Through all the trends, revampings and revolutions jazz has gone through since the great Jimmy Smith made the Hammond B-3 organ an essential component of hard bop and blues, the crowd-pleasing appeal of the instrument has remained the same. Whether commandeered by a Smith acolyte like Joey DeFrancesco or an innovator like Greg Lewis with his Organ Monk Trio, this monster in a box can't be beat for its churning melodies and pumping rhythms – or, in quieter moments, its gentle oceanic surges.
For more than 20 years, Chicago's improvising musicians have conducted a wonderful exchange program with their European counterparts, resulting in many memorable collaborations. So it goes with saxophonist Keefe Jackson's Likely So, an unusual all-reed ensemble that features fellow local boys, a Polish stalwart and a Swiss trio.
Brazil has no better emissary in the Windy City than singer-guitarist Paulinho Garcia. For more than 30 years, this native of Belo Horizonte, located in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, has waved the flag of his homeland here through sensitive, richly melodic performances of its music.
Chicago has gifted the world with any number of great pianists in the blues and boogie woogie tradition: Jimmy Yancey, Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Art Hodes, Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins. None has been more loved than the remarkable Erwin Helfer, who at 78 is the last living link to Jimmy (and Mama) Yancey.
As the name of his longstanding band suggests, saxophonist David Boykin thrives on wide-open spaces – and wide-open conceptual possibilities. While indebted to the intervallic leaps and floating time sense of Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians role models including Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, he has never been shy about giving voice to funk & hip-hop
Singer-pianist Judy Roberts ruled over so many jazz rooms in Chicago for so many years, her fans still feel her vibe here years after she moved to Phoenix. Her visits here reinforce the feeling that she never left.
"What is this thing called Jazz?" Ask any 5 people and you'll get 5 different answers. Is one of them right and the others wrong? Not according the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Seeing jazz as a mosaic whose whole is substantially greater than its parts, "What is this thing called Jazz?" sets out to fill in the mosaic...
Had Sun Ra lived – not that there isn't a great possibility he's still with us, floating in the cosmos – he would have turned 100 this year. In Chicago, where he first made his mark as a pianist, arranger, big band genius and keyboard inventor, that's special cause for celebration.
For the official opening-night show of the Chicago Jazz Festival – and the finale of this year's Made in Chicago concert series – local composer, saxophonist and AACM veteran Ernest Khabeer Dawkins has created a work in honor of the late South African president that promises to do many of the inspiring things Mandela said music could do.
Jay Pritzker Pavillion
Preston Bradley Hall
Jazz on Jackson
Jazz and Heritage Stage
The Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Stage