Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates Monk at 100

Hyde Park Herald

by Evan Hamlin

Thelonious Monk, a musician whose personality was as enigmatic as his music was influential, will be celebrated at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Sept. 23 – 24, in honor of his 100th birthday.

Four events will be held in tribute of Monk’s visionary style. The first will be a lecture by University of California, Los Angeles Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History Robin Kelley. Kelley’s lecture will draw on information from his acclaimed 2009 book on Monk titled “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.”

Kelley’s work is regarded as the first complete biography of Monk’s life, and he utilized exclusive access to private recordings, letters, and personal interviews to paint a more complete picture of Monk both as a man in private life and as a musician.

The lecture will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Logan Center for the Arts Screening Room, 915 E. 60th St

Later in the evening on Saturday, noted Chicago vocalist Dee Alexander will be performing at the James A. Wagner Stage at the Midway, 1130 Midway Plaisance West. Alexander’s performance will take place from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

Alexander has been recognized in the past as the “Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune, “Jazz Entertainer of the Year” by the Chicago Music awards, and “Best Singer” by Chicago Magazine.

Dee Alexander: Monk and the Ladies will feature Tomeka Reid on cello, Marion Hayden on bass, Alexis Lombre on piano, and Gayellyn McKinney on drums.

At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, clarinetist Ben Goldberg will embark on a solo performance titled Ben Goldberg: Learned from Thelonious Monk. Goldberg, part of the New Klezmer Trio, is known for playing traditional music with a modern Klezmer twist. His unique style marrying classical jazz and other genres with traditional Ashkenazi Klezmer music has won him praise from organizations like Downbeat Magazine, National Public Radio, and the Los Angeles Times.

Expect an inventive take on Monk’s music from the clarinetist, who will be performing at the penthouse in the Logan Center for the Arts from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Around the time Goldberg’s performance will be winding down, pianists Jeremy Kahn and Steve Million will take the stage as Double Monk from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 pm. at the International House, 1414 E. 59th St.

Kahn and Million have invested their lives into jazz music. Kahn, who was born outside of Chicago, has played with artists like Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, and Aretha Franklin throughout his career. Roach has lived in Chicago for three decades, during which he has formed and played in Monk-centric groups like Monk’s Dream and Thelonious Moog.

Double Monk, a nod to the two-strapped dress shoe style that simultaneously pays homage to the legendary musician, will perform a piano duet showcasing Monk’s music. The duo will be joined by modern dancer Ariane Dolan, whose dance performance will provide a visual storytelling aspect to the show.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is free and open to the public. The two-day event will take place at venues across the Hyde Park area. For more information visit hydeparkjazzfestival.org.

hpherald@hpherald.com