Since Dumbleton’s arrival, the festival has grown steadily, attracting larger audiences and expanding in scope. She’s made a concerted effort to represent the full spectrum of the city’s massive jazz community, which despite a general sense of unity and cooperation remains subtly segregated in various ways beyond the North Side and South Side’s geographical split. Black and white musicians don’t always interact, and there are strong divisions between mainstream players and the more celebrated avant-gardists. Taking a cue from the city’s annual Labor Day weekend Chicago Jazz Festival, Dumbleton has presented them all under a single umbrella. And while the core programming still draws from the Chicago scene, HPJF has also increasingly presented acclaimed national artists, including saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Henry Threadgill, trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire and Amir ElSaffar, and pianists Randy Weston and Craig Taborn. Last year, Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich called the event “indispensible,” lavish praise in a city that hosts the largest free jazz festival in the country just a few weeks earlier. “It feels like a celebration of the area and the community, and it becomes an occasion for those in the city that don’t know the area to get to know it,” says Chicago bassist and composer Joshua Abrams. “It is hard to argue with a festival that draws a cathedral full of excited listeners to check out Randy Weston at midnight.”
As a musician, I’ve dreamed for years about bringing two artistic communities together: Chicago’s modern jazz with the traditional sounds and instrumentation of Bamako, Mali. With Bamako*Chicago Sound System, I am raising funds to support an extended stay and expansive programming with West African kora master, Ballaké Sissoko and his group. This will include visiting youth in Chicago Public Schools, conducting a workshop for Chicago musicians, and developing a new collaborative musical piece with the Black Earth Ensemble that will premiere this fall at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival.