Monk Tributes, Innovative Pairings Give Spark to Hyde Park Jazz Fest

DownBeat Magazine

by Michael Jackson

The 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, populating a dozen varied venues amid the picturesque splendor of the festival’s namesake neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, proved as stimulating as ever this time around (Sept. 23–24). Programmed for the sixth year by the astute, visionary Kate Dumbleton—and assisted by music manager Carolyn Albritton, managing director Olivia Junell and stalwart new operations manager Dave Rempis, among others—the HPJF is unlike any other festival in its intensity and pace. Its principal hit: an offering of 30 presentations between 1 p.m. and midnight on Sept. 23.

The overlaps of concerts are carefully timed so that it is possible to catch portions of some simultaneous sets if you are a fast walker, but completists will be frustrated.

Despite the out of town stars that brightened the diverse bill (including Bill McHenry and Andrew Cyrille, Amina Claudine Myers, Jeremy Pelt, Oliver Lake, Joe Locke and Warren Wolf, plus the Malian musicians who collaborated with Nicole Mitchell), it was the local duo of Nick Mazzarella and Tomeka Reid at DuSable Museum that most impressed. Altoist Mazzarella was last heard in such a context at the HPJF alongside one of the festival’s regular fixtures, drummer Dana Hall. (In fact, Hall, performing solo, preceded Mazzarella’s set with cellist Reid on the DuSable stage.)

Review: Hyde Park Jazz Fest animates a neighborhood

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

Two world premieres, one piano colossus, a brilliant look at Thelonious Monk and a couple of vibraphonists swinging hard in a house of worship.

Now that’s a jazz festival — more specifically, the 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which ends Sunday.

As always, the event unfolded smoothly, albeit with one surprising misstep: Audience members were allowed to sit on the stairs that form the aisles of the Logan Center Performance Hall, an obvious safety hazard.

Otherwise, though, Chicago’s most appealing jazz festival turned several blocks of Hyde Park into a sprawling musical nexus.

Here’s a diary of Saturday’s highlights:

Your guide to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

In 2007, when a group of South Side visionaries launched the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, they hoped to bring long overdue attention to a neighborhood rich in jazz history.

“There are so many people in Chicago who simply don’t go south of Roosevelt Road,” James Wagner, one of the co-founders of the festival, told me at the time.

“On the North Side, a lot of people just don’t think of it.”

Since then, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has become a magnet for thousands of listeners each fall, the 11th annual event featuring Chicago and visiting musicians on several stages this weekend.

Following are one listener’s picks for the most promising sets, the music unfolding at several Hyde Park venues on Saturday and on two outdoor stages on the Midway Plaisance (one named for Wagner, who died in 2009) on Saturday and Sunday. All performances are free; the music plays from 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday; for more information, visit www.hydeparkjazzfestival.org.

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt highlight this weekend’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

The 11th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival kicks off tomorrow with a typically packed schedule of diverse sounds, focusing on some of the city's most important and creative forces while making room for a selective smattering of national and international attractions. In this week's paper I highlighted a couple of duo performances by Nick Mazzarella & Tomeka Reid and Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry, but naturally there's much more that's worth your time.

What to see at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Time Out Chicago

by Zach Long

Marking the tail end of summer music festival season (and September's second big jazz-oriented event), the Hyde Park Jazz Festival brings Chicago's best performers and some talented visitors to the South Side neighborhood. Spread out over the course of two days and taking place at various venues, the festival is packed with worthwhile performances, but it can be difficult to decide what to see, even if you frequent Chicago jazz clubs. To make the decision as easy as possible, we've picked our five favorite performances on the Hyde Park Jazz Festival lineup, including a set from local drummer Makaya McCraven and a hotly anticipated collaboration between bandleaders from Chicago and Mali.

Music of Mali wafts into a Chicago public school

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

Many musicians have performed for students at Smith Elementary School, on East 103rd Street, but none quite like the visitors who appeared Monday morning.

For they brought with them music of their homeland: Mali.

They came to Smith in the company of eminent flutist Nicole Mitchell, who years ago worked as a teaching artist there and at other Chicago Public Schools. Mitchell left Chicago in 2011 to teach at the University of California at Irvine, but she has returned to this city often and long has dreamed of collaborating with Malian counterparts.

Two Important Milestones Celebrated at This Year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Chicago Magazine

by Christian Belanger

Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Kate Dumbleton, executive and artistic director of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which starts Saturday.

A focal point of this year’s festival is Thelonious Monk’s centennial. How did you program that?

