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Good News for Jazz Fans: Ahmad Jamal and Brad Mehldau Coming to Town

On Tuesday, the city announced the lineup for this year’s Made in Chicago jazz series at Millennium Park. Included on the impressive slate is an 80th birthday fete for the legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal…

Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau
Mehldau, performing with his trio in 2009 at Suntory Hall in Tokyo

 

Now, the bad news—not until September. But still.

JAZZ On Tuesday, the city announced the lineup for this year’s Made in Chicago jazz series at Millennium Park. Included on the impressive slate is an 80th birthday fete for the legendary pianist Ahmad Jamal, who found fame here at the long-departed Pershing Hotel on the South Side during the late 1950s with the release of his live trio recording But Not For Me.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Jazz Festival kicks off the weekend after Jamal’s September 2nd appearance. While the festival may have lost some girth this year in being pared down to two measly days in Grant Park—its typical opening Friday sacrificed to the city’s lingering budget crunch—the Jazz Institute of Chicago appears to at least be spending its pinched allowance on the right things, artistically speaking. A full roster of performers for the Labor Day weekend soiree is still a few weeks away (check the Jazz Institute’s news page), but, if you’re planning your late-summer jazz calendar, we can pass along early confirmation that the pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio (drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier are pictured with Mehldau in the thumbnail photo) will fill one of the slots at the Petrillo Music Shell on Sunday, September 5th.

Given the raves for his just-released double-disc Highway Rider (Nonesuch), Mehldau’s name may be popping up on critics’ best-album lists by the time the white pants are heading into storage. Teaming once again with rock producer Jon Brion—with whom he previously hooked up for 2002’s genre-bending Largo—Mehldau has crafted a lush musical travelogue that should play well here as an end-of-summer sonic road trip. And shortly after the CJF performance, he’ll be off to New York for a season-long stint in the prestigious Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall—a first for a jazz artist. 


 WHAT CRITICS HAVE SAID ABOUT MEHLDAU’S NEW ALBUM
  • The Los Angeles Times review by Chris Barton, 3/15/10:
    “Mehldau has upped the ante by teaming with saxophonist Joshua Redman and a full orchestra for a sprawling, two-disc travelogue of sorts that might be his most fully realized work yet. [FOUR STARS OUT OF FOUR]”
  • The Hartford Courant review by Owen McNally, 3/16/10:
    ”. . . the big news here is Mehldau’s vibrant, skillful orchestrations for the chamber orchestra. With its array of strings and horns, the big ensemble offers a luxurious tonal palette that this master keyboard colorist avidly and skillfully applies to his expansive new work.”
  • The New York Times profile of Mehldau by Nate Chinen, 3/14/10:
    Largo [Mehldau’s previous album] is Mr. Mehldau’s best-selling release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with 34,000 copies sold, good numbers for a jazz album. Beyond that, it’s probably the most emulated jazz release of the last decade.”

 

Photographs: Courtesy INTERNATIONAL MUSIC NETWORK; (thumbnail) Michael Wilson

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