Hyde Park Jazz Festival: Your guide to the premieres, stars and innovators in Chicago this weekend
by Howard Reich
This city overflows with music festivals, from the raucous to the serene.
But none feels quite like the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, an event that embraces and celebrates its singular neighborhood.
The 13th annual event will present shows from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday in various indoor and outdoor venues. All performances are free.
Here are my suggestions for the most promising events. For details visit www.hydeparkjazzfestival.org.
Angel Bat Dawid’s “Requiem for Jazz.” Composer-instrumentalist Dawid has created what is billed as “a 12-part, orchestrated funeral mass service.” Whether jazz requires a requiem is open to debate, the art form’s demise having been predicted for decades. The new opus, commissioned by the festival and the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, is described as “a visual and sonic journey to both grieve for and to properly celebrate jazz.” Dawid will lead a large ensemble featuring acoustic and electronic instrumentation, vocals, visuals and dance. 1-2 p.m. at the Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St.
Dana Hall’s Spring. The heavyweight champion of Chicago jazz drummers works nimbly with several long-time collaborators in Spring: reedists Geof Bradfield and John Wojciechowski, trumpeter Victor Garcia and bassist Clark Sommers. 6:15-7:15 p.m., Wagner Stage at Midway Plaisance and Woodlawn Avenue.
The Alexander/McLean Project. Ubiquitous Chicago jazz singer Dee Alexander pays scant attention to stylistic boundaries, her work encompassing various facets of blues, soul, funk, standards, experimental and more. Chicago guitarist McLean brings extraordinarily succinct lyricism and rhythmic tension to practically every phrase he plays, making him a powerful respondent to Alexander’s improvisations. They’re joined by drummer Charles Heath, bassist Jeremiah Hunt and keyboardist Steve Million. 7-8 p.m., University of Chicago’s International House, 1414 E. 59th St.
Sylvie Courvoisier & Mary Halvorson Duo. Two venturesome spirits join forces in a distinctive duo. Pianist Courvoisier has thrived in innovative musical contexts; guitarist Halvorson spans multiple musical languages. There’s no predicting where any improvised performance will take them – and their listeners. 7-8 p.m., Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St.
Ambrose Akinmusire Trio. Akinmusire’s radiantly lyrical work on trumpet drives the action forward. Kris Davis stands as a singularly creative, technically astute pianist. Drummer Nasheet Waits, perhaps best known for his work in Jason Moran’s Bandwagon, commands an encyclopedic vocabulary of jazz syntax. They’ll be heard here in an uncommonly intimate setting. 8-9 p.m. and 9:30-10:30 p.m. at the Logan Center Performance Penthouse, 915 E. 60th St.
Amir ElSaffar’s “Ahwaal.” The Hyde Park Jazz Festival always concludes its first day with a late-night set at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. This time trumpeter ElSaffar, who has been breaking new ground in intertwining jazz and Middle Eastern languages, will offer the Chicago premiere of “Ahwaal.” “‘Ahwaal,' meaning ‘states of consciousness,’ is an important concept in Sufism describing a human being’s spiritual progression toward the divine," ElSaffar wrote in an email earlier this year. "The states are said to arise and vanish quickly, as flashes of lightning.” ElSaffar will be joined by musicians from Poland, where the work received its world premiere last year. 11 p.m.- midnight, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Maggie Brown Group. The legacy of the protean Chicago singer-songwriter Oscar Brown, Jr., lives on in the work of daughter Maggie Brown, a formidable performer-composer in her own right. Blues spirit, jazz syntax and a certain show-business savvy come together in her performances. She’ll share the stage with superb Chicago pianist Miguel de la Cerna and others. 2-3 p.m., Wagner Stage at the Midway Plaisance and Woodlawn Avenue.
Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade. A creative alto saxophonist and irrepressible visionary, Chicagoan Ward justly drew national attention earlier this year for “Stomping Off from Greenwood,” a sometimes exuberant, sometimes gnarly album from his newest ensemble, Rogue Parade. He’s joined, as on the album, by guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller, drummer Quin Kirchner and bassist Matt Ulery. 4-5 p.m., Wagner Stage at Midway Plaisance and Woodlawn Avenue.
Juan Pastor’s Chinchano. Jazz lovers had cause to celebrate when percussionist-bandleader Pastor moved back to Chicago after what turned out to be a short-lived return to his native Peru. Regardless of where he resides, though, Pastor conjures alluring sounds by intertwining Peruvian influences with elements of Chicago jazz. We can expect to hear music from Chinchano’s newest album, “El Regreso.” 5-6 p.m., West Stage at Midway Plaisance and Ellis Avenue.
Pharez Whitted Band. The festival closes on a wholly extroverted note with Chicago trumpeter Whitted, whose sound remains as big as all outdoors, hence his spot on the Wagner Stage. He’ll be joined by longtime collaborator Eddie Bayard on tenor saxophone, plus bassist Runere Brooks, keyboardist Andrew Toombs and drummer Xazavian Valladay. 6-7 p.m., Wagner Stage at Midway Plaisance and Woodlawn Avenue.
Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.