There’s a lot of centennials this year for jazz heroes: Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk. I decided to explore one of them in depth. Dee Alexander proposed a project called Monk and the Ladies, which is an all-women’s group playing Monk’s oeuvre, thinking about the vocal aspects of that. And I knew I wanted to bring in Robin Kelley—he’s written the definitive biography of Monk. I asked him to come give a talk about Monk at 100. In all, we’re doing four very different tacks on the work.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates Monk at 100

Hyde Park Herald

by Evan Hamlin

Thelonious Monk, a musician whose personality was as enigmatic as his music was influential, will be celebrated at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Sept. 23 – 24, in honor of his 100th birthday.

Four events will be held in tribute of Monk’s visionary style. The first will be a lecture by University of California, Los Angeles Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History Robin Kelley. Kelley’s lecture will draw on information from his acclaimed 2009 book on Monk titled “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.”

Jazz aficionado suggests must-hear artists for upcoming jazz festival

Hyde Park Herald

by Neil Tesser

Offering a sort of drum roll for the upcoming Hyde Park Jazz Festival, GRAMMY® Award-winning journalist and jazz aficionado Neil Tesser shared his understanding of improvisation as it relates to what he described as “a truly American artform” with residents and visitors at Montgomery Place, 5550 South Shore Drive on Thursday, Sept. 14.

“Jazz is a great mongrel, a great sponge. It’s constantly evolving,” he said, inviting the audience of 60 or so to listen to a bebop tune, Koko, created by Charlie Parker, he said, “When you hear the speed and complexity, you realize no one can do this unless they don’t have to think about it.”

The strengths of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival are highlighted by two poignant, inventive duos

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

One feature of the Hyde Park Jazz Fest that has quietly distinguished it over the last few years is the prevalence of dynamic duos, whether the pairings are new or seasoned, improvised or driven by tunes. Notable among this year’s terrific offerings is the first local performance by alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella and cellist Tomeka Reid since the release of their superb debut album, Signaling (Nessa).

...

When I attended this year’s Winter Jazz Fest in New York, no set gave me greater pleasure or made me think as much as a performance by endlessly inventive drummer Andrew Cyrille and often-overlooked tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, who played music from their excellent 2016 album, Proximity (Sunnyside).

Ten best bets for fall music: Hyde Park Jazz Festival September 23 and 24

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

This annual fest showcasing Chicago's rich jazz scene includes some great out-of-town headliners in the two-day lineup of its 11th iteration, among them trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and the duo of drummer Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry. As usual, though, locals provide most of the heat: to name just two, veteran saxophonist Ari Brown leads a group with Oliver Lake, and flutist Nicole Mitchell debuts a collaboration with Malian kora master Ballaké Sissoko.1 PM, multiple venues, $5 suggested donation per show, $125 Jazz Pass available for priority seating at all shows. For the full lineup, see hydeparkjazzfestival.org, all ages.

The brightest lights at the 2017 World Music Festival

Chicago Reader

by Peter Margasak

Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko roots his playing in traditional Mande modes—his 2013 solo album At Peace (Six Degrees) is a beautiful case in point—but he's also distinguished himself by bridging cultural divides through thoughtful collaboration. He's worked with American bluesman Taj Mahal, Chinese pipa master Liu Fang, French cellist Vincent Segal, Italian contemporary classical pianist Ludovico Einaudi, and Moroccan oud player Driss El Maloumi. That roll call is evidence of his curiosity and versatility—he can draw upon improvisational creativity to make new situations work. This new project promises to be as exciting and rewarding as any he's undertaken, because he's joining forces with one of the most dynamic composers, improvisers, and bandleaders in the world: former Chicagoan Nicole Mitchell.

Distinguished lecturer ruminates on Thelonious Monk at HP Jazz Fest

Considered one of the most important composers and pianists in 20th-century music, Thelonious Monk is one of the most enigmatic figures of his era. Noted professor Robin D.G. Kelley will be delivering a lecture titled Thelonious Monk: An American Original based on his highly acclaimed 2009 book, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, at the 2017 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Sept. 23-24, 2017.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival to feature world premieres and 'Thelonious Monk at 100' tributes

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

World premieres, unexpected collaborations, a spotlight on women bandleaders and an in-depth look at Thelonious Monk at 100 will top the 11th Hyde Park Jazz Festival, running Sept. 23-24.

As always, the free event will unfold in multiple indoor and outdoor venues — 13 stages, to be exact — across the historic neighborhood. No other jazz festival in the Chicago area, and few elsewhere in the country, embraces and celebrates its neighborhood as effectively as the Hyde Park event has since its inception.

