The Chicago Jazz Festival‘s organizers have been presenting free concerts in various spots around the city, calling the series “Neighborhood Nights.” This past Saturday, Aug. 9, the series featured the superb drummer Michael Zerang, playing in front of Logan Square’s Illinois Centennial Monument with a band called Blue Lights. This was a stellar lineup of leading jazz musicians from Chicago — reedists Mars Williams and Dave Rempis, cornetist Josh Berman and bassist Kent Kessler — and it sounded lovely in that park. The group played some original compositions, but it closed with a recognizable melody from the past, “Misirlou.”
After decades of using Grant Park’s Petrillo Bandshell as its main stage, the Chicago Jazz Festival has finally moved to a classier, better-sounding and more welcoming venue: Millennium Park. The festival, which continues throughout this weekend, officially opened yesterday (Aug. 29) with events including a concert by Jack DeJohnette in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Calling it a Jack DeJohnette concert doesn’t seem adequate, however. For this occasion, the legendary jazz drummer assembled a stellar group of well-known Chicago jazz men — pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Larry Gray and reedists Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill — billing it as “Special Legends Edition Chicago.” It was indeed special, a set of music filled with intelligent and probing solos by all five of these players, but more than just solos. This may have been an one-off performance, but this quintet thrived on interplay and collaboration.