From Armstrong to Z Fest, and of course Jazz Fest – Chicago Tribune
As usual, summer is shaping up to be very Chicago — touring is back, capacity restrictions are mostly moot, and festivals are back to their usual length. Our jazz favorites of a summer in full bloom, in chronological order:
Z-Fest: This citywide festival celebrates what would have been the 44th birthday weekend of Saalik A. Ziyad (aka Z), whose baritone voice graced performances by the Association for the Advancement of Musicians creative for years. Ziyad died in 2019; now in its second year, this festival continues its legacy with multidisciplinary performances across the city, many featuring members of the AACM. 7 p.m. June 2 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street; 8:30 p.m. June 3 at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave.; 8:30 p.m. June 4 at Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey Ave. #208; and 4 p.m. June 5 at Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Ave.; all concerts are free, donations are accepted. More information at zfestchicago.com
Cécile McLorin Salvant at the Symphony Center: In March, the singer with multiple laurels released “Ghost Song” (Nonesuch Records), leaning into original tunes more than any album in its catalog to date. But whether it’s an original version or a cover version (the album begins with a chilling rendition of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”), the whole “Ghost Song” is disarmingly vulnerable, as if you were seeing something you weren’t supposed to see. In this Symphony Center appearance, Salvant is joined by a five-piece band. It’s unlikely anyone will park behind the Orchestra Hall organ console for the feverish incantatory dream that is “I Lost My Mind,” but hey, we can only hope. 8:00 p.m. June 3 at the Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave; tickets $29-$199 at cso.org
Tigran Hamasyan at Lincoln Hall: This exploratory pianist first came to prominence when he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition as a teenager. Now 34, Hamasyan released his first standards album earlier this year, “StandArt.” (Nonesuch Records) — and it’s as wonderfully itinerant as you’d expect from Hamasyan, whose improvisations wind with folkloric modalities from his native Armenia. He plays his first local appearance since the pandemic with frequent partners Arthur Hnatek (drums) and Evan Marien (electric bass). 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show June 9 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave.; tickets $35 at lh-st.com
100 years of Louis Armstrong in Chicago: “I arrived in Chicago about 11 p.m. on the night of July 8, 1922, I will never forget, at Illinois Central Station at 12th and Michigan Avenue,” Louis Armstrong recalled in “Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya”, an oral history of mid-century jazz. A century later and some eight miles west, the Jazz Institute of Chicago will celebrate Satchmo’s momentous arrival from New Orleans with performances by trumpeters Pharez Whitted and Derek Gardner. Jazz Links students open the show. 6:30 p.m. June 10 at the Columbus Park Dining Hall, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.; free. More information at jazzinchicago.org/louis
Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band in Old Town: One of the game’s most inventive drummers plays alongside compatriots Jon Cowherd (piano), Chris Thomas (bass), Myron Walden (saxophone) and Melvin Butler (saxophone), with a set list from his Blue Note discography Records. 8:00 p.m. June 17 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.; tickets $36 at www.oldtownschool.org
Ravinia is back in force: The Highland Park mega-festival has another big lineup this year, with the must-see being a star-studded tribute to Ramsey Lewis; the dean of the piano himself—who will have turned 87 the previous month—does the headlines (June 19, 7 p.m., doors 5 p.m.). Other highlights: Trombone shorts shares the stage with the best of New Orleans in his “Voodoo Threauxdown” tour, featuring Tank and the Bangas, Big Freedia and George Porter Jr. of The Meters, among others (June 26, 6 p.m., doors 4 p.m.), and great thinker bassist Esperanza Spalding and effervescent Colombian pop group Mr. perine will close Ravinia’s Breaking Barriers Festival (July 31, 6:30 p.m., doors 4 p.m.). May 20-Sept. 18 at the Ravinia Park Pavilion, 201 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park; tickets for the shows above range from $38 to $105. More information at ravinia.org
Tuesdays on the MCA terrace: A serious contender for the city’s most photogenic summer jazz series, this weekly program offers respite from rush hour on the leafy Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Moving for sure: a century-old nod to Charles Mingus by the bassist Jeremiah Hunt and his gang (July 5); saxophonist Edwin’s Daughter tribute to South Side music pedagogue Captain Walter Dyett (July 19); and 95 years old by George Freeman show with another guitarist Mike Allemanawho recently released a “Vonology” tribute album commemorating Freeman’s inimitable saxophonist brother, Von (August 9). 5:30 p.m. June 7-August. 30 at MCA Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave. ; free. More information at mcachicago.org
Chicago Latin Jazz Festival: An oasis during the scorching days of summer, the Latin Jazz Festival returns to Humboldt Park. This year’s lineup includes projects from live stalwarts: saxophonist Roy McGrath’s Menjunje Setviolinist James Sanders Conjunto and drummer Luiz Ewerling’s amada. trumpet player Victor Garcia closes the festival with a tribute to “El Inolvidable”, the crooner Tito Rodríguez. 6 p.m. July 15 and 5 p.m. July 16 at Humboldt Park Fieldhouse, 1301 N. Humboldt Dr.; free. More info on jazzinchicago.org
Chicago Jazz Fest: Details are still being worked out for this epic end-of-summer party, but the headliners that have been chosen are promising. Opening night features Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and reedist Henry Threadgill, whose formative years with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians of Chicago influenced later adventurous projects – including his quintet, zooid, with whom he plays here. Other highlights: guitarist Bill Frisellebass player William Parker and his quintet, saxophonist Miguel Zenonbass player Linda May Han Ohand singer Horn Jazzmeialuckily making a local appearance after a canceled Ravinia program. September 1-4 at Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St.; free. More information at chicago.gov
England Jazz Festival: Now in its 23rd edition, this jazz festival is the most bittersweet in town — bitter because it heralds the end of summer, sweet because organizer and saxophonist Ernest Dawkins reliably brings together a world-class range. This year includes bassist Endea Owens (you may have seen her in the house band of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”), Hypnotic brass ensembletrumpeter based in North Carolina Al Fort and singer-songwriter Meagan McNeal, with more acts to be announced. Opening day features a world premiere from Dawkins, but if that performance is postponed, he plans to reprise “Blacker Than Black,” the tribute to the late historian and civil rights leader Timuel Black that he premiered earlier this this month. September 15-17 at Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd Street; free. More information at englewoodjazzfest.org
Hannah Edgar is a freelance writer.
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