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Chicago Jazz Festival: 7 weekend acts to see

Pianist Matthew Shipp will perform with the Ivo Perlman Quartet on Saturday at the Chicago Jazz Festival. | MICHAEL JACKSON/FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Despite the strong bill of out-of-towners for this 40th anniversary Chicago Jazz Festival, the lion’s share of must-see groups are local. Why? Because quite simply the city is teeming with world-class creative musicians.


12:40-1:35 p.m. Millennium Park, Von Freeman Pavilion (Chase Promenade South)

Drummer Quin Kirchner, better known as longhaired anchorman with indie favorites Wild Belle, is in heavy demand as sideman with a who’s who of Chicago’s cutting edge. The core quintet of his first leader project, including tenorist Nate Lepine and trombonist Nick Broste, will be augmented with altoist Nick Mazarella and pianist Rob Clearfield. Don’t miss the moment they all bell-chime the intro To Kirchner’s “Together We Can Explore the Furthest Beyond” from the recent double vinyl “The Other Side of Time.”


Ramsey Lewis headed to Chicago Jazz Festival, contemplating retirement

Sabertooth Organ Quartet 25th Anniversary, 5:25-6:15 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Actually this long-running team is celebrating its 26th year playing the midnight-to-dawn shift at the Green Mill. Barabbas-like Cameron Pfiffner, replete with biblical beard, will at last enjoy the light of day with the group he leads alongside storming fellow saxist Pat Mallinger, backed by drummer Ted Sirota and organist Pete Benson. They will premier originals from all members, including such freshly minted pieces as “Circle of Fans” and “The Sky Is My Favorite Color” — all under the inevitable suite title “Fangs for Listening.”

Louis Hayes Quintet: Serenade for Horace, 6:30-7:25 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Though a comparative whippersnapper to such legendary yet still busy drummers as Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb, Detroiter Hayes, now 81, has also enjoyed a storied career with such inimitables as Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson. This concert coincides with his Blue Note debut, “Serenade For Horace,” a tribute to one of his first sideman gigs in the ’50s, with Horace Silver, who’s propulsive compositions got much of their initial impetus from the energy of Hayes.



Matthew Shipp and Ivo Perlman Quartet, 1:50-2.45pm Von Freeman Pavilion (Chase Promenade South)

São Paulo-born Perlman may be the most prolific saxist you’ve never heard of, even though he released more than a dozen albums on Leo records in 2017 alone, many of them in the company of pugnacious pianist Shipp. Anticipate freeform expression allied to gorgeous lyricism.

Darcy James Argue Secret Society, 6:25-7:25 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Canadian orchestrator Argue is the Sherlock Holmes of jazz — impeccable, original and investigative. His Grammy-nominated opus “Real Enemies” was a spine-tingling examination of the politics of fear, and he ensures his 18-piece ensemble is populated by thinking musicians.


Jason Stein Quartet, 1:50-2:45 p.m. Von Freeman Pavilion (Chase Promenade South)

Bass clarinetist Stein’s half sister is comedian Amy Schumer and with his trio Locksmith Isidore, Stein has opened shows in the largest amphitheaters in the U.S., yet it hasn’t gone to his head. He remains ubiquitous on Chicago’s almost underground progressive music scene. This ensemble features (contrabass) clarinet confrere Keefe Jackson, bassist Josh Abrams and unassuming yet brilliant ex-Chicagoan Chad Taylor on drums.

Matt Ulery’s Loom Large, 4:15-5.05 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Main stage concerts start earlier for the CJF’s 40th year. Don’t be late for bassist/composer Ulery’s 17-piece which features outstanding lead altoist Corbin Andrick and the vocals of another fine bassist, Katie Ernst. Ulery is a sagacious bandleader who has sought associations with Chicago’s more intriguing musicians, including singer Grazyna Auguscik. His detailed, thoughtful music doesn’t conform to traditional big-band hard blowing; indeed he told his musicians “if you can’t hear [Geof Bradfield’s] bass clarinet, you’re playing too loud.” Among his own sweeping, widescreen originals on the recent “Festival” (Woolgathering Records) is a richly hued setting of one of the all-time great jazz ballads, Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks.”