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Who to See at the Chicago Jazz Festival

Here’s a pocket guide to three acts to catch at the Labor Day weekend event. Bonus: Five minutes with Willie Pickens, the piano legend who will close the fest.

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Five Minutes with Willie Pickens

The celebrated pianist closes out the Jazz Fest on September 1 at 8:45 p.m.

Willie Pickens

Photo: William Deshazer/Chicago Tribune

What is your most memorable performance?
In 1974, before it even was called the Chicago Jazz Festival, we did a Duke Ellington tribute. It was me and Judy Roberts, Marian McPartland, and Jodie Christian taking turns playing duets on two pianos.

Who are your favorite musicians to play with?
Donald Harrison is one. I’ve played with him on a number of occasions. He’s just such a force and he brings that real New Orleans sound. Some of the younger
guys like Nicholas Payton and Ed Petersen [were also great]. Of course, legends like Clark Terry and Elvin Jones really stand out too.

Where else can we see you play?
Every Friday I play in the courtyard on 55th and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park. I’m also playing the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in September and I’ll be at Green Mill on November 29 and 30 with [my] quintet.


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