Chicago Jazz Fest Tickles And Delights
September 7th, 2010 No Comments »
Most people celebrate Labor Day with one final beach outing or barbeque. But for the past 30 years, Chicago natives have been marking the end of summer with a lakefront music festival. The Chicago Jazz Festival always strives to bring audiences a wide range of jazz styles, and this year was no different. The 32nd annual event was expanded to three locations over several days and showcased an eclectic bill of artists.
Concerts were not only featured in Grant Park, but also in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Since these venues are all within walking distance of one another, jazz lovers had many options to choose from.
The Jazzville, NJ crew chose to stick it out at Grant Park on September 4 & 5 which had all-day performances across numerous stages. We only made it to the late afternoon/ evening acts (tourist attractions took up the majority of our time- hey, how many chances do you get to visit the Windy City?) but what we did see was quite impressive.
Chuchito Valdes’ Afro-Cuban Ensemble took the Petrillo Music Shell stage on Saturday. With the sun shining down, warming our bodies, and cha-cha and mambo-infused jazz rhythms floating through the air, it felt as though we had been transplanted to Havana. With his Chicago-based band accompanying him, Valdes had everyone in the crowd dancing in their seats to the Latin beats.
Listen to a clip of Chuchito Valdes & his Afro-Cuban Ensemble at the festival:
Following them was the Rene Marie “High Maintenance” Quartet. As the first notes to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” floated through the air, most people probably wondered if Ms. Marie had signed up for the wrong festival. But pretty soon she had everyone mesmerized, especially when she transitioned into The Temptations classic, “Just My Imagination.” Her sweet, yet seductive vocals allowed us to “run away with her” for the rest of the set.
Listen to a clip of Rene Marie & her High Maintenance Quartet performing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”:
We then followed the roar of the crowd to the Jazz and Heritage Stage where we came across Corey Wilkes with Black Slang. Recognized by Downbeat Magazine as one of the nation’s “rising star trumpeters,” Wilkes and his bandmates had everyone jamming to a repertoire of R&B, funk, hip-hop, and of course jazz. It was certainly a groovy way to end the night.
Sunday afternoon, the Brad Mehldau Trio was first up on the Petrillo Music Shell stage. Along with members Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, proved why he is “the most lionized pianist of his generation.” The group opened their set with another jazz-infused version of a rock hit. This time, it was Alice in Chains’ “Got Me Wrong.” His pure and lyrical ballads provided the perfect soundtrack for those of us who were lounging on the grass staring up at the beautiful blue sky. Sharp-eyed readers will recognize Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard as two-thirds of the group “Fly” which I mentioned in Part 5 of my 6 post series on Jazzville, NJ’s visit to the Newport Jazz Festival)
Quickly bringing us out of this meditative state were Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls and their avant-garde post-bop. The Chicago based drummer and his band blended afro-pop, funk, reggae, ska and hip-hop along with jazz, creating a sound that puts as much distance between them and tradition as possible. Perhaps not as popular with the older crowd, Sirota and the Rebel Souls definitely grabbed our attention with their infectious rhythms and arresting solos.
It’s too bad, though, that at this point we started feeling rain drops. Running for cover, we left the Chicago Jazz Festival behind (insert sad emoticon here). We certainly didn’t get a chance to see everything, but the performances we did attend were definitely unique and amazing in their own right. Thanks Chicago for treating us well!