Five Acts You Should Definitely See at Hyde Park Jazz Fest

Chicago Magazine

by Matt Pollock

A cellist, a flutist, a guimbri player, and more will park it in your back yard for a free show this weekend.

If you missed Chicago’s city-sanctioned Jazz Festival in Millennium Park last month, don’t fret. The eighth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival kicks off this weekend, and its Midwest-heavy lineup is comparable if not downright better.

Launched in 2007 with the goal of drawing new audiences to Hyde Park’s myriad cultural venues, the festival features 30-plus jazz acts performing at a dozen neighborhood landmarks, including the Robie House, the Midway, and Kenwood Academy. Unfortunately, each venue’s schedule is stacked, so there’s no way to see everybody—but here are five sets you definitely shouldn’t miss.

Tomeka Reid (with Hear In Now)

Though she’s yet to release a solo album, cellist Tomeka Reid has a hand in just about everything golden coming out of Chicago’s jazz scene. She’s played in various local ensembles (Dee Alexander’s, Nicole Mitchell’s, Mike Reed’s) and leant a bow todozens of albums and tours, but Reid’s indisputably at her most vicious with Hear In Now, the bass/violin/cello trio she’ll appear with this Saturday. 5:15 Saturday, Logan Center Performance Hall.

Dee Alexander Quartet feat. Oliver Lake

The West Loop native, who recently released a stunning LP of golden-age classics, could blow Hyde Park away all by her lonesome if needed; a guest slot by St. Louis sax man and frequent collaborator Oliver Lake is just icing on the cake. 3:30 p.m. Saturday, James Wagner Stage at the Midway.

Joshua Abrams (solo)

What happens when the bassist who scored Kartemquin masterpieces Life Itself, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and Emmy-winner The Interrupters needs more than two octaves? Why, he picks up the guimbri. Saturday from 3:30 to 4:00 and 4:30 to 5:00, Oriental Institute Gallery.

Nicole Mitchell (with Ice Crystal)

Before decamping for a teaching position at UC-Irvine in 2011, this nimble flutist was the queen of Chicago jazz. (Literally—she served as president of the Chicago-founded Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians until her departure.) Mitchell’s set this weekend marks something of a homecoming, then, as she’ll play with Ice Crystal, her new band featuring Chicagoans Joshua Abrams, Frank Rosaly, and Jason Adasiewicz, to premiere ”Water Walker,” a tribute to the Ojibwe women who last year walked the length of the Mississippi to protest river pollution. 6:45 Saturday, International House.

Craig Taborn (solo)

This Minneapolis pianist will play anything with keys, be it an acoustic upright, a Fender Rhodes, or a Moog synthesizer. Taborn has churned out everything from free jazz to textural bleep-bloops over his 20-year career, but you can expect a healthy dose of solo tracks from 2011’s Avenging Angel this weekend, as he’s leaving the trio behind in Minneapolis. 11 p.m. Saturday, Rockefeller Chapel.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Main stages are at the Midway Plaisance; others are elsewhere. $5 donation.