Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Chicago Jazz Festival (Aug. 29th through Sept. 1st)

2013 Chicago Jazz Festival (Aug. 29th through Sept. 1st) Story and photos by Greg Turner
Dear Ron:
In case you were wondering,  I did attend the Chicago Jazz Festival this year, and there was a major change in the festival to report. After its first 34 years in Grant Park, the major part of the festival moved 2 blocks north to Millennium Park with its main stage, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and its side stages, the Von Freeman Pavilion, the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion, and the Young Lions Pavilion.
 Also, after always staying within walking distance of the park, My wife Donna and I stayed near O’Hare airport and used the train to come downtown via the hotel shuttle. After one day of this we drove into town and found an inexpensive lot, We saved a little money, but we were only able to attend one side stage set, and that was cut short by an incoming thunderstorm. 

Musical elders gave us many bright moments at this year’s fest. Chicago saxophonist Geof Bradfield’s tribute to the late trombonist Melba Liston featured a guest appearance by frequent Liston employee pianist Randy Weston, still an imposing figure at 87. After 71 year old Wadada Leo Smith’s tribute to the Civil Rights Movement, Friday evening concluded with saxophonist/flautist Charles Lloyd. Celebrating his 75th year on the planet and backed by his current working band of young veterans, Lloyd showed that age hasn’t diminished his fire.

Sometimes even modernists like me like to hear some well played no frills straight ahead jazz, which is what 86 years old Jimmy Heath gave us with his quartet to open Sunday’s Pritzker performances. The great Chicago pianist Willie Pickens, still going strong at 82, guested with saxophonist Donald Harrison on 3 selections, including an amazing solo reconstruction of “Giant Steps”

Donald Harrison
For me the festival’s brightest moment was the electrifying performance of vocalist Gregory Porter. Having seen only part of his “Its Commonly Jazz” performance and having read that some consider him the next great male jazz singer, I was looking forward to seeing the whole set., Working with the same band he had in Cincinnati and singing selections from his 3 releases, Porter earned on of the loudest and longest ovations I’ve ever heard at the fest. His first 2 releases have already earned him Grammy nominations in jazz and R&B (!). I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Napoleon Maddox
Gregory Porter
Randy Weston
A pleasant surprise came from festival artist-in residence, drummer Hamid Drake. One of the members of his group Bindu, was Cincinnati native Napoleon Maddox, a member of the local group IsWhat?, adding his beatboxing and vocals to their hybrid of jazz improvisations over mostly reggae rhythms, another of the festival’s bright moments. Guess I should read the program…
I didn’t attend any After Fest events this year because I didn’t see any information about them. The Jazz Record Mart’s annual Sunday morning Brunch is always good, but it didn’t offer any surprises like in the past. But I had a great time like I always do and , as always, here are some photos for the readers.
Greg Turner 14 Oct 13 


  1. My thanks to Greg Turner for his annual report from the Chicago Jazz Festival.

  2. Here is a great article on jazz improvisation and how music theory is over complicating jazz improvisation. http://jazzadvocator.blogspot.com/

  3. link is http://jazzadvocator.blogspot.com/ or click anonymous name to go to website.