The 2018 Hyde Park Jazz Festival celebrates tradition and innovation in its diverse bill
by Izzy Yellen
In its 12th year, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival continues to program a diverse lineup of jazz artists. Over the course of the two days, the event will showcase over 30 acts at various venues in Hyde Park while embracing countless styles, traditions, and innovations. Though there are plenty of big names on the bill—including Ravi Coltrane with Brandee Younger, Jason Moran (paying tribute to Willie Pickens and Muhal Richard Abrams), Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and Dee Alexander—the fest puts emphasis on giants in niche scenes. Two of the most eclectic, not-to-be-missed sets are an ensemble performance led by Mike Reed, “The City Was Yellow: The Chicago Suite,” and a solo set from Ben LaMar Gay. In the former Reed, a musician, composer, and arts presenter, digs into jazz, improvised music, and other genres made in Chicago between 1980 and 2010 in an effort to create a “real book” of sorts that highlights the city’s rich musical lineage. This performance, the suite’s Chicago premiere, will be played by a stacked septet of Chicago-based musicians. Gay—who draws from a pool of influences as vast as Reed’s on his debut album, spring’s Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun—will certainly stand out as a festival highlight if the quality of his performance is anything like that of his record. With his passionate singing, acoustic arrangements that float by with a little grit, and his incorporation of beats and electronics—which have a home in avant-garde jazz much as they do in hip-hop—it’s clear that Gay recognizes the importance of bringing both expected and unexpected influences into jazz.