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Symphony Center Presents Jazz Series announces 2020-21 season

May 6th, 2020

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) announces the 2020/21 Symphony Center Presents (SCP) Jazz series programming. Despite the uncertain times facing the performing arts and our community, and with an acknowledgement that some of these plans may need to change, the CSOA is pleased to continue its commitment to presenting some of today’s most acclaimed and innovative jazz artists with the 27th season of Symphony Center's jazz series. WDCB is again proud to serve as a media sponsor for the Symphony Center Presents Jazz Series.


Highlights of the 2020/21 series include the return of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis for a two-concert residency, programs celebrating the centennial of the birth of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, A MoodSwing Reunion featuring Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, as well as the return of several acclaimed artists including six NEA Jazz Masters.


In addition to those programs, the 2020/21 season offers a variety of music and projects. In October, the series welcomes two percussionists with Chicago roots—Jack DeJohnette and Thaddeus Tukes—in a program that is a part of the Year of Chicago Music, a citywide, yearlong focus on music designated by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). In April, two programs feature a couple of today’s leading women in jazz—vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant with her fresh interpretations of jazz standards and Maria Schneider and her orchestra performing her latest work, Data Lords. Additionally, both Dave Holland and Danilo Pérez have developed programs exclusively for the SCP Jazz series that showcase each of these artists with multiple ensembles.


Program details for each of the 10 concerts in the 2020/21 SCP Jazz series follow. All SCP Jazz series concerts in the 2020/21 season take place on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. at Symphony Center in Chicago unless noted otherwise.


The 2020/21 season of the SCP Jazz series opens on Wednesday, September 30, at 8:00 p.m., with A MoodSwing Reunion, a program featuring saxophonist Joshua Redman with members of his first established quartet—pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. In 1994, this quartet of young musicians released its hit album MoodSwing, and subsequently each of these band members have gone on to earn critical acclaim for their individual projects and other collaborations. While their musical interests have taken them in a variety of directions ranging from electric bands, big bands, chamber orchestras and folk ensembles over the past 25 years, this reunion brings together their myriad experiences for a program that showcases their talents and openness to new ideas.


The series continues on Friday, October 30, at 8:00 p.m., with a concert that celebrates two Chicago percussionists and is a part of the Year of Chicago Music—a citywide, yearlong focus on music designated by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). With a career spanning five decades, drummer and NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette returns to his hometown with John Coltrane’s saxophonist son Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matthew Garrison, the son of John Coltrane’s quartet bassist, Jimmy Garrison. While this trio explores a connection to their jazz legacy, their compositions and improvisations are contemporary and feature DeJohnette’s driving rhythms, Coltrane’s lyric solos and Garrison’s lean and punctuating bass lines.

The October 30 concert opens with the Thaddeus Tukes Quintet in their SCP Jazz series debut. Vibraphonist, Chicago native and alumnus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s Percussion Scholarship Program, Tukes is a rising star on the jazz scene and is known for his blues-based tunes and fluid approach.


On Friday, November 20, at 8:00 p.m., the Brubeck Brothers Quartet celebrates the centennial of the birth of jazz icon Dave Brubeck, whose 1959 Take Five was the first jazz album to sell one million copies. The sons of the legendary jazz pianist and composer of popular jazz songs including “Blue Rondo A La Turk,” Chris and Dan Brubeck first started performing with their father as teens before forging their own musical paths—Chris in symphonic, band, chamber and jazz music composition and trombone and bass performance, and Dan as a drummer in his electric jazz group, The Dolphins. The brothers lead their quartet, which includes pianist Chuck Lamb and guitarist Mike DiMicco, and special guests Catherine Russell on vocals, Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 organ and Chicago native Chico Freeman on tenor saxophone, in a program created exclusively for the SCP Jazz series that includes new arrangements of the jazz standards their father crafted along with a multimedia presentation.


The SCP Jazz series continues on Friday, January 29, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., with the return of innovative jazz trio The Bad Plus, featuring special guest guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Since their inception in 2000, The Bad Plus has brought their genre-defying sound that melds rock, pop, modern jazz and classical influences to a diverse repertoire that ranges from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. For this program, the group—which features band founders Reid Anderson on bass and David King on drums with 2018 addition Orrin Evans on piano—invites like-minded guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, whose angular improvisation is tempered by a shimmering, crystalline tone and a fluidly lyrical approach to his instrument.

