For guitarist Peter Lerner, his recent album, Continuation, was more than a document of his artistry. And as happy as he was to find himself in the company of the great pianist Willie Pickens, it was more than an occasion to spend quality time with his mentor. More than anything, when he entered the studio, the South Sider wanted to express his appreciation for and ongoing debt to Chicago jazz in its many guises and across its many decades of being.
“The project is a personal reflection of my 30 years as a musician in Chicago,” Lerner said. “It’s part of my efforts to live up to and carry on the tradition of musical excellence set by my teachers, most especially Willie.”
Those familiar with the wizardly Mr. Pickens know that he doesn’t choose his company lightly – that his presence in this performance is an expression of the esteem and affection he holds for Lerner. And he’ll hardly be the only one happy to be in the company of this stylish, unstintingly devoted guitarist.
The band will include the greatly admired bassist Marlene Rosenberg, who in addition to leading her own terrific group has played with everyone from Joe Henderson to Nancy Wilson; the stalwart saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield; drummer Tyron Blair, and, in a special treat for the hometown crowd, trumpeter and reigning hero of the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition Marquis Hill, who recently moved to New York.
In various combinations, the ensemble will salute Pickens with the Lerner original, “Willie n Me,” pay tribute to one of jazz’s great spawning grounds with the guitarist’s “Southside Strut” and dig into its bag of standards and jazz classics, including “When Sunny Gets Blue,” Kenny Dorham’s “La Mesha,” Grant Green’s “Jean de Fleur.”
“It should be a memorable night,” said Lerner – one on a continuum of great moments in Windy City jazz.
JazzCity is a free concert series initiated in 1997 by the Jazz Institute in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, now in its 18th 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 by the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit www. Jazzinchicago.org or call 312.427.1676