The Hyde Park Jazz Festival is more ambitious and inclusive than ever
by Bill Meyer
The happy paradox of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival is that while it was instituted to celebrate the jazz legacy of Chicago’s south side, its programming puts it on par with great jazz festivals around the globe. It commissions new projects from rising local musicians. This year one of those works is Requiem for Jazz by Angel Bat Dawid, a 12-part multimedia jazz funeral that responds to the 1959 film The Cry of Jazz by Chicago-born filmmaker Edward Bland and draws on the tradition of hush harbors (secret religious services where slaves practiced their own rituals); another The Story of 400 Years, a sonic narrative of African American history by Isaiah Collier & the Chosen Few. The festival also hosts new-to-us stuff by out-of-towners, such as trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his killer new trio with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Nasheet Waits. But it also doesn’t neglect, say, vocalist Maggie Brown and other reliable favorites of the picnic-on-the-Midway crowd. Part of the pleasure of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival derives from walking around the neighborhood, taking in its beautiful architecture, and being happily surprised by what you hear—and there are plenty more sets you shouldn’t miss. Boyhood friends and recurrent percussion partners Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake will play spiritually steeped grooves as the duo Karuna; pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and guitarist Mary Halvorson will explore the attuned interplay and astounding virtuosity that made their 2017 CD Crop Circles (Relative Pitch) such a delight; Dana Hall’s Spring, which has played the festival before, will bring its intricately voiced reeds and eruptive rhythms; and electric guitarist Bill MacKay and cellist Katinka Kleijn will demonstrate the eclectic improvisational style showcased on their forthcoming album, Stir (Drag City). Closing Saturday’s music is singer, trumpeter, and santur player Amir ElSaffar, who deftly binds together forward-looking jazz and Iraqi maqam (a classical vocal form); he’ll present the Chicago debut of Ahwaal, commissioned by the Jazztopad festival in Wroclaw, Poland. This collaboration with bassist Ksawery Wójciński, reeds player Waclaw Zimpel, and the Lutosławski Quartet will weave Western classical orchestration and a bit of the blues into the former Oak Parker’s already rich mix of styles and traditions.