Perhaps best known as the long-serving electric bassist in bands led by the great Chicago soul jazz guitarist Henry Johnson, Frank Russell has been stepping out on his own in recent years, bringing his hard-hitting, funky style to a wide variety of material. He notes with pride that he’s the first electric bassist to lead a band at the Chicago Jazz Festival, and he’ll certain kick of Saturday’s festivities with a bang.
The Education Committee of the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC) Presents: “What is this thing called “JAZZ?” Developed to offer an insider’s view of the intricacies of jazz performance. This inaugural series begins with a presentation by Committee Member, Grammy award-winning percussionist, Paul Wertico, noted Bassist, Larry Gray, and multi-instrumentalist, David Cain. Join this dynamic trio for a live improvised conversation through music.
Nick Mazzarella has stepped out of those shadows of Ornette Coleman, and of late his interest in the intense spirituality of John Coltrane has added a rich new facet to his sound. When joined by bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly, the young saxophonist achieves an infectious buoyancy and vitality that’s hard to resist, full of energy, confidence, and optimism.
This protean quartet bears Hamid Drake’s name, but even if one of the other top-flight improvisers were in charge you can bet Drake’s efforts would still be the same. Outside of Drake’s inextricable links to the late Fred Anderson—his greatest mentor and colleague—bassist William Parker might be the percussionist’s truest musical brother; they form one of improvised music’s most malleable, grooving, and powerful rhythm sections. Both Anderson and Drake are, like New Orleans saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Louisiana natives, but their ties to go much deeper. New York’s Cooper-Moore is a regular fixture in bands led by Parker as well as the last groups of the late saxophonist David S. Ware.
Eric McDougald’s sobriquet “Flapper Girl” may suggest that she’s a throwback to Charleston era, and while she’s fluent in the swing repertoire, there’s no question that she’s a great talent for the present age, bringing a thoroughly contemporary flair to songs past and present.
While Cleveland remains his home base, Ernie Krivda travels all over the US for festival engagements, and his trip to Chicago will let us hear what they already know in Ohio—that he’s the real deal, an improviser with an innate sense of the blues, a granite-hard tone, and a malleable sense of phrasing that allows him to transform the simplest of melodies into a symphony of motific development.
Chévere de Chicago has endured changing tastes and trends to remains one of Chicago’s most popular and acclaimed Latin jazz bands. The group has steadily opened its sound to incorporate global influences from the Caribbean and South America as well as the blues, while retaining the high-energy sizzle of fusion, the concision of pop-rock, and the improvisational fire of jazz.
The wildly prolific, galvanic Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii has been pushing at the borders of free jazz and contemporary classical music for several decades, creating fast-moving, often turbulent sounds that shift easily between fury and calm. Her Japanese working quartet KAZE will collaborate with some of the city’s best improvisers.
Evanston native and bassist Stafford James performs “A Song for Our Heroes,” which he composed upon the 2007 passing of drum legend Max Roach. For this special tribute James has enlisted the participation of M’Boom, the powerful percussion ensemble Roach formed in 1970
“I firmly consider myself a jazz singer but I enjoy blues, southern soul, and gospel,” says Gregory Porter. “Those elements make their way inside my music. And I’ve always heard them in jazz.” Indeed, the singer’s forthcoming third album Liquid Spirit—his debut for legendary Blue Note label—captures all of these elements beautifully, a organic blend that springs from the singer’s understanding and feel for the close relationship of these traditions.
Earlier this year Rudresh Mahanthappa released the debut album from the dynamic group he brings to this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, Gamak. This hard-hitting quartet—with features drummer Dan Weiss, bassist François Moutin, and electric guitarist David Fiuczynski—seems to draw upon many of the saxophonist’s stylistic concerns: lightning-fast bebop, classical Indian melodic lines, off-kilter funk, and a glimmer of razor-sharp fusion. In particular Fiuczynski distinguishes the group, making like a sitar one moment, a second horn the next.
Few jazz musicians smash boundaries like MacArthur Grant-winning pianist Jason Moran, whose multifarious work pushes not only toward disparate musical styles, but also toward other artistic disciplines. The Fats Waller Dance Party project finds Moran and an eclectic crew of cohorts using the music and era of Waller as a jumping off point, building new works from memories and melodic fragments (by Waller and contemporaries like stride pioneer James P. Johnson) of the past.
Jay Pritzker Pavillion
Preston Bradley Hall
Jazz on Jackson
Jazz and Heritage Stage
The Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Stage