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2006 Chicago Jazz Festival
A Salute to New Orleans

2006 Chicago Jazz Festival Preview and Reviews
Grant Park
Chicago, IL
Aug. 31 - Sept. 3, 2006

Chicago Jazz Fest reviews!

Nneena Freelon
2006 Jazz Festival Review!
Complete coverage
Battle of the Big Bands!
Nicholas Payton
Tribute to Miles Davis!
John Coltrane
John Coltrane's 80th
Birthday Concert!

Story by Brad Walseth
Publicity Photos

The history of the Chicago Jazz Fest began in 1974 when an annual concert celebrating the recently deceased Duke Ellington began in Grant Park. In 1978 the Chicago Council on Arts and several musicians joined forces to present the John Coltrane Memorial Concert, and when the following year, the Jazz Institute proposed yet a third jazz concert, the Mayor's Office for Special Events proposed that the three events combine to form the most extensive free jazz festival in the world. This year's festival once again honors visionary saxophonist John Coltrane, along with a tribute to chameleonic trumpet icon Miles Davis, as well as a closing day celebration in honor of Chicago's sister city in the creation of jazz to the south - hurricane ravaged New Orleans. Add in performances by veterans and rising stars alike and events at clubs and venues throughout the city and you have the makings of a jazz lover's paradise.

The festival begins unofficially with a free concert Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavillion. The final concert in the Chicago Cultural Center's "Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz" series, this event will feature theKurt Elling Chicago Jazz Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra recreating the historic big band battle of 1961 between Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Tuesday, the Cultural Center offers a rare live recording session by Ken Vandermark and Free Fall 12:15 at the Claudia Cassidy Theater. Later at 8p.m. in the Harris Theater, The Nicholas Payton Sextet will present "Still Miles Ahead: A Tribute to the Legacy of Miles Davis" where the group will unveil a piece commisioned by them and play some old favorites.

Thursdays concert at Symphony Center officially kicks off the Jazz Fest with "John Coltrane 80th Anniversary: Ballads and Brass" featuring the Joshua Redman Quartet, vocalist Kurt Elling and saxman Ari Brown. No doubt the glitterati will be out in fill force for that one. One anticipated highlight of the evening is the recreation of the landmark "Africa/Brass Sessions" album live in the marvelous Symphony Center acoustics.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday present a wide range of jazz styles ranging from avantNichole Mitchell garde players like flautist Nichole Mitchell to traditional players like the Rebirth Brass Band. Up and coming jazz lights like drummer Dana Hall and the Latin flavored group Chevere mix freely with veterans like trumpet ace Bobby Lewis and Milwaukee's pride, Bunky Green. Joe Lovano's Nonet revisits Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" Saturday night, while Lee Konitz's Nonet lights up the stage Sunday night. Meanwhile, Chicago's own Earma Thompson - former house pianist at the infamous Cotton Club still delights crowds while tinkling the ivories, while relative youngster - 8-string guitar virtusoso Charlie Hunter Joshua Redman should represent the younger generation well in a much anticipated show with trombone master Ray Anderson Friday night. Chicago south side piano legend Willie Pickens celebrates his 75th birthday with a few thousand of his closest friends Sunday night, while on Friday Africa Brass and Billy Hunter will perform what should be a moving and spirited tribute to their late leader Malachi Thompson.

Beautiful songbird Nnenna Freelon will dazzle the listeners with her incredible voice, while those with an inclination for reeds will thrill to Donald Harrison, Bunky Green, Ed Wilkerson Jr., and the aforementioned Blake, Konitz and Lovano. Piano lovers will surely enjoy the many artists in display from Jason Moran and Ben Lewis to Ken Chaney, and the percussion minded will tap their toes to Paul Wertico and Dana Hall. Lee KonitzJazz organ fans will find that their favorite instrument will be very much in display. "Organissimo" appears Friday afternoon, while the Joey Francesco Trio welcome special guest Dr. Lonnie Smith for what should be a truly "organ"-ic experience.

A tribute to Chicago activist and singer/ songwriter Oscar Brown Jr. by his daughters Africa and Maggie Brown Saturday should be compelling, and storyteller/ jazz historian John Watson will present "A History of Jazz," and of course finally it is the Windy City's celebration of the Crescent City - New Orleans, that is the centerpiece of this year's jazz fest. The close relationship between the two cities in the development of jazz is well documented within the African American move from the deep south to Chicago which birthed the sound we call jazz today. This relationship continues even today, as in the example of the group "Lucky 7s" whose membership consists of both New Orleans and Chicago musicians, and in the "Crescent City/Windy City Jam" Sunday with trumpeters from both cities in Maurice Brown and Corey Wilkes. In the end, it is with the sincere hope that New Orleans will emerge from the recent devastation brought about by Hurricane Katrina to again be a world class city that is the theme of the Chicago Jazz Fest of 2006.

Check out great Chicago jazz happenings at
Nnenna Freelon
Nnenna Freelon
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano

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