Hyde Park Jazz Festival review: Animating a neighborhood
by Howard Reich
7:35 p.m. — Mike Reed’s “The City Was Yellow: The Chicago Suite.” Everyone knows that Chicago has been a font of jazz creativity for roughly a century, but Chicago drummer Reed dramatically underscores the point with the Chicago premiere of this still-evolving suite. Built on tunes written by Chicago composers between 1980 and 2010, “The Chicago Suite” attests to the expressive breadth of work this city’s composers have penned in recent times. The suite opens gently, with vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz’s “Rose Garden,” which Reed aptly describes as a lullaby. Saxophonist Geof Bradfield’s “Nairobi Transit” yields bristling, front-line counterpoint from the septet’s horns and one of the evening’s several all-over-the-keys solos from pianist Angelo Hart. Elsewhere there’s Thelonious Monk-influenced, late-night romanticism from Jeff Parker’s “Four in the Evening”; deep-blues expression in Reed’s “Afterthoughts”; a series of rotating and oft-ferocious solos in Nicole Mitchell’s “Navigator”; and ebullient dance music graced with the spirit of the jazz avant-grade in “The Big Dig” by Edward Wilkerson Jr. Reed’s septet dispatches all this music with as much technical acuity as depth of feeling. Of special note: striking work from Hunter Diamond on clarinet, intricate phraseology from Rajiv Halim on alto saxophone and pervasive lyricism from Quentin Coaxum on trumpet, with Reed, of course, driving it all.
9:31 p.m. — Miguel de la Cerna. Listeners are so accustomed to hearing pianist de la Cerna accompanying one of the city’s most accomplished jazz singers, Dee Alexander, that it’s easy to forget how fully he can occupy a spotlight of his own. From the outset of his performance, at the University of Chicago’s International House, he reminds the audience of his strengths as both pianist and bandleader, his solos immense in scale, his music sometimes flirting with pop-tinged sensibility. De la Cerna inspires expansive soliloquies from saxophonist Irvin Pierce and bassist Junius Paul; both, like drummer Makaya McCraven, represent a younger generation than de la Cerna, all clearly taking their lead from the pianist. Pierce, especially, comes on strong, as in an a cappella solo as charismatic as it is cohesive.