Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates 10 years

Hyde Park Herald

by Meredith Ogilvie

First time artists and seasoned musicians performed at several venues in Hyde Park during the 10th annual Hyde Park Jazz Fest (HPJF), Sept. 24-25. Despite some rain, the two-day event was enjoyed by those who attended.

The Willie Pickens Quartet opened the festival with a concert on the Midway Plaisance. The 85 year-old Chicago pianist got the crowd going alongside band members Pharez Whitted, Robert Shy and Kurt Schweitz.

New performers Thaddeus Tukes/Isaiah Collier duo are decades younger than some of the other performers but brought in a moderately sized crowd and although they are still students they had a mastery of the greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Waller that was not lost on the crowd.

At the University of Chicago’s Logan Center Penthouse, former Chicagoan Matana Roberts, a saxophonist told the crowd about her Chicago influences including Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, Von Freeman’s New Apartment Lounge, Billy Brimfield and Lin Halliday.

Jim Williams, a longtime Hyde Parker and veteran HPJF attendee was a fan of hers as well as the Maggie Brown Group and Dee Brown.

“I’ve seen them both play before,” Williams said. “They are always so good.”

Dee Alexander, another homegrown jazz great played to a big crowd at the Wagner Stage and in addition to thrilling the crowd with her musical acumen, she also gave the crowd a pep talk of sorts.

“We want to take this time to spread some healing in the community, we want to offer the healing hand of music,” Alexander said.

Lisa Parks, another 10 year veteran of the festival, mentioned her respect for Alexander.

“You know I have been coming here since the first year when we all crowded into Rockefeller Chapel and jammed out,” Parks said. “It’s so nice to see how we have grown since then.”

Neil Stampley, a frequent attendee likes the shows in the museums.

“I try to hit the museums as much as possible. I like being outdoors but listening to the concerts at the Smart and Oriental is probably the highlight for me,” Stampley. “I also loved Maggie Brown she’s been my favorite for a while.”

This year there was more to the festival than the music. The HPJF partnered with the Hyde Park Art Center to commission work from local artists to pepper the midway with original pieces.

The “Floating Museum” created by Faheem Majeed and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford is a mobile exhibition structure inspired by the founding of the DuSble Museum of African American History that, according to the festival website, acts as a bridge between institutions and communities.

The “Gramophone” by Juan Angel Chavez transformed the south entrance to the Midway by creating a gramophone shaped archway made of wood and fabric.

A piece called “Mountain Variation” by Sabina Ott was made using carved polystyrene was designed for interaction and can be rearranged in accordance to its context. This reflects the improvisation and collaboration that are inherent to jazz music.

Blake Johnson, a Harold’s Chicken Shack owner and first time vendor, said he enjoyed the experience.

“It’s been great so far,” Johnson said. “The rain put a damper on things for a while but now the sun is out again, the music is good, the people are nice and the people are spending their money, which is always a good thing.”