For the Beauty of it All
JazzCity Celebrates 20 Years of Bringing Jazz into Chicago’s Neighborhoods
(CHICAGO, 20 JANUARY 2017) With a classic Battle of the Bands pitting the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble “against” the DePaul University Jazz Workshop, the Jazz Institute of Chicago kicks off the gala 20th season of its prized neighborhood series JazzCity at 7pm on February 17 at Austin Town Hall Park located at 5610 W. Lake Street.
JazzCity was launched in 1997 in partnership with the Chicago Park District with four concerts representing the different jazz styles of Big Band, Latin, Bebop and Free Jazz. The series soon grew to ten annual family-friendly-and-free concerts presented in neighborhood parks throughout the city. Hundreds of Chicago’s jazz artists created and presented their work over the past two decades. Some, including trumpeters Corey Wilkes and Maurice Brown made their first public appearances at a JazzCity Bebop Brass concert. Early in their careers, artists Dee Alexander and Nicole Mitchell developed projects for JazzCity that helped launch them onto the world stage. Several projects that started out at a neighborhood park went on to the Made in Chicago series in Millennium Park and the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Highlights among the many special productions include Douglas Ewart, Fred Hopkins and Hamid Drake, who headlined 3 on 3: Music is the Game, a special performance combining jazz and basketball in Washington Park in 1998; Oscar Brown, Jr., who narrated Ameen Muhammad’s full-scale folk opera, “Roots ‘N’ ‘D’ Blues,” in LaFollette Park in 2002; and Von Freeman and other notable DuSable High alumni, who paid tribute to their legendary teacher Capt. Walter Dyett, in Washington Park in 2007. What started as the yearly Sonidos Calientes slot grew into the two-day Chicago Latin Jazz Festival now celebrating its 11th year.
“JazzCity programs have served as cultural ambassadors, helping to introduce Chicago audiences to some of the world’s most compelling artists,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent & CEO Michael P. Kelly. “The Chicago Park District is proud to celebrate its 20-year partnership with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and excited to continue the legacy of bringing culture through innovative sound to neighborhoods across the city.”
“JazzCity is a city-wide program in the largest sense of the word, because we go to the neighborhoods where people live,” said Lauren Deutsch, executive director of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. “And increasingly, over the years, people drawn by the festival have stepped into the backyards of neighborhoods they would never have thought of stepping into before.”
“The series reflects a programming philosophy that the diversity of our music, and the beauty of it all, draws people together across racial and geographic boundaries,” said Deutsch. “It’s all about community. Jazz, America’s oldest musical art form, is the thread that stitches together people from different cultures and different neighborhoods.”
In addition to the Battle of the Bands, season 20’s highlights include a timely reprise/reboot of Langston Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,” first presented by JazzCity in 1999, with new music by Greg Ward and Ben LaMar Gay and poet Marvin Tate updating Hughes’ sharp-tongued observations on race relations.
Four centennials also will be marked in exciting fashion. Trumpet great Jon Faddis will help celebrate his legendary mentor Dizzy Gillespie’s 100th. Bebop Brass Band, one of JazzCity’s most popular attractions, will perform new arrangements of Thelonious Monk’s compositions in honor of that singular genius.
Two all-female aggregations, SHE (featuring Bobbi Wilsyn and Juli Wood) and the Chicago-Detroit Collective (featuring Dee Alexander and Tomeka Reid), will salute jazz pioneer Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Swing. And Nicole Mitchell will perform and contribute music as part of an homage to Gwendolyn Brooks curated by Quraysh Ali Lansana, a student of the great poet.
The complete 2017 JazzCity schedule follows. All concerts are family friendly and free, and start at 7 PM unless otherwise noted.
February 17, 2017 / JazzCity 20th Birthday Celebration: Battle of the Bands
Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W. Lake St.
The DePaul University Workshop Ensemble led by Dana Hall & The Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Jarrard Harris help kick off the 20th season of the JazzCity series with some shiny new sounds to match your fancy footwork!
March 10, 2017 / Women of Chicago Jazz
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.
The Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Women’s Jazz Leadership Initiative salutes Ella Fitzgerald on her 100th with performances by SHE, led by Bobbi Wilsyn, vocals, and featuring Juli Wood, saxophone; Audrey Morrison, trombone; Kelly Brand, piano; Marlene Rosenberg, bass and Sarah Allen, drums, and the Chicago-Detroit Collective with Tomeka Reid, cello, Marion Hayden, bass, Gayelynn McKinney, drums and Dee Alexander, vocals.
April 14, 2017 / NextGenJazz Summit
Loyola Park, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.
A dazzling ensemble of up-and-comers including Jalen Baker, vibes; Julius Tucker, piano; Justin Boyd, drums; Andrew Vogt and Runere Brooks, bass; Hunter Jay Diamond, Mai Sugimoto and Leonard Simpson, saxophone and Quentin Coaxum, trumpet. Selected and directed by saxophonist and educator Jarrard Harris.
June 9, 2017 / Gwendolyn Brooks In Words & Music: Celebrating 100
Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.
Part of a year-long celebration of Brooks’ centennial organized by poet and Brooks protégé Quraysh Ali Lansana, the performance features young Chicago poets with an ensemble of Chicago jazz musicians led by acclaimed flutist Nicole Mitchell.
July 14-15, 2017 / 11th Chicago Latin Jazz Festival
Humboldt Park, 1301 N. Humboldt Drive
An all-out 100th birthday tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, whose role as a founder of Latin jazz will be celebrated by some of Chicago’s top Latin jazz artists plus and special guests.
October 6, 2017 / Bebop Brass Hails Monk’s 100th
LaFollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
Led by pianist and arranger Miguel De la Cerna, the band that launched the JazzCity series will honor Thelonious Monk with a harmonious explosion of brass. Features Pharez Whitted and Sean Johnson, trumpet; Tracy Kirk, Norman Palm and Adam Thornberg, trombone; Junius Paul, bass and Isaiah Spencer, drums.
November 3, 2017 / To Be or Not to Bop: Jon Faddis Celebrates Dizzy’s Centennial
South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S South Shore Drive
There’s a reason Jon Faddis became Dizzy Gillespie’s protégé: he was one of the few trumpeters, young or old, capable of inheriting the bebop inventor’s outlandish technical gifts – and doing so with the same offbeat brand of humor. Along with Willie Pickens, piano; Pat Malinger, saxophone; Larry Gray, bass, and Greg Artry, drums, Faddis will dust off little known works from the Gillespie canon. And you can count on the band playing some favorites as well.
December 1, 2017 / Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz Redux
Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.
JazzCity reprises and updates Langston Hughes’ masterwork about race relations in the ’60s with an up-to-the-minute version that demonstrates both how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Spoken word artist Marvin Tate will collaborate with composers Greg Ward and Ben LaMar Gay to integrate Hughes’ vision with his own personal journey of growing up in a post-civil war society, through song, dance, poetry, storytelling and experimental theater.
JazzCity is a free concert series initiated in 1997 by the Jazz Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, now celebrating its 20th season of bringing people together from across the city to listen to Chicago’s top jazz musicians. JazzCity is sponsored by WDCB 90.9 FM and WHPK 88.5 FM Radio and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.