by Allison Matyus
The hype for the 9th Annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival is starting to settle in the community, but you haven’t seen anything yet.
Mikel Patrick Avery is planning a performance piece that is sure to blow the crowds away while staying true to the music that makes up Chicago: good ‘ol fashioned jazz.
“If there was a celebratory music that was specific to Chicago, what would it sound like, look like, feel like?” he said, describing his Hyde Park Jazz Fest performance.
Avery will be performing on Sunday, Sept. 27 from 3-4 p.m. that will of course feature jazz from the interdisciplinary artist, but will also incorporate much more than that.
A parade of 20 musicians, dancers in costume, large 10 foot puppet sculptures and anyone in the crowd willing to join in will make their way as a procession to the West Stage at the Midway near Ellis Avenue.
“People can come and join in the parade and use the instruments that are passed out,” Avery said, adding that he has prepared modified kazoos and other percussion instruments for those wanting to join in.
Everyone is invited on stage for a moment of dance and celebration that is sure to make this performance stand out in the three-day fest.
“Instead of a thing that passes by you, the most important component of this entire project is that it is a musical sculpture that makes sound,” he said. “I want people to come away from it like, ‘I don’t know what that was, but it was awesome.’”
Avery partnered with the Story Share Project to collect South Side residents’ stories and experiences of jazz music and how it has influenced them through diverse perspectives. Olivia Junell, the communications manager for Hyde Park Jazz Festival, said Avery was very interested in involving the community, not only in the inspiration and the source material of his project, but in the actual moment of presenting it.
“What these stories have revealed is that jazz is very personal to people,” Junell said. “People talked about home, neighbors and family and the artists and songs that they associate those personal connections with, and Mikel picked up on that.”
Avery said hearing Chicagoans speak about Chicago furthered the idea that he wanted his performance to be specific to Chicago and its people.
“A lot of times when you hear about stories of Chicago there is a stigma of the negatives,” Avery said. “I’m not hiding from that at all, you can’t in Chicago, but there is also plenty to celebrate and I really believe we have something to celebrate.”
While Avery has performed in Los Angeles, Germany and London, for him, the Hyde Park audience is one of his favorites.
“It’s a community of true, Hyde Park jazz fanatics that appreciates music and creativity,” he said.
He said the music community in the area is easy to take for granted because of our access to excellently programmed music festivals.
“Fests like the Hyde Park Jazz Fest goes to leaps to get these musicians to play,” he said. “It gives wonderful, adventurous artists a platform.”
You can catch Avery and the rest of the jam-packed lineup of artists Sept. 26 and 27.