From Joe Lovano to Anat Cohen, a promising Jazz Fest
For jazz lovers, it’s the greatest week of the year: Three consecutive evenings of music leading up to four days of the Chicago Jazz Festival proper.
The 38th annual fest, produced by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, as always swings in the Labor Day weekend.
Following is a critical guide to highlights, which unfold at PianoForte Studios on Monday and Tuesday; an array of clubs Wednesday; in the Chicago Cultural Center on Thursday afternoon and in Millennium Park on Thursday evening through Sunday. All performances are free, unless otherwise noted. For complete listings, visit www.chicagojazzfestival.us or www.jazzinchicago.org or phone 312-744-3316.
Double Monk: In recent years, Chicago Jazz Festival week has kicked off with recitals at PianoForte Studios, featuring noteworthy artists in an uncommonly intimate setting. The tradition continues, albeit reduced from three nights to two. Double Monk features Chicago pianists Jeremy Kahn and Steve Million applying four hands to two state-of-the-art grand pianos in music of Thelonious Monk. The duo played PianoForte during the Chi-Town Jazz Festival in 2015; now we’ll hear how far they have taken this project. 5:30 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave.
Ari Brown: You don’t have to be a connoisseur of Chicago jazz to know that Brown stands as one of the city’s more imposing tenor saxophonists, but he also has played piano periodically in a long career. On this installment of the PianoForte sessions, Brown will play solo piano, a rare opportunity to hear a leonine Chicago musician in an alternative context. He’s presenting this performance as a tribute to Ann Ward, the widely admired pianist, composer, teacher and AACM member who died last month at age 67. 5:30 p.m. at PianoForte Studios,1335 S. Michigan Ave.
Jazz Club Tour: The annual event takes visitors to more than a dozen Chicago music rooms, via trolley. For a flat fee, you can visit as many spots and hear as many ensembles as you wish, the trolleys circulating among all the venues, stopping at each site roughly every half hour. This year’s lineup spotlights the Andy Brown Quartet and Mike Smith Quartet at Andy’s Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; Phil Seed Band, City Life, 712 E. 83d St.; George Freeman/Mike Allemana Quartet, Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; Quin Kirchner Quintet, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave.; In Transition Quintet, Twin Talk, Ryan Shultz Quintet and Sun Speak at Jerry’s, 1938 W. Division St.; Julia Huff Quartet, M Lounge, 1520 S. Wabash Ave.; Ernest Dawkins, Norman’s Bistro, 1001 E. 43rd St.; Johnny Blas and His Afro-Libre Orchestra, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. (performance ends at 10:30 p.m.); Crosswind featuring Greg Penn, Red Pepper’s Lounge, 428 E. 87th St.; Gitchagumi, Tenor Madness and Tim Seisser & Friends, Reggies, 2105 S. State St.; Brian Lupo, Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave.; Alfonso Ponticelli with Swing Gitan, and Frank Catalano at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; Ira Sullivan Quintet, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court; and Jazzology Jam hosted by Margaret Murphy and Chuck Webb, The Quarry, 2423 E. 75th St. 6 p.m. to midnight, with trolleys starting at 7 p.m.; $40-$50. Contact the Jazz Institute at 312-427-1676 or visit www.jazzinchicago.org.
Dan Trudell: A veteran Chicago pianist and organist, Trudell kicks off the Chicago Cultural Center portion of the festival leading his trio, with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Matt Wilson, noon in the Claudia Cassidy Theater. The Cultural Center lineup continues with Mwata Bowden’s One Foot In, One Foot Out (with Ari Brown, Harrison Bankhead, Avreeayl Ra, Leon Q and Khari B) at 12:30 p.m. in Preston Bradley Hall; Louder than a Bomb Presents the Bomb Squad, 2 p.m., Preston Bradley Hall; the Charlie Haden film “Rambling Boy,” 3 p.m., Claudia Cassidy Theater; and Cameron Pfiffner’s Adolphe’s Ax (with Mark Hiebert, Nate Lepine, Rajiv Halim, Anthony Bruno and Caroline Davis), 3:30 p.m., Preston Bradley Hall. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.
