We have celebrated every Labor Day weekend since 1979, in my Windy City Chicago with an incredible Jazz Festival. This year’s 34th Annual The Chicago Jazz Festival 2012 offers another year of sublime “Vino con Vista” opportunities to listen to legendary jazz performances.
Entertainment Line-up for Chicago Jazz Festival 2012:
The New Orleans native Allen Toussaint grew up in a shotgun house learning his piano style at a young age and inspired by some of greats including Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Huey” Piano” Smith. Leave it to the pianist, to brilliantly re-invent himself, personalize songs such as “West End Blues” and “Dear Old Southland” and garner a Grammy nomination for his efforts.
Roy Haynes – Fountain of Youth
At this point in Roy Haynes’ illustrious career, it’s gotten a little boring to recite all the jazz legends with whom he has played drums, live and on record. The amazing list (deep breath) includes Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker. Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Chick Corea…well, you get the idea. The man is a walking repository of modern jazz history.
Jerry Gonzalez Y El Commando De La Clave
Most attempts to combine jazz and Latin music result in a stylistic wash: not enough jazz and not enough Latin. Jerry Gonzalez, the Bronx-raised trumpeter and conga player known for his groundbreaking Fort Apache Band, handily avoids that trap with his superb new quartet, El Commando De La Clave.
Steve Coleman and Five Elements
Steve Coleman, proclaimed the Wall Street Journal, is “the most influential jazzman of his era.” Said the great young pianist Vijay Iyer, a longtime associate of Coleman’s, the Chicago native has “affected more than one generation, as much as anyone since John Coltrane.”
Co-led by pianist Darwin Noguera, a native of Nicaragua based in New York, and Chicago trumpeter Victor Garcia, who has made a mark here in all kinds of settings, CALJE has been a standard bearer for Latin jazz in the city since its formation in 2006.
Exquisitely for Ella: A Songbook Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald
In honor of what would have been Fitzgerald’s 95th birthday, three of Chicago’s best-loved singers – cabaret queen Spider Saloff, freewheeling jazz singer Dee Alexander and swinging traditionalist Frieda Lee – will join forces with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and a 17-piece string section in a survey of Ella’s songbook albums.
In 2007, Marek Winiarski, who runs the Polish jazz label Not Two, invited Ken Vandermark to Krakow to record a large-scale project. The eternally deadline-pressed Vandermark was offered the irresistible opportunity to spend a full week writing for this hand-picked 11-piece band.
Pierre Dørge and New Jungle Orchestra
The personnel of Denmark’s New Jungle Orchestra has changed during its 30-plus years together, and so have its creative outposts. Having traveled to such places as the Middle East and China for inspiration, the NJO recently booked passage on the Trivandrum Express for its latest recording, Sketches of India.
Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee
Imagine idolizing a musician as a teenager and not only getting to play with that musician years later, but also forging a close association with him. In 1996, Vandermark brought McPhee to the Empty Bottle for his first-ever performance in Chicago. The rest is history.
Sarah Marie Young Quartet
Chicagoan Sarah Marie Young is one of those natural talents you know can go in any direction she chooses. If she wants to follow the path of the classic jazz singers, she has the skill and sophistication to do that.
It’s not often that an artist of drummer Billy Hart’s stature – he’s accompanied such greats as Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock and Charles Lloyd – achieves an artistic breakthrough in his seventies. But that’s precisely what Hart has done with his 2012 album, All Our Reasons, easily his best recording under his own name.
Marlene Rosenberg Quartet
Long one of Chicago’s go-to bass players with her impeccble time feel and natural, deep- in-the-wood sound, Marlene Rosenberg has accompanied a long list of jazz greats, including Joe Henderson, Cedar Walton and Ed Thigpen.
Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts
Matt Wilson is one of jazz’s great free spirits. During a recent performance at the Green Mill, he abandoned his drum set to play a wood flute from inside the men’s room next to the stage, kicking the door open in time with the music. As funny as the ploy was, it worked in the context of the song.
It’s not as though Ambrose Akinmusire has come out of nowhere. The 30-year-old Oakland, Cal., native did win the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. But the swiftness with which this wonderfully understated trumpeter joined jazz’s “A” ranks in the past year was still mighty impressive.
Trumpeter Tito Carrillo has been making his bones, as they say, in a full range of settings, backing everyone from pianist Willie Pickens to saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera and playing in the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. With his strong recent debut album, Opening Statement, he asserts himself as a leader.
Would it be okay if we used that old econium, “singer’s singer,” to characterize Frank D’Rone? That’s usually empty praise. But being that’s how Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra have described D’Rone, it couldn’t mean more.
Ken Vandermark’s Made to Break Quartet
Keeping up with Ken Vandermark’s new bands is a little like keeping up with the Chicago weather: Turn your head and you may miss a new development. The Made for Break Quartet is one of his most far-reaching projects.
Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet
Employing classical-style strings in an improvisational jazz setting usually works better on paper than in actual performance. Too often, the strings function as additive sweetener rather than integral swinging component. But since 1997, Chicagoan Jim Gailloreto has been perfecting his singular string concept.
Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love
Few contemporary artists are doing as much to advance the art of the saxophone-drum duo as Artist in Residence Ken Vandermark, whose trap set opposites have included British great Paul Lytton, Chicago ace Tim Daisy and Paal Nilssen-Love, a hard-hitting Norwegian with impeccable credentials.
Jeff Newell’s New-Trad Octet
Jeff Newell’s New-Trad Octet was formed in 1994 as a Mardi Gras band, but things “got out of control,” said the leader. We’ll say. While you certainly can feast on the band’s brassy second line sound and a songlist including New Orleans favorites like “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” tradition gets subverted at every turn by Newell’s rampant post-modernism.
Japanesque with special guest Dee Alexander
When singer-pianist Yoko Noge formed her band Jazz Me Blues in the early ’90s, some people looked upon it as a gimmick. A woman from Osaka, Japan singing and playing Chicago blues? She was ahead of her time in her embrace of ethnic crossover, and has proved to be one of the most durable attractions on the local scene.
A Tribute to Jodie Christian
With the death of Jodie Christian early this year, Chicago jazz lost one of its most beloved artists. Though his modesty kept him from attaining the fame he deserved. South Side keyboard veteran Ken Chaney, versatile leader of such popular Windy City bands as the Awakening and the Xperience, knew Christian well.
Jason Stein Quartet
Okay, time to take a special jazz festival listener’s poll. Name your favorite bass clarinetist who leads his own band and has a terrific album to show for it. There’s a catch: It can’t be someone who doubles on the instrument. It has to be a full-time bass clarinetist. The top voter-getter (and, OK, the only vote-getter) is Chicago’s own Jason Stein.
Jeremy Kahn Sextet
At last year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, rain forced the early suspension of Jeremy Kahn’s set, a tribute to the late Pepper Adams. And then the release of Kahn’s latest album of Adams compositions was delayed. Let’s hope pushing the reset button produces happier results on both fronts.
Stu Katz and Willie Pickens
Thirty-one years ago, Stu Katz and Willie Pickens teamed up at the Chicago Jazz Festival as a piano duo. Today, they’ll reunite as a duo, but in a different format, with Pickens on piano and Katz on vibes, his second instrument (on which he is featured on A Family Affair, his fine 2011 album with Sullivan).
Caroline Davis Quartet
Is Caroline Davis the most interesting young saxophonist in Chicago? If not, she’s off to a good start in making a case for herself. She was born in Singapore to European parents, schooled in Texas, has a PhD in Music Cognition from Northwestern University and has recorded a radical vocal version of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me.”
Edwin Sanchez Project
Pianist Edwin Sanchez, a Chicagoan with Puerto Rican roots, grew up in Humboldt Park, where he absorbed a continual stream of Latin, soul and jazz from the radio and the neighborhood.
Damon Short Quintet
Since the release of his 1987 debut album, Penguin Shuffle, Damon Short has been one of the unsung heroes of Chicago jazz as a drummer, composer and bandleader. Short has gone from recording Thelonious Monk tunes early in his career to making highly personal music that reflects the influence of his drumming heroes – including Elvin Jones and AACM great Steve McCall.
Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan
Django Reinhardt’s 100th birthday celebrations have come and gone. But for true Djangoheads like hot-wired guitarist Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan, which headlined the dazzling Django centennial concert in Millennium Park two years ago, every day is a good day to pay tribute to the legendary gypsy guitarist.
Chris Madsen Bix Quartet
More than 100 years after his death at 28, Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke may be a forgotten legend in some parts of the country. What would Bix have sounded like had he lived to embrace ’30s swing styles like Louis Armstrong? Chris Madsen’s distinctive brand of Bixology will provide a few clues.
Milton Suggs Philosophy
Milton Suggs started out as a pianist – no accident considering Chicago piano great Willie Pickens is his godfather. He was, still concentrating on piano as a graduate student at DePaul University when, the story goes, visitor Wynton Marsalis heard him sing and encouraged him to keep at it. Suggs took his advice, and is he ever glad he did.
Saxophonist and composer Ken Vandermark as its Artist in Residence for this year’s festival. The Chicago Jazz Festival exclusively names Chicago artists for its Artist in Residence program, now in its tenth year, commissioning large-scale compositions and presenting multiple performance opportunities over the course of the four day festival.
To get updated information from Twitter: Follow @ChiJazzFest
Last year I enjoyed listening to legendary vocalist Cassandra Wilson under the stars in Grant Park.
Saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Roy Hargrove also appeared at the 2011 Jazz Festival in Chicago.
Then on Saturday and Sunday, Grant Park‘s four stages came alive with more blockbuster entertainment for Jazz Enthusiasts!
Listen to this audio demo http://jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest/audio/.
Visit www.jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest for more information.