Stu Katz and Willie Pickens

Aug. 30 - 2012

Thirty-one years ago, Stu Katz and Willie Pickens teamed up at the Chicago Jazz Festival as a piano duo. Two of the city’s most distinguished players, they have performed numerous times at the festival since then, mostly in support of hometown heroes including Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan and Eddie Harris. Today, they’ll reunite as a duo, but in a different format, with Pickens on piano and Katz on vibes, his second instrument (on which he is featured on A Family Affair, his fine 2011 album with Sullivan).

Don’t expect a safe set of standards. Katz, 75, and Pickens, 81, began exploring the piano-vibes format about three years ago and after intermittent dabblings are greatly enjoying the act of discovering each other all over again. They’ll be playing fresh material, likely including a composition by their dear departed friend, pianist Jodie Christian. Pickens, whose whirling phrases and eruptive lyrical power contrast with Katz’s sparer, tonal approach on vibes, will perform at least one song solo –  ”whether he wants to or not,” quipped Katz, who may be the junior partner here but has more than earned his prodding rights.

Festival Playlist

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