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Hyde Park Jazz Festival: Five Events to Look Forward To

Live jazz at the Robie House, and Willie Pickens and Ari Brown representing five decades of Chicago jazz in back-to-back sets highlight this fall’s showcase.

PHOTOGRAPH: COURTESY OF WILLIE PICKENS

In just six short years, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has developed into a near-perfect marriage of music and setting. The sprawling, mostly local lineup that unfolds in a wide array of disparate and interesting venues across the South Side neighborhood over two full (and free) fall days. It’s a scene that gets a little better (if a little more crowded) with each passing edition, and this year’s just-released artist roster should booster that upward trajectory. While the Fest doesn’t kick off until September 28 and 29, here are a few things to get excited about early:

Willie Pickens and Ari Brown

Between them, the pianist Willie Pickens (pictured above) and the saxophonist Ari Brown pretty much encapsulate the sound and spirit of the last five decades of jazz in Chicago. On September 28, listeners can hear them in back-to-back afternoon sets at the DuSable Museum.

Dana Hall, Frank Rosaly, Mike Reed

Is this the year of the drummer? Local percussion luminaries Dana Hall, Frank Rosaly, Mike Reed and Makaya McCraven each take a turn fronting groups at this year’s event.

The Logan Center for the Arts

This year marks the debut of the University of Chicago’s outstanding new Logan Center for the Arts as yet another festival space (with sets scheduled for both the Performance Hall and the Penthouse) and the inaugural lineup should break it in nicely, with the supremely gifted New York pianist Gerald Clayton and the Chicago innovator Ken Vandermark among those set to christen the new digs.

The Robie House

As neighborhood venues go, for sheer novelty and beauty it’s hard to top live jazz at Robie House (it’s also extremely hard to get in; show up early). This year’s Robie artist, AACM veteran Douglas Ewart, is perhaps an ideal match of player and space, a musician whose self-sculpted instruments satisfy both form and function.

Anat Cohen and Douglas Lora

One of the undisputed highlights of last year’s festival was the alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon’s bold late-night solo set in Rockefeller Chapel. This year’s Saturday night special will be hard-pressed to match that memorable moment, but there’s little doubt that the duo of Anat Cohen on clarinet and Douglas Lora on guitar will be worthy of the challenge.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1:30pm to midnight on Saturday, September 28 in venues throughout the neighborhood, and from 1:00pm to 6:30pm on Sunday, September 29 on two stages at the Midway Plaisance. Visit hydeparkjazzfestival.com for a complete schedule and more information.

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