Veteran Percussionist Hamid Drake’s Plans for the Chicago Jazz Festival

The festival’s artist-in-residence tells why this weekend’s event is so important to him—and who he wants to see perform.

Jim Newberry

Hamid Drake is the Chicago Jazz Festival’s artist-in-residence. 

Veteran percussionist Hamid Drake is no stranger to the Chicago Jazz Festival, having played the Labor Day celebration many times before. But as this year’s artist-in-residence, his weekend is particularly hectic. Fortunately, he was free for a quick conversation—albeit one that was wedged between a return trip from Austria and the craziness of the upcoming weekend (he’s performing all four nights).

 

What’s different about playing jazz in Chicago as opposed to other parts of the world?

Well, most importantly I’m playing at home, which is always nice. I go to Europe just about every month, so I don’t get to play at home as often as I’d like. When I do it’s always such a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and play at the places I know so well.

 

What does it mean to you to be selected as artist-in-residence for this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival? It came as a surprise, actually, but it’s such a wonderful honor. Chicago has been such a great source of teaching and inspiration for me, so I see this as a small way to give back to the city that has culturally given me so much. There are so many great artists that they could have selected, so I’m just very happy and humbled by it.

 

Of your many gigs this weekend, is there any one performance that you’re especially looking forward to?

It would be hard to pick one over the others because each one focuses on such a different avenue of my musical interests. I’m playing with Taiko drummers, which reflects my interest in world music, and then I’ve got a set with Bindu which is part of my longtime interest in the intersection of reggae and improvisation. The quartet gig gives me an opportunity to play with some of my mentors from all over the country, and the Chicago Trio is just getting together with a couple of longtime collaborators and friends who have that connection back to Fred Anderson and the Velvet Lounge.

 

Is there anyone on this year’s schedule that you’re not playing with but you hope to check out if you get the chance?

I’d like to catch Jack DeJohnette. He’s one of my favorite drummers and the band he has lined up is fantastic. I’d also like to hear Wadada Leo Smith, who’s a friend of mine, and some friends from Scandinavia in Atomic. Donald Harrison is also great. There’s so much that looks interesting, but I just won’t be able to see it all.

 

Do you have any definite after-Fest plans lined up?

I’ll probably go to a few places like Constellation to just listen and see some friends, but my playing will be minimal. I leave on the third for Canada, so I’d rather use my after-Fest time to relax and reflect and hopefully hear something inspiring from someone else.

 

Hamid Drake’s appearances at the Chicago Jazz Festival include the following performances:

  • Thursday, August 29 at 5:00pm at Ganz Hall at Roosevelt University, 430 S Michigan, with the Chicago Trio, featuring Ernest Dawkins and Harrison Bankhead.
  • Friday, August 30 at 3:30pm at the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion in Millennium Park with Michael Zerang, Eigen Aoki and the Tsukasa Taiko Drummers.
  • Saturday, August 31 at 1:10pm at the Von Freeman Pavilion in Millennium Park with the Hamid Drake Quartet, featuring Kidd Jordan, William Parker and Cooper-Moore.
  • Sunday, September 1 at 6:10pm at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park with Bindu, a reggae-focused performance featuring Jeb Bishop, Jeff Albert, Jason Adaciewicz, Jeff Parker, Joshua Abrams and Napoleon Maddox.

All performances are FREE. 

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