The 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, populating a dozen varied venues amid the picturesque splendor of the festival’s namesake neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, proved as stimulating as ever this time around (Sept. 23–24). Programmed for the sixth year by the astute, visionary Kate Dumbleton—and assisted by music manager Carolyn Albritton, managing director Olivia Junell and stalwart new operations manager Dave Rempis, among others—the HPJF is unlike any other festival in its intensity and pace. Its principal hit: an offering of 30 presentations between 1 p.m. and midnight on Sept. 23.
The overlaps of concerts are carefully timed so that it is possible to catch portions of some simultaneous sets if you are a fast walker, but completists will be frustrated.
Despite the out of town stars that brightened the diverse bill (including Bill McHenry and Andrew Cyrille, Amina Claudine Myers, Jeremy Pelt, Oliver Lake, Joe Locke and Warren Wolf, plus the Malian musicians who collaborated with Nicole Mitchell), it was the local duo of Nick Mazzarella and Tomeka Reid at DuSable Museum that most impressed. Altoist Mazzarella was last heard in such a context at the HPJF alongside one of the festival’s regular fixtures, drummer Dana Hall. (In fact, Hall, performing solo, preceded Mazzarella’s set with cellist Reid on the DuSable stage.)
Two world premieres, one piano colossus, a brilliant look at Thelonious Monk and a couple of vibraphonists swinging hard in a house of worship.
Now that’s a jazz festival — more specifically, the 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which ends Sunday.
As always, the event unfolded smoothly, albeit with one surprising misstep: Audience members were allowed to sit on the stairs that form the aisles of the Logan Center Performance Hall, an obvious safety hazard.
Otherwise, though, Chicago’s most appealing jazz festival turned several blocks of Hyde Park into a sprawling musical nexus.