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Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday announced the lineup for the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival as it celebrates a milestone in its new home of Millennium Park on August 29- September 1. New this year, the Chicago Labor Day tradition will offer more hours of free music than ever before. Headline performers including NEA Jazz Master drummer Jack DeJohnnette, the legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd, pianist and composer Jason Moran and New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison with his Congo Nation Tribe Mardi Gras band. The Chicago Jazz Festival is presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Chicago Jazz Partnership, and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Every performance is free; this is a completely free admission festival.
“We welcome the Chicago Jazz Festival, featuring Chicago talent and prolific Jazz musicians, to its new home at Millennium Park ,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The city of Chicago has always been proud to foster one of America’s great musical genres. This heritage festival draws artists and fans the world over, advancing several priorities of the Chicago Cultural Plan including strengthening Chicago as a global cultural destination.”
The Jazz Festival begins at noon on Thursday, August 29 in the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) with performances in three venues: the Randolph Café, the Claudia Cassidy Theater and Preston Bradley Hall.
Drummer Hamid Drake begins his festival Artist Residency at 5 p.m. at Roosevelt University’s beautifully-acoustic Ganz Hall with his Chicago Trio including band mates Ernest Dawkins and Harrison Bankhead. And then later that evening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, the Festival will celebrate the life and music of Jack DeJohnette. Chicago native DeJohnette returns to his roots and his most important influences by assembling a once-in-a-lifetime reunion for a project he calls “Special Legends Edition Chicago” featuring Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill which begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Festival will begin programming on Friday afternoon, August 30, in its brand new home base in Millennium Park. In another first, the Jazz on Jackson stage will be renamed to honor one of the Chicago’s most important figures in jazz, the late great saxophonist/philosopher Von Freeman who died last August. Freeman’s place in Chicago jazz history cannot be overestimated. He was not only an exceptional improviser and saxophonist; he was a teacher who taught countless musicians about music, both from life experience and by example. In naming the stage for Freeman, the Chicago Jazz Festival creates a living memorial and perpetual tribute to a man whose impact has been felt by all who love and listen to jazz.
The two afternoon stages, located on the park’s north and south promenades, will feature music every afternoon, kicking off on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion (north promenade) and at 2:20 p.m. at the newly named Von Freeman Pavilion (south promenade). On Saturday and Sunday, music begins at noon at the Von Freeman Pavilion and 12:30 p.m. at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion.
Chicago saxophonist/composer Geof Bradfield kicks off Friday night’s Pritzker Stage lineup at 6:30 p.m. with Melba!, his Melba Liston Project, a tribute to the great jazz arranger and trombonist, known for her work with Randy Weston as well as for arrangements for such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday.
Pulitzer Prize finalist trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith premiered Ten Freedom Summers in 2011. A commissioned piece, the work is inspired by the activity of the Civil Rights Movement, from the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education to Dr. Martin Luther King’s Memphis speech in 1968. Called “the work of a lifetime by one of jazz’s true visionaries,” the newest piece written to commemorate the March on Washington will be performed only two days past the 50th anniversary of the march. This multi-media project will be performed by WLS’s Golden Quartet and Pacifica Red Coral with video artist Jesse Gilbert.
The Charles Lloyd Quartet, with special guest Bill Frisell headlines on Friday night. 75-year-old Lloyd’s career was highly influenced by the music of John Coltrane and included stints with Gerald Wilson, Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderly. His composition, Forest Flower, became a jazz standard. The man that Carlos Santana called “an international treasure” is enjoying new collaborations this year including performing with guitarist Bill Frisell, whose diverse approach to music is a sonic match with Lloyd’s.
The Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions, now in its fifth year will be located on the Harris Rooftop on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. High school and college age jazz bands featured on the stage will be announced later this summer.
Saturday night, The Pritzker Stage opens at 5 p.m. with a special project honoring the work of drummer Max Roach: The Stafford James String and Percussion Ensemble featuring M’BOOM.
Including original personnel from Roach’s M’Boom, the group continues its founder’s purpose of giving voice to the entire family of percussion instruments, and in this case adding the colors and textures of the string family as well.
Gregory Porter, called a “brilliant new voice of jazz” takes the stage next. Chicago native Rudresh Mahanthappa returns to Chicago with his group Gamak. The 2012 DownBeat International Critics Poll Alto Saxophonist of the Year, Mahanthappa is one of the most innovative composers and performers in jazz today, fusing the musical culture of his Indian ancestry and jazz with myriad other influences to create a groundbreaking artistic vision.
Headliner Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party closes the evening with a joyful tribute to a true jazz icon. Moran’s relentless inventiveness is showcased in this project that collages rhythms coming out of Waller’s compositions, 1960s-and-beyond dance music, Motown, house and hip-hop. This night will truly end with a party.
The final evening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion begins at 5 p.m. with the Jimmy Heath Quartet with Jeb Patton. Heath is an NEA Jazz Master who has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. They are joined by pianist Jeb Patton, a protégé of the late Sir Roland Hanna.
Hamid Drake’s Bindu group presents the final performance of Drake’s residency with Reggaeology. First debuted by the artist and his band in 2010, this project integrates reggae-based pieces with other world-based rhythms. Hip-hop-inspired pianist Robert Glasper and his Trio makes its first appearance at the Chicago Jazz Festival. Glasper experiments with space, rhythm and chord textures, creating a vast array of sound which merges the worlds of jazz and hip-hop, staking out new territory emphasized by his latest release, Black Radio.
For a truly celebratory ending to the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, saxophonist Donald Harrison brings his Mardi Gras Indian Congo Square Nation band to Chicago. To emphasize his connection to Chicago, Harrison has invited special guest Willie Pickens to perform with them. The New Orleans native grew up in an environment steeped in jazz traditions, and these roots were deepened by his father, a Big Chief in the African-American traditional culture that formed around the annual Mardi Gras celebrations. The group includes Harrison’s quartet plus four members of his Congo Square tribe and Chicago’s own master pianist, Pickens.
The Chicago Jazz Festival is presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Chicago Jazz Partnership and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. The Festival is sponsored in part by American Airlines, Aquafina, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-ChicagoLand’s Television, Communications Direct, DownBeat Magazine, E&J Gallo Family Vineyards, LaGrou Distribution System, Pepsi, Stella Artois and WGN-Television.
For the latest information on the Chicago Jazz Festival including musical lineups, visit chicagojazzfestival.us, like us on Facebook at Chicago Jazz Festival or follow us on twitter
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