The 39th annual Chicago Jazz Festival announces centennial celebrations for Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is pleased to announce the headlining performers for the 39th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival. A favorite Labor Day weekend tradition over August 31–September 3 in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.), the festival showcases four stages of free live performances by Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside the greatest jazz artists from around the world.
Festival highlights include centennial celebrations of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Ella Fitzgerald in Millennium Park at the Jay Priztker Pavilion along with headliners: Donny McCaslin Group, Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio, Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom, Dr. Michael White Quartet, the Rebirth Brass Band and many more. The FREE admission Chicago Jazz Festival is produced by DCASE and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC).
The year 1917 saw the birth of three jazz legends who will be honored at the Chicago Jazz Festival with Centennial Celebrations: Opening night, August 31, will feature the music of Dizzy Gillespie, who appeared at the festival in 1980, 1984 and 1989. Gillespie’s tribute will feature his protégé Jon Faddis (pictured above) and the Chicago Jazz Festival Big Band featuring Chicago musicians and special guest artists Jimmy Heath, Ignacio Berrora, Antonio Hart and Todd Coolman. The tribute to Thelonious Monk on Friday, September 1, will include a surprise headliner to be announced in June. On Saturday, September 2, Ellabration! 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald will feature the Brad Williams Trio, Sheila Jordan, Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, Spider Saloff and Paul Mariano. Ella performed at the festival in 1981.
Thursday, August 31, will also showcase world-renowned, Chicago-born guitarist George Freeman with a 90th Birthday Celebration performance. Performing at the Chicago Jazz Festival since 1978, Freeman has played with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Lester Young, Johnny Griffin, Richard Holmes Shirley Scott and his brother Von Freeman. The evening will close with Dizzy Gillespie’s Centennial Celebration.
On Friday, September 1, before the special Thelonious Monk Tribute, master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith, will make his fourth appearance at the festival. Saxophonist and composer Donny McCaslin will appear with his band – keyboardist Jason Lindner, drummer Mark Guiliana and bassist Tim Lefebve. They are collaborators on David Bowie’s Grammy® Award-winning album Blackstar and have been touring the world in support of McCaslin’s latest album Beyond Now.
On Saturday, September 2, the Dr. Michael White Quartet will perform ahead of the Ella Fitzgerald Tribute. Widely regarded as one of the leading authorities and culture bearers of traditional New Orleans jazz music, Dr. White is an accomplished, multi-faceted clarinetist, bandleader, composer, musicologist, jazz historian and educator. Following, BassDrumBone, a trio of Chicago natives – trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemmingway is drummer and composer Allison Miller, whose band Boom Tic Boom has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “a razor-sharp precision that recalls classic drummer-led ensembles of 50 years ago.”
On Sunday, September 3, iconoclastic saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell and his Quartets celebrate 50 years of Nessa Records. One of the key figures in avant-garde jazz and co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Mitchell will be joined by Alvin Fielder on drums, Fred Berry on trumpet and Junius Paul on bass, and the second quartet of will feature Junius Paul once again, along with cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Vincent Davis.
Charlie Parker often introduced jazz pioneer Sheila Jordan as “the singer with the million dollar ears.” Jordan has “absorbed bebop from the source, but she’s also a committed modernist whose style has evolved with the ensuing decades,” writes the New Yorker. She’ll be joined by longtime collaborator, pianist Steve Kuhn and his Trio.
Drummer and imaginative jazz spirit Matt Wilson welcomes his new combo, Honey and Salt, a celebration of the American poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). Wilson, like Sandburg, hails originally from Knox County, Illinois and for many years has composed music inspired by the poet’s work. The festival will close with the New Orleans institution, Rebirth Brass Band (pictured below), a long-running group at the forefront of the brass band revival.
The Chicago Jazz Festival is sponsored in part by American Airlines, Chicago Jazz Magazine, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Tribune, CLTV-ChicagoLand’s Television, Communications Direct, Downbeat Magazine, Stella Artois and WGN-TV.
Admission to the Chicago Jazz Festival is free, and hours for Thursday, August 31, are noon–4:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center and 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. in Millennium Park. On Friday, September 1, through Sunday, September 3, the festival will be in Millennium Park, 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. For the latest information on the Chicago Jazz Festival, visit chicagojazzfestival.us, like us on Facebook at Chicago Jazz Festival and follow us on Twitter (@ChicagoDCASE, @ChiJazzFest, #ChicagoJazzFest). For information on the Jazz institute of Chicago, visit jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest.
Millennium Park – Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Thursday, August 31
6:30–7:30 p.m. George Freeman 90th Birthday Celebration
8–9:00 p.m. Dizzy Gillespie’s Centennial Celebration with Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Festival Big Band
Friday, September 1
5–5:50 p.m. Dana Hall’s Spring
6–6:55 p.m. Donny McCaslin Group
7:10–8:10 p.m. Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio
8:30–9:30 p.m. Thelonious Monk Tribute
Saturday, September 2
5–5:50 p.m. Dr. Michael White Quartet
6–6:55 p.m. BassDrumBone
7:10–8:10 p.m. Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom
8:30–9:30 p.m. Ellabration! 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald featuring the Brad Williams Trio, Sheila Jordan, Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, Spider Saloff & Paul Mariano
Sunday, September 3
5–5:50 p.m. Roscoe Mitchell’s Quartets Celebrating 50 years of Nessa Records
6–6:55 p.m. Sheila Jordan featuring the Steve Kuhn's Trio
7:10–8:10 p.m. Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt
8:30–9:30 p.m. Rebirth Brass Band