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio with bassist Eldee Young and percussionist Redd Holt. The trio recorded a swinging version of Dobie Gray’s hit "The In Crowd," earning Lewis his first gold record, as well as a GRAMMY® Award for Best Jazz Performance – the first of three. He has recorded R&B and Latin-influenced material with the hit album Sun Goddess and explored his roots in more traditional jazz sounds as well. Throughout his career, he recorded over 80 albums and penned several pieces for string ensemble and orchestras. In 2007 he received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Award.


Sunday, September 2

Matt Ulery’s Loom Large will open the final night of performances at 4:15pm. As a Chicago-based bassist, composer and bandleader, Ulery has developed an instantly recognizable sound. His music covers the spectrum of jazz, classical, rock, pop and folk– specifically American, South American, Balkan and other European folk styles. They will be followed by the Arturo O’Farrill Sextet at 5:25pm. O’Farrill is the current pianist, composer and director for the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Before the final performance of the festival, saxophonist Charles McPherson and pianist Barry Harris will collaborate for  a set at 6:25pm.

At 7:45pm, Maceo Parker will close the 40th edition of the Chicago Jazz Festival. Mr. Parker has played with each and every leader of funk, starting with James Brown. For the last two decades Maceo Parker has enjoyed a blistering solo career, building a new funk empire – one that is both fresh and stylistically diverse while exploring mellower jazz and the grooves of hip hop. His collaborations over the years have included George Clinton, Prince, Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timeless sound has garnered him a fresh young fan base.


Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park Day Stages

On Thursday, August 30, the Jazz Festival will feature performances throughout the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) from 11am to 4:30pm. Highlights include jazz pianist Stu Mindeman and his Trio, jazz pianist, composer, producer and sound designer Paul Giallorenzo with his Trio and many more. In conjunction with the City of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth, the festival will present a Spoken Word Event by Young Chicago Authors.

The Von Freeman Pavilion on the South Promenade in Millennium Park will feature music from 11:30am until 4pm beginning Friday, August 31, through Sunday, June 2. Highlights include alto saxophonist Greg Ward and 10 Tongues on Friday at 3pm and on Saturday at 3pm, organist, pianist, vocalist and composer Amina Claudine Myers Trio will perform. On Sunday at 11:30am, the festival will present a wonderful tribute to Chicago jazz pianist John Wright and his south side soul and end the day with the Eric Revis Quartet at 3pm.

The Jazz and Heritage Pavilion on the North Promenade in Millennium Park will present a wide range of artists from noon until 4pm beginning Friday, August 31, through Sunday, June 2. Highlights include jazz pianist Steve Million on Friday at 3pm, The Chuck Webb Band featuring Margaret Murphy on Saturday at 1:30pm, followed by Nolatet from New Orleans performing their unique rendition of that city’s traditional sound at 3pm. Chicago guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque will close the stage on Sunday at 3pm.


Roof Top Jazz: Young Jazz Lions and NextGen Jazz

2018 was declared the Year of Creative Youth in Chicago and in keeping with the festival’s tradition of nurturing young artists, on Saturday, September 1, the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park will feature the Roof Top Jazz: Young Jazz Lions, select groups from a city-wide jazz band competition that was co-hosted by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. On Sunday, September 2, the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace hosts Roof Top Jazz: NextGenJazz, focusing on up-and-coming Chicago musicians alongside notable regional and national touring artists. The lineup for this year will be posted at a later date.

For the Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park, some important changes are coming to improve security and the visitor experience at the park. The City of Chicago will implement a security perimeter and bag check for all concerts and events that take place in the park. New this year, outside alcohol will be prohibited in the park during the Chicago Jazz Festival. Visitors will have additional food and beverage options at various price points available for purchase inside the venue. Subject to bag search at the security perimeter, guests will continue to be allowed to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages to all events at Millennium Park.

Admission to the Chicago Jazz Festival is free. Hours for Wednesday, August 29, in Millennium Park are 6:30–9:30pm, and for Thursday, August 28, are noon–4:30pm at the Chicago Cultural Center and 6:30pm–9:30pm in Millennium Park. On Friday, September 1, through Sunday, September 3, the festival will be in Millennium Park, 11am–9:30pm.

The Chicago Jazz Festival is sponsored in part by American Airlines, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-ChicagoLand Television, Communications Direct, Downbeat Magazine, Stella Artois, VRAI, WGN-TV and 90.9FM WDCB.

For the latest information on the Chicago Jazz Festival, visit, like us on Facebook at Chicago Jazz Festival and follow us on Twitter (@ChicagoDCASE, @ChiJazzFest, #ChicagoJazzFest). For information on the Jazz institute of Chicago, visit


About Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs And Special Events:

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy. This includes fostering the development of Chicago’s non-profit arts sector, independent working artists and for-profit arts businesses; providing a framework to guide the City’s future cultural and economic growth, via the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan; marketing the City’s cultural assets to a worldwide audience; and presenting high-quality, free and affordable cultural programs for residents and visitors.


About Jazz Institute of Chicago:

Founded in 1969, the not for profit Jazz Institute of Chicago has programmed the Chicago Jazz Festival in partnership with the City of Chicago since the festival began in 1979. The organization’s mission to promote and nurture jazz in Chicago is carried out by providing jazz education for youth and adults, supporting the creation of new work by Chicago jazz musicians; growing the audience for jazz by presenting programs that are free and available for all and fostering a thriving jazz community.


NOTE TO MEDIA: Media credential requests for the Chicago Jazz Festival must be submitted by email to by Friday, August 24, 2018, and acceptance notifications will be sent accordingly. Submission of a request does not guarantee admission. Credentials only provide working media access to media seating, photo pit and media lounge; they do not include back stage access. Each media outlet is limited to one press and one photography credential as space is is very limited. Visit the pressroom on the website at this link for details – Chicago Jazz Festival Press Room.