The strengths of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival are highlighted by two poignant, inventive duos

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

One feature of the Hyde Park Jazz Fest that has quietly distinguished it over the last few years is the prevalence of dynamic duos, whether the pairings are new or seasoned, improvised or driven by tunes. Notable among this year’s terrific offerings is the first local performance by alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella and cellist Tomeka Reid since the release of their superb debut album, Signaling (Nessa).


When I attended this year’s Winter Jazz Fest in New York, no set gave me greater pleasure or made me think as much as a performance by endlessly inventive drummer Andrew Cyrille and often-overlooked tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, who played music from their excellent 2016 album, Proximity (Sunnyside).

Ten best bets for fall music: Hyde Park Jazz Festival September 23 and 24

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

This annual fest showcasing Chicago's rich jazz scene includes some great out-of-town headliners in the two-day lineup of its 11th iteration, among them trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and the duo of drummer Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry. As usual, though, locals provide most of the heat: to name just two, veteran saxophonist Ari Brown leads a group with Oliver Lake, and flutist Nicole Mitchell debuts a collaboration with Malian kora master Ballaké Sissoko.1 PM, multiple venues, $5 suggested donation per show, $125 Jazz Pass available for priority seating at all shows. For the full lineup, see, all ages.

The brightest lights at the 2017 World Music Festival

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko roots his playing in traditional Mande modes—his 2013 solo album At Peace (Six Degrees) is a beautiful case in point—but he's also distinguished himself by bridging cultural divides through thoughtful collaboration. He's worked with American bluesman Taj Mahal, Chinese pipa master Liu Fang, French cellist Vincent Segal, Italian contemporary classical pianist Ludovico Einaudi, and Moroccan oud player Driss El Maloumi. That roll call is evidence of his curiosity and versatility—he can draw upon improvisational creativity to make new situations work. This new project promises to be as exciting and rewarding as any he's undertaken, because he's joining forces with one of the most dynamic composers, improvisers, and bandleaders in the world: former Chicagoan Nicole Mitchell.

Distinguished lecturer ruminates on Thelonious Monk at HP Jazz Fest

Considered one of the most important composers and pianists in 20th-century music, Thelonious Monk is one of the most enigmatic figures of his era. Noted professor Robin D.G. Kelley will be delivering a lecture titled Thelonious Monk: An American Original based on his highly acclaimed 2009 book, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, at the 2017 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Sept. 23-24, 2017.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival to feature world premieres and 'Thelonious Monk at 100' tributes

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

World premieres, unexpected collaborations, a spotlight on women bandleaders and an in-depth look at Thelonious Monk at 100 will top the 11th Hyde Park Jazz Festival, running Sept. 23-24.

As always, the free event will unfold in multiple indoor and outdoor venues — 13 stages, to be exact — across the historic neighborhood. No other jazz festival in the Chicago area, and few elsewhere in the country, embraces and celebrates its neighborhood as effectively as the Hyde Park event has since its inception.

Southern Exposure

Chamber Music America

by Peter Margasak

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.”

3Arts Campaign: Bamako*Chicago Sound System by Nicole Mitchell

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.

Flutist Nicole Mitchell driving force in bringing Mali musicians to Chicago

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

For years, the genre-bending flutist Nicole Mitchell has dreamed of collaborating with musicians from Mali.

The mystical sounds of the balafon and kora — akin to the marimba and harp — caught her ear when she was a student at Oberlin Conservatory in the late 1980s, even before she became a leading Chicago instrumentalist-bandleader in the 1990s.

After she left the city in 2011 to teach at the University of California at Irvine, she hoped to overcome formidable obstacles of geography, funding and genre to play with Malian counterparts.

Come September, Mitchell's long-delayed aspirations will be realized in Chicago, thanks to a unique convergence of support from the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, World Music Festival Chicago, Ravinia Festival and MacArthur Foundation.

Hyde Park Jazz Fest Offers Diverse, Progressive Program

DownBeat Magazine

by Michael Jackson

On the afternoon of Sept. 25, mulling over how to open this review as I ambled between the music stages on Midway Plaisance, a verdant stretch of Chicago’s South Side, the perfection of the summer-to-fall weather that has blessed this 10-years-young indoor/outdoor festival came to mind. Moments later, skies cracked unexpectedly and the first aggressive downpour I can recall during the history of this two-day event ensued.

It’s not over till it’s over, one might aver.

The Hyde Park Jazz Fest, which ran this year from Sept. 24–25, has traditionally been a marathon affair. The 2016 edition commenced on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Smart Museum, and finished well past 12 a.m. with piano giant Randy Weston, who received well-wishers like a deity after his majestic solo set at Rockefeller Chapel.

