Year seven for jazz festival

By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
Assistant to the Editor

This weekend’s seventh annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival will feature a healthy mix of veteran and newcomer performers, according to organizers.

More than 30 acts will perform at 10 venues spanning the neighborhood, from 1 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Sept. 28, and between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29. The lineup comprises Chicagoans, such as cellist Tomeka Reid and saxophonist Ari Brown, as well as out-of-towners.

“We have some musicians returning every year, because we think they’re wonderful, they have a big audience and they’ve been with us since the beginning,” said festival co-founder Judith Stein, who started helping to put the lineup together in late 2012. She cited pianist Willie Pickens and vocalist Dee Alexander as examples.

Stein added that the lineup featured “young and up-and-coming” performers such as saxophonist Caroline Davis and organist Ben Paterson, as well as edgier ones, including composer-saxophonist Ken Vandermark, a MacArthur Fellow: “He’s certainly more avant garde than some other musicians we’ve had,” Stein said. She called the 12-member supergroup, Chicago Yestet, a “who’s-who of Chicago musicians.”

On Saturday night, a duo consisting of Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen and Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora will give the festival’s headliner performance at Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“I think this year we’ve included a broader purview of what’s happening in jazz in Chicago,” said Kate Dumbleton, who has served as executive director of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival for two years.

“I think that it’s always important to keep the festival fresh, so that there’s a combination of the tried and true people who everyone knows will always be there and then also some new musicians, new ideas,” she added.

Besides concerts, highlights of the festival include a panel talk, “Sun Ra: ‘Reality Has Touched Against Myth,’” and a listening test conducted on guitarist Jeff Parker, the results of which will be published in DownBeat Magazine. The so-called Blindfold Test has been a staple of the jazz periodical for decades.

It is estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people attended 2012’s event, according to Dumbleton, and the festival’s website suggests a similar number can be expected this year. This may attract first-time visitors to the neighborhood’s cultural venues, according to festival co-founder Lauren Moltz.

“Sometimes [the festival] introduces people to an institution they haven’t known about or been in before,” said Moltz, who was part of the group now known as the Hyde Park Alliance for Arts and Culture, or HyPa, when it first shared with the Hyde Park Jazz Society its idea for the event.

Concerts will take place at: the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St.; the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.; the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.; the Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St.; Little Black Pearl, 1060 E. 47th St.; International House, 1414 E. 59th St.; the Hyde Park Bank building, 1525 E. 53rd St.; Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.; the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. and on two stages at the Midway Plaisance, between Woodlawn and Ellis avenues.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival grew out of The Committee to Restore Jazz to Hyde Park, which was founded by Hyde Parker James W. Wagner, for whom one of the stages on the Midway is named.
Admission to all events will be free and only Frank Rosaly’s quintet, Green and Gold, and the Gerald Clayton and Douglas Ewart trios require audience members to present tickets, which will be distributed at their corresponding venues. For more information, visit