Brown in Bronzeville Effect, with Maggie and Africa Brown; Orbert Davis: The festival moves to Millennium Park, opening with Maggie and Africa Brown, daughters of the fiery singer-songwriter-activist Oscar Brown Jr. On the second half of the program, Chicago trumpeter Davis will lead his quintet and guests in the world premiere of “Soul Migration,” commissioned to mark the centennial of the Great Migration that brought waves of African-Americans to Chicago. 6:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, near Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue
James Sanders’ Proyecto Libre: A free thinker who’s expanding the stylistic possibilities of the violin, Sanders launches the festival’s daytime outdoor festivities leading Proyecto Libre. The ensemble intertwines Latin musical currents with experimental music-making, Sanders playing alongside tenor saxophonist Edward Wilkerson, Jr., bassists Harrison Bankhead and Joshua Abrams, drummer Avreeayl Ra and percussionist Jean-Christophe Leroy. Noon, Von Freeman Pavilion in Millennium Park
Tarbaby: The high-powered ensemble features versatile drummer Nasheet Waits, dynamic pianist Orrin Evans and keenly empathetic bassist Eric Revis. They’ll be joined by Oliver Lake, an alto saxophonist perhaps best known as co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet but a provocateur in many settings. 6 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion
Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra: The jazz world still grieves the 2014 death of bassist Haden, a visionary who led his Liberation Music Orchestra in a politically charged performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2007. This time the ensemble plays the festival under the direction of Carla Bley, performing music from the upcoming album “Time/Life,” which features arrangements by Bley. 8:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion
Kenwood Academy Jazz Band: The mighty Kenwood ensemble returns to the festival, drawing upon its wide repertoire of traditional and contemporary scores. Under the direction of Gerald Powell, the band has played several high-profile locations, including Symphony Center. 3:50 p.m., Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Stage in Millennium Park
Anat Cohen Quartet: A clarinetist of wide-ranging musical interests, formidable technique and gorgeous tone, Cohen has played Chicago often through the years, in a variety of scenarios. This time she leads her quartet with pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman. Expect stylistically far-flung repertoire and surely a touch of Cohen’s beloved Brazilian choro music. 7:10 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion
Bad Plus: The trio can be heavy-handed in its attempts to reach the widest possible audience, but then it can turn around and offer a probing, stripped-down version of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” as it did at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center in 2013. For this performance, the trio will offer its response to Ornette Coleman’s “Science Fiction” album, the trio expanding to include trumpeter Ron Miles and saxophonists Tim Berne and Sam Newsome. 8:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion
Norman Simmons Trio: If you ever heard Joe Williams sing, then you probably encountered Simmons at the piano. He also worked productively with the Little Giant of the tenor saxophone, Johnny Griffin, and other major figures of a golden era in jazz. Here’s a rare chance to hear Simmons leading a small group of his own, with Chicagoans Marlene Rosenberg on bass and Greg Artry on drums. 2 p.m., Jazz and Heritage Pavilion in Millennium Park
John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet: Individually, guitarist Scofield and saxophonist Lovano bring ample muscularity to their music. Together — in concert and on recordings — they project larger-than-life sound and unmistakable musical authority. They’ll be joined by drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Ben Street. 2 p.m., Jazz and Heritage Pavilion
Candido’s 95th Birthday Celebration: When Cuban conguero Candido Camero joined saxophonist Jane Bunnett at the Chicago Latin Jazz Festival in Humboldt Park in 2013, he proved himself an ebullient 92-year-old virtuoso. Yet for all the fluidity and precision of his technique, it was the lyricism of his playing that stood out. He’ll celebrate his 95th birthday in the company of trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Nestor Torres, percussionist Sammy Figueroa and other masters of Afro-Caribbean idioms. 8:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion
After Fest sessions
Ira Sullivan: The multi-instrumentalist leads the band, with festival musicians and others dropping in to join him. 9 p.m. Sept. 1-4 at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court; $20-$35; 312-360-0234 or www.jazzshowcase.com
Kidd Jordan, Alvin Fielder: The festival weekend wouldn’t be the same without saxophonist Jordan, who long has made a ritual of coming to Chicago from New Orleans for the occasion. He’s joined by drummer Fielder and guests. 9:30 p.m. Sept. 2-3 at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; $15-$20; www.constellation-chicago.com
Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.