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Chicago Jazz Festival to celebrate legendary artists, newcomers

By Kyle MacMillan | For the Sun-Times

In 1960s Chicago, it wasn’t hard to find venues for straight-ahead jazz and blues. But musicians itching to do something more daring realized they would have to organize their own concerts, and that led to the establishment of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL

When: Noon to 9:30 p.m., through Sept. 6

Where: Three stages, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph

Tickets: Free

Info: chicagojazzfestival.us

The 37th-annual edition of the Chicago Jazz Festival will mark the 50th anniversary of that hugely influential collective with a grand finale reunion at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in Pritzker Pavilion of the Experimental Band, one of earliest and best-known groups associated with it.

Among the musicians featured will be three of the association’s now celebrated founding members –– pianist and bandleader Muhal Richard Abrams, alto-saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and flutist and saxophonist Henry Threadgill. All three were featured on famed drummer Jack de Johnette’s “Made in Chicago,” an ECM recording released in March.

The free festival, which runs through Sunday in Millennium Park, will showcase dozens of other musicians as well –– veterans and up-and-comers from across Chicagoland and as far away as Cuba and Brazil. Here’s a look at 10 of the must-hear events:

Friday

— Art Hoyle Sextet, 2 p.m., Jazz & Heritage Pavilion: The veteran Chicago trumpeter toured with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1957-60 and has been a featured soloist with such jazz notables as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Joe Williams. He and his sextet pay tribute to Clark Terry, a celebrated swing and bebop trumpeter who died in February.

— Craig Taborn Trio, 3:30 p.m., Von Freeman Pavilion: The trio has performed together for eight years, with pianist Craig Taborn’s ties to bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver going back even further. The threesome is known for tight improvisations that modulate between density and spaciousness.

— José James, 6 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion:The hip hop-influenced vocalist celebrates the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth with selections from his sixth album, “Yesterday I Had the Blues,” a tribute to the legendary jazz singer.

— Fred Hersch Trio, 7:10 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion: The concert takes place on the same day as the release of the pianist’s 10th solo recording, “Fred Hersch Solo,” in which he offers stylish treatments of works by such tunesmiths as Antônio Carlos Jobim and Joni Mitchell. His festival appearance with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson comes just a few weeks before the threesome’s weeklong run at New York’s Village Vanguard.

–Chicago Jazz Orchestra, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Pritzker Pavilion: The festival marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Strayhorn, a composer and arranger who is best known for his nearly three-decade collaboration with Duke Ellington. Under the direction of Jeff Lindberg, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra will perform versions of some of Strayhorn’s best-known songs by such arrangers as Steven Bernstein and Gordon Goodwin.

Saturday

— Jason Roebke Octet, 3:30 p.m., Jazz & Heritage Pavilion: The Wisconsin native moved to Chicago in 1999 and quickly established himself as one of city’s most adventurous bassists and a first-rate collaborator. In March 2014, his octet of top Chicago musicians, released their first album on the Delmark Records label – “High/Red/Center.”

— Mark Turner Quartet, 7:10 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion: Mark Turner fronted his first quartet album, “Lathe of Heaven,” on the ECM label in September. National Public Radio jazz critic Kevin Whitehead said that Turner sacrifices big emotive gestures on the release, preferring “slinky melodies” and the slow accumulation of moody details.

— Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, 8:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion: The Grammy Award-winning jazz singer’s considerable fame was only enhanced when she took over as host of National Public Radio’s recently ended live-performance program, JazzSet, in 2001. She first came to national attention in in the early 1970s, when she joined the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra as its lead vocalist.

Cyrille Aimee is on tap Sunday night at the Chicago Jazz Festival. | SUPPLIED PHOTO
Cyrille Aimee is on tap Sunday night at the Chicago Jazz Festival. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Sunday

— Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, 6 p.m. Pritzker Pavilion: Ever since Burnett released her ground-breaking 1993 album, “Spirits of Havana,” the Canadian flutist and soprano saxophonist has continued to mine the riches of Afro-Cuban music. She is currently touring with Maqueque, an all-female sextet of blazingly talented young Cuban singers and musicians.

— Cyrille Aimeé, 7:10 p.m. Pritzker Pavilion: The French-born chanteuse, who fell in love with gypsy music as a child, breezes easily across a mix of Gallic, Latin-American and American jazz styles. She will be joined by guitarists Michael Valeanu and Adrien Moignard, bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Dani Danor.

Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.