Swinging into a new era, Thaddeus Tukes takes the lessons of Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson into the 21st century. With Akenya Seymour, vocals; Julius Tucker, piano; Runere Brooks, bass; Alvin Cobb, drums and special guest, saxophone rising star Isaiah Collier.
Come at 6 p.m. and tell us your most memorable moments of jazz at the JazzCity Story Share Booth, a collaboration with Hyde Park Jazz Festival and be•spoke projects. Click here to reserve time at the booth.
If there was once a time when the emergence of gifted young players provided a certain measure of relief for jazz fans concerned about the future of the music, we are now at a point where it comes as no surprise whatsoever to encounter yet another generation of dynamos carrying the art forward. Indeed, it’s difficult to keep track of all the sparkling young talents reinvigorating the scene with their talent, commitment and personal approaches.
Few artists support that notion in the Windy City as well as Thaddeus Tukes, the star attraction of this year’s “NextGenJazz” concert. At the age of 22, with baby-faced looks that make him seem even younger, this product of Northwestern University (both its music and journalism programs) has established himself as one of the freshest voices on the vibraphone in years.
As attuned to hip-hop and pop as he is (one of the tunes his sextet will perform will be Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do”), Tukes is most devoted to the great recorded standards of the past. “I try and connect not only with the solos, but also the words,” he said. “It’s great to get involved in modern harmonies and meters and so on, but there’s so much you can learn from the classics. I’m a student of jazz, and you never run out of great things to discover in them.”
Named the top student jazz vibraphonist in Illinois while attending Whitney Young Magnet High School, and winner of the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Kiewit-Wang Mentorship Award, Tukes is classically trained and plays other instruments, including piano. But for the moment, he is concentrating on the instrument made famous by heroes of his including Lionel Hampton, Bobby Hutcherson and Roy Ayers. “I want to establish my proficiency on the vibes before featuring myself on any other instrument,” he said.
Tukes’ young cohorts at the NextGenJazz concert will be musicians he’s played with a lot. He and his acclaimed special guest, rising saxophonist Isaiah Collier, performed together at last year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival. (Collier, a senior at ChiArts High School, performs in a family band with his father, mother and two brothers.) Tukes has been playing with pianist Julius Tucker since he was 13. The band, featuring vocalist Akenya Seymour, will also include bassist Runere Brooks and drummer Alvin Cobb.
“It’s so much fun to be able to perform with people with similar tastes and ideas and influences,” he said. “I only hope we’ll still be doing that for years into the future.”