The jazz festival tightens the focus on internationally recognized stars, but opportunity also knocks for some of Chicago’s hardworking musicians. You can hear these five swingmen at the fest or find them at their regular, and sometimes irregular, jobs.
1. Von Freeman (pictured, left). Generally regarded as the top jazz musician in Chicago, the tenor sax master holds weekly jams Tuesdays at the New Apartment Lounge (504 E. 76th St.) For the fest, he’ll be re-creating that South Side flavor with pianist John Young. Jazz on Jackson Stage, September 3rd at 3:35 p.m.
2. George Freeman. Von’s younger brother, a guitarist with a highly angular style, holds court weekly at the Tropical Den (7209 S. Exchange St.). He’ll be stiletto sharp for his Art of the Solo gig with avant-garde pianist and Southport Records owner Bradley Parker Sparrow. Petrillo Music Shell, September 2nd at 2 p.m.
3. Angel Melendez and the Mambo 911 Orchestra. This Latin jazz big band shocked the local music community when its independent release was nominated for a Grammy this year. Since then, 911 has maintained a hectic schedule playing festivals all over the country. For upcoming concert locations-besides the jazz festival: 911mamboorchestra.com. Petrillo Music Shell, September 2nd at 6 p.m.
4. Larry Gray Trio. When he’s not touring the world with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Gray (pictured, left) is usually anchored to his bass in pickup bands for the big names headlining at the Jazz Showcase. For those familiar with Gray in his supporting player role, his stint as a leader will be a revelation. Jazz on Jackson Stage, September 3rd at 2:20 p.m.
5. Eric Schneider and Friends. Schneider, frequently heard blowing his sax at Andy’s (11 E. Hubbard St.), is a veteran of the jazz scene. He’ll be paying tribute to Eddie Johnson, a sax player with a silky-smooth lyrical bebop tenor sax style that you don’t often hear today. Petrillo Music Shell, September 3rd at 5 p.m.