Southern Exposure

Chamber Music America

by Peter Margasak

Since Dumbleton’s arrival, the festival has grown steadily, attracting larger audiences and expanding in scope. She’s made a concerted effort to represent the full spectrum of the city’s massive jazz community, which despite a general sense of unity and cooperation remains subtly segregated in various ways beyond the North Side and South Side’s geographical split. Black and white musicians don’t always interact, and there are strong divisions between mainstream players and the more celebrated avant-gardists. Taking a cue from the city’s annual Labor Day weekend Chicago Jazz Festival, Dumbleton has presented them all under a single umbrella. And while the core programming still draws from the Chicago scene, HPJF has also increasingly presented acclaimed national artists, including saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Henry Threadgill, trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire and Amir ElSaffar, and pianists Randy Weston and Craig Taborn. Last year, Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich called the event “indispensible,” lavish praise in a city that hosts the largest free jazz festival in the country just a few weeks earlier. “It feels like a celebration of the area and the community, and it becomes an occasion for those in the city that don’t know the area to get to know it,” says Chicago bassist and composer Joshua Abrams. “It is hard to argue with a festival that draws a cathedral full of excited listeners to check out Randy Weston at midnight.”

3Arts Campaign: Bamako*Chicago Sound System by Nicole Mitchell

As a musician, I’ve dreamed for years about bringing two artistic communities together: Chicago’s modern jazz with the traditional sounds and instrumentation of Bamako, Mali. With Bamako*Chicago Sound System, I am raising funds to support an extended stay and expansive programming with West African kora master, Ballaké Sissoko and his group. This will include visiting youth in Chicago Public Schools, conducting a workshop for Chicago musicians, and developing a new collaborative musical piece with the Black Earth Ensemble that will premiere this fall at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival.

Flutist Nicole Mitchell driving force in bringing Mali musicians to Chicago

Chicago Tribune

by Howard Reich

For years, the genre-bending flutist Nicole Mitchell has dreamed of collaborating with musicians from Mali.

The mystical sounds of the balafon and kora — akin to the marimba and harp — caught her ear when she was a student at Oberlin Conservatory in the late 1980s, even before she became a leading Chicago instrumentalist-bandleader in the 1990s.

After she left the city in 2011 to teach at the University of California at Irvine, she hoped to overcome formidable obstacles of geography, funding and genre to play with Malian counterparts.

Come September, Mitchell's long-delayed aspirations will be realized in Chicago, thanks to a unique convergence of support from the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, World Music Festival Chicago, Ravinia Festival and MacArthur Foundation.

Hyde Park Jazz Fest Offers Diverse, Progressive Program

DownBeat Magazine

by Michael Jackson

On the afternoon of Sept. 25, mulling over how to open this review as I ambled between the music stages on Midway Plaisance, a verdant stretch of Chicago’s South Side, the perfection of the summer-to-fall weather that has blessed this 10-years-young indoor/outdoor festival came to mind. Moments later, skies cracked unexpectedly and the first aggressive downpour I can recall during the history of this two-day event ensued.

It’s not over till it’s over, one might aver.

The Hyde Park Jazz Fest, which ran this year from Sept. 24–25, has traditionally been a marathon affair. The 2016 edition commenced on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Smart Museum, and finished well past 12 a.m. with piano giant Randy Weston, who received well-wishers like a deity after his majestic solo set at Rockefeller Chapel.

National Race Conversation Pervades the Music of Two Groups at Hyde Park Jazz Festival ’16

Race is weighing deeply on the national consciousness whether we want it to or not. No matter how we argue the issues, we can’t argue that the issue of minority-police relations has had a lasting impact on the 2016 Presidential Election, the use of social media, the way local government interacts with citizenry, and – from my student experience – the collegiate discussion experience.

Yet as the eyes of the nation dart from tragedy to tragedy, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in South Side Chicago is soldiering on and making itself more relevant than ever. It hopes to achieve – and in my opinion easily does – that relevancy in its artist lineup. One can also fit the larger narrative of a proud cultural showcase in the heat of a suffocating crime epidemic.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2016

all*about*jazz

by Mark Corroto

Regard the Hyde Park Jazz Festival as you would your favorite restaurant, where it just so happens that you are best friends with the chef. You have an embarrassment of riches because everything on the menu, which is fresh and delicious, organic, and mostly locally sourced, is free to you. When they do feature a special from out-of-town it is always innovative and original. Only one problem, you can only dine there once a year.