Monday, July 20, 2009

31st Annual Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant Park

The Chicago Jazz Festival, now in its fourth decade as one of the city's great free lakefront festivals, continues to be the place where a rich history meets innovative sound. The 31st Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, produced by the Mayor's Office of Special Events and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, is Sept. 4-6, 2009, held in its longtime home, Grant Park. Three stages, including the Petrillo Music Shell, will showcase jazz musicians from Chicago and the world, while a brand new performing area will be dedicated to the young lions of Jazz featuring high school and college performers.

"At the heart of the first festival was the desire to showcase Chicago's multi-faceted jazz community, and now, 30 years later, that is still the driving force for how we program this event, " said Jazz Festival Coordinator Jennifer Johnson Washington.

Chicago's music community is vital to the festival and that includes many artists who began their careers here, and now are on an international odyssey such as artist-in-residence and Sunday's headliner, Muhal Richard Abrams leading the Arthur Hoyle Orchestra.

The festival has commissioned Abrams to create a new composition entitled, "Spiralview", which will be dedicated to President Barack Obama and feature three special soloists sections. The first section features George Lewis playing solo trombone and the next section pairs Ari Brown (saxophone) and Harrison Bankhead (bass) in a duet performance. The third section features Roscoe Mitchell playing solo saxophone.

A founding member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Abrams will also play in a Friday night performance at the Petrillo Music Shell as a trio, again performing with Lewis and Mitchell.

Mixing the best of his Cuban musical heritage and his love of the US Jazz masters like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to name a few, Gonzalo Rubalcaba has played the world over and winning a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year. He leads his Quintet for an opening night performance at the festival.

Dave Holland returns with his Big Band, having headlined at the 25th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival and making its only US appearance at the free lakefront event.

In a nod to the event's rich history, the festival honors one of its first headliners, Chicago's own Benny Goodman, on the centennial of his birth with a tribute featuring Eric Schneider, Saturday at the Jazz & Heritage Stage. Goodman performed with Mel Torme on the closing night of the very first Chicago Jazz Festival in 1979. Tenor saxophonist Schneider is not only a regular at Andy's, but also had performed with Goodman.

A second tribute to the great clarinetist will be performed on Sunday at the Jazz on Jackson Stage. James Falzone's KLANG: The Goodman Project will feature Falzone on the clarinet joined by Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone; Dave Miller on guitar; Jason Roebke on bass and on the drums, Frank Rosaly.

Yet another tribute will be paid to Art Tatum on the centennial of his birth, by the youngster, 86-year-old Buddy DeFranco. Tatum, blind in one eye and only partially sighted in the other, was mostly self-taught, yet still became one of jazz music's greatest piano players. Playing in many different groups brought jazz clarinetist Buddy DeFranco into his circle. Generally credited with bridging the era of swing to the age of bop, DeFranco is award-winning and renowned, having shared the spotlight with the likes of Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and the Count Basie Septet.

Reaching back yet again to the inaugural festival will be an appearance by Fred Anderson as he celebrates his 80th birthday. Saturday evening at the Petrillo begins with his "80th Birthday Jam" in a performance with his regular crew of Harrison Bankhead on bass and Dushon Mosley on bass. The Fred Anderson Quartet performed on the opening night of the first festival in 1979.

But let's not forget the ladies. Some of the most lauded young women in jazz will appear at this year's festival including Esperanza Spaulding, whose recent gigs have taken her to the White House, twice already this year.

Dutch pianist, Amina Fiagarova, was actually born Baku, Azerbaijan, playing and composing at an early age. She studied at the Baku Conservatory before moving on to her current home and the Rotterdam Conservatory. Her concert schedule has taken her all over the world including Israel, Europe, United Arabs Emirates, Mexico and now this summer to Chicago and the Jazz Festival.

Rounding out the feminist side of jazz will be performances from Madeleine Peyroux at the Petrillo on opening night, the Nicole Mitchell Black Earth Strings on Saturday at the Jazz on Jackson Stage, and Dee Alexander, who performs on Sunday night just before the Muhal Richard Abrams Big Band.

Peyroux, whose early career focused on singing the songs of other great women in jazz, has recently had a hand in writing her own songs reflected by her latest album, Bare Bones. She had a hand in writing all 11 songs.

DownBeat Magazine named her Rising Star Flutist for 2005-2008 and Nicole Mitchell was also Jazz Flutist of the Year in 2008, as chosen by the Jazz Journalist Association. She is joined by Black Earth Strings, the group she founded in 1997, the multi-genre, multi-generational celebration of the African American cultural legacy.

A Chicago Jazz Festival favorite returns once again when one of Chicago's most gifted vocalists, Dee Alexander takes the stage at the Petrillo Music Shell on Sunday evening.

Growing the next generation of jazz legends is a new element to this year's festival with the Young Jazz Lions Stage presented by the Chicago Community Trust.

Also new, Wine Australia presents The Wine Oasis. Festival attendees are able to sample a variety of wines and food, purchased with food and beverage tickets sold at the festival. The tent will be located on the north side of Jackson Blvd. between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

Returning yet again is the Chicago Jazz Festival Art Fair offering a wide variety of crafts, paintings, jewelry and textiles, located in the North Rose Garden just off Jackson.

Jazz Festival hours are 11am to 9:30pm all three days. For more information, call the Mayor's Office of Special Events 312-744-3315, TTY 312-744-2964. Visit the Mayor's Office of Special Events on the Internet at for updates on performers. For more information on Chicago, including help planning your trip, visit

The Mayor's Office of Special Events encourages taking public transportation to all lakefront festivals. Call 312-836-7000/TTY 312-836-4949 for information on RTA, CTA, PACE and Metra. Parking is available at the Millennium Park Garage, East Monroe, Grant Park North and Grant Park South garages.

The Chicago Jazz Festival is made possible in part by the Chicago Jazz Partnership and sponsored by ABSOLUT, American Airlines, Best Buy, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-ChicagoLand's Television, Communications Direct, Downbeat Magazine, Essex Inn, FlashCash, Heineken, Hinckley Springs, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, JazzTimes Magazine, LaGrou Distribution System, Pepsi-Cola, Wine Australia, The Chicago Jazz Partnership and WGN-Television.

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