Every year, the headlines leading up to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival seem to be the same: bigger, better, grander than the last year. It’d be easy to chalk it up to hyperbole, were it not actually true.
In addition to featuring a broader spread of local jazz talents—innovative improvisers like Mike Reed alongside stalwarts like Corey Wilkes and the effervescent Dee Alexander—the Hyde Park Jazz Festival boasts several more events that emphasize the 'festival' aspect of the two-day affair.
Here are some highlights, chosen with the help of the festival's executive director, Kate Dumbleton:
Last year, for the first time in the festival’s seven year history, organizers rolled out a dance floor on the Midway. But as Dumbleton found out, “Having a jazz DJ for dance is a little tricky.” So she's brought on former-punk-rock-frontman-turned-DJ Damon Locks to man the dance floor this year. “What I love about Damon is that he is so broadly knowledgeable about music. He’ll play records with an understanding of the trajectory of jazz. It keeps people moving.”
Saturday, September 28, West Side at the Main Stage on Midway Plaisance, 731 E 60th St.
Sun Ra panel + DownBeat Magazine
In lieu of short films this year, festivalgoers can attend a panel on seminal jazz composer and philosopher Sun Ra. They can also watch the Reader’s Peter Margasak quiz guitarist Jeff Parker on his jazz knowledge in a blindfold test. Dumbleton explains the rationale behind these two new features: “Sun Ra’s an incredible artist who spent a lot of time on the South Side and DownBeat has been asking these musicians stump the expert questions for a while now. I’ve been wanting to do it with Jeff Parker more than anyone, he’s an encyclopedia.”
Sun Ra: Saturday, September 28, 1–2pm.
Downbeat: Saturday, September 28, 4:15pm Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St.
Anat Cohen and Douglas Lora
Israeli reedist and Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora close Saturday with a duet at the Rockefeller Chapel. “The Rockefeller Chapel is my challenge every year," says Dumbleton. "It seats 1,400 people and it’s meant to be a peak performance, but at the same time it’s really challenging acoustically. Last year trumpeter Miguel Zenon was tasked with the charge. “Anat is equally skilled at thinking through environments and space.” says Dumbleton.
Saturday, September 28, 11–midnight. Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S Woodlawn Ave.
New this year, attendees can share their memories of listening to live jazz in Hyde Park and other South Side neighborhoods in a booth on the Midway. “You sign up to tell whatever story you want about a jazz or cultural experience on the South Side,” says Dumbleton. “[It’s] an idea that came out of some thinking I’d been doing with my students at the Art Institute. I would talk to [members of] the Hyde Park Jazz Society and kept thinking, why don't we try documenting this?"
Saturday, September 28, Midway Plaisance, 731 E 60th St.
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from Saturday, September 28 to Sunday, September 29.