National Race Conversation Pervades the Music of Two Groups at Hyde Park Jazz Festival ’16

Race is weighing deeply on the national consciousness whether we want it to or not. No matter how we argue the issues, we can’t argue that the issue of minority-police relations has had a lasting impact on the 2016 Presidential Election, the use of social media, the way local government interacts with citizenry, and – from my student experience – the collegiate discussion experience.

Yet as the eyes of the nation dart from tragedy to tragedy, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in South Side Chicago is soldiering on and making itself more relevant than ever. It hopes to achieve – and in my opinion easily does – that relevancy in its artist lineup. One can also fit the larger narrative of a proud cultural showcase in the heat of a suffocating crime epidemic.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016


by Mark Corroto

Regard the Hyde Park Jazz Festival as you would your favorite restaurant, where it just so happens that you are best friends with the chef. You have an embarrassment of riches because everything on the menu, which is fresh and delicious, organic, and mostly locally sourced, is free to you. When they do feature a special from out-of-town it is always innovative and original. Only one problem, you can only dine there once a year.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival review: Music embraces a neighborhood

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

Huge crowds, congenial atmosphere, pleasant weather — and, oh yes, more music than any individual possibly could get to.

The 10th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival swept into the historic Chicago neighborhood over the weekend, instantly turning it into the world's largest jazz club.

Following is one listener's diary of a now-indispensable event that ends Sunday:

African roots, Middle Eastern extensions in Hyde Park Jazz Fest

Arts Journal: Jazz Beyond Jazz

by Howard Mandel

Pianist Randy Weston, a magisterial musician at age 90 inspired by jazz traditions and its African basics, and trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, who has devoted himself to incorporating the Middle East’s modal, microtonal maqam legacy into compositions for jazz improvisation by members of his Two Rivers Ensemble, were highlights of last weekend’s 10th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Both acts brought influences from afar back home.

The two-day fest in the neighborhood soon to host Barack Obama’s presidential library focused on local performers familiar to Chicago’s south side audiences — such as pianist Willie Pickens, alto saxist Greg Ward and singer Dee Alexander — performing on outdoor stages at the ends of a four-block long stretch of the Midway Plaisance (essentially, 59th St) girding the University of Chicago campus.

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.

Miguel Zenon, Randy Weston and other stars play 10th Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

For its 10th anniversary, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has put together its most dynamic lineup yet, at least on paper.

As always, all the performances are free and will take place in venues across the neighborhood on Saturday, and on the Midway Plaisance on Sunday.

Following is an annotated guide to the most promising events. For the complete schedule, visit

Musicians tune in to Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Hyde Park Herald

by Allison Matyus

The 10th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival features about 200 musicians on its diverse lineup scattered over 13 stages with 34 shows. Some of those 200 musicians are South Side locals who are honored to play in their own backyard.

Victor Goines is a clarinetist and saxophonist who has played at local venues such as Room 43, 1043 E. 43rd St., and is a resident of the Kenwood neighborhood, but his roots are tied to his hometown of New Orleans.

“Chicago is that completion of a triangle of jazz between New Orleans, Chicago and New York,” he said.

Miguel Zenon world premiere

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival commissioned alto saxophonist and MacArthur Fellowship winner Miguel Zenon to create a work he could perform with Chicago's Spektral Quartet.

The world premiere of "Yo Soy La Tradicion" ("I Am Tradition") will start at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts.

"I've been exploring certain musical and cultural traditions that are connected to the rural areas of the island," says Zenon, in an email, in explaining the origins of a piece inspired by his native Puerto Rico.

The 10th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival Boasts Its Best Lineup Yet

Chicago Magazine

by Mark Guarino

The 10th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival boasts its best lineup yet. Use the musical math below to find your perfect set.


Hear John Coltrane's 1965 opus like never before: paired with a work by local modern tap collective M.A.D.D. Rhythms that combines Coltrane's chant-driven tunes, African dance, and even a Mos Def sample. GO: September 24 at 9:30 p.m., Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.


MacArthur "genius" Zenon, a composer and saxophonist known for fusing jazz and Afro-influenced music from his native Puerto Rico, adds an extra level of experimentation with a jibaro-tinged commission for Chicago's Spektral Quartet. GO: September 24 at 7:15 p.m., Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

The Best Festivals & Fairs in Chicago this Fall

Travel Mag

by Paul Joseph

Hyde Park has been a major hub for arts and culture in Chicago for many years, but never more so than when it hosts its annual Jazz Festival. Held each year since 2007, the two-day event draws visitors from far and wide to enjoy a fantastic line-up of local and national jazz artists and performers. Free to enter, it is now well established as Chicago’s premier music festival and its growth is further demonstrated this year with a bolstered programme that will mean even more music to the ears of the 20,000+ jazz lovers expected to attend. As well as its musical offerings, there’ll also be an outdoor dance floor, a wide choice of food and beverage vendors and a picnic area.