The January 29 concert opens with the SCP Jazz series debut of Rogue Parade, led by alto saxophonist Greg Ward, performing music from their 2019 album, Stomping Off From Greenwood. A quintet of heavyweight creative Chicago musicians, Rogue Parade features guitarists Matt Gold and Dave Miller, bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Quin Kirchner to create a sound that blends beat-driven improvisation and rock energy.


Ten-time Grammy Award-winner and 2020 NEA Jazz Master Bobby McFerrin brings his engaging performance style to the SCP Jazz series on Friday, February 12, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. With a four-octave vocal range and matchless improvisational skills, McFerrin has redefined the role of the human voice. Drawing on genres ranging from classical, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop and world music, he has explored unconventional ideas and projects including his 1988 a cappella pop hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” in which he dubbed his voice over eight tracks with no other instruments or accompanists.


The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), led by its dynamic bandleader and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, returns to the SCP Jazz series for a performance on Friday, March 12, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. Arguably one of today’s greatest jazz bands, the 15-member Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra consists of the finest soloists, ensemble players and arrangers performing now. Their SCP Jazz series program, titled “Voices of Freedom: Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone,” is directed by JLCO trombonist Chris Crenshaw and features new big band arrangements of essential works by some of the 20th century’s most powerful female singers and songwriters. Special guest vocalists Melanie Charles, Shenel Johns and Ashley Pezzotti join the JLCO for songs written and made famous by Betty Carter, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone.


In addition to their SCP Jazz series concert, this JLCO residency includes educational activities, as well as an SCP Special Concert celebrating the centennial of the births of pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Charlie Parker on Thursday, March 11, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. This tribute program features original arrangements of classic selections by jazz icons Charlie Parker, who pioneered the bebop style, and Dave Brubeck, whose “Take Five” remains the biggest jazz single in history.


The concert on Friday, April 16, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., features three-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. After her 2010 win at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocalist Competition, McLorin Salvant quickly established herself as a jazz artist worthy of acclaim. In addition to her wide range and unwavering pitch control, she is regarded for her compelling, sincere storytelling armed with wit and gravitas in equal measure. Her SCP jazz series program includes a set of original compositions, as well as jazz standards reinvigorated by her clever interpretations.


On Friday, April 23, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., composer, Grammy Award-winner and NEA Jazz Master Maria Schneider and her 18-piece jazz orchestra present Data Lords, the bandleader’s latest project, which will be released as a double album on June 5. Inspired by conflicting relationships between the digital and natural worlds, Data Lords is Schneider’s musical response to the impact that the data-driven digital world has on humanity. Melding jazz and classical ideas in new ways, Schneider has composed music that includes rhythms that spell out Morse code messages like power, greed, SOS and CQ (is anybody there?), as well as bright timbres and rising harmonies that evoke the rising sun.


Bassist and NEA Jazz Master Dave Holland headlines the program on Friday, May 21, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. The first half of the concert features Holland in a set with pianist and fellow NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron, a duo that has been trading riffs seamlessly for more than three decades. For the second half of the concert, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire join Holland for a dynamic, high-energy performance showcasing the technical capabilities and driving elegance of this trio of jazz heavyweights.


The 2020/21 SCP Jazz series comes to a close on Friday, June 11, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., with a concert led by pianist and composer Danilo Pérez. For the first half, Pérez brings his international chamber group Global Messengers for a performance of his latest work, Fronteras, which received its premiere in summer 2019 at the Detroit Jazz Festival. This new, three- movement work traces short stories about migration and demonstrates the practice of building community through music. For the second half of the concert, Pérez brings his trio Children of the Light, with longtime collaborators from their days in Wayne Shorter’s quartet—bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. This program highlights the intuitive give and take in improvisation with the combined layers of strings, drums and rhythmically charged piano playing.


More details are available online:  CSO.org

Artists, programs and prices are subject to change.