Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass also mimicked the brass band sound, but in miniature. The trombonist brought along trumpeter Lew Soloff, sousaphonist Jose Davila and drummer Pheeroan akLaff for his spirited "Sweet Home Suite." The two hornmen ripped and snorted in unison and separately on Anderson's paean to growing up in Chicago and discovering its rich musical veins, from the free jazz of the AACM to the gospel shouts of Jesse Jackson's church.
Ahmad Jamal remains a crowd favorite, 40 years after his "Poinciana" propelled him to jazz stardom. I find his alternately tender and bombastic passages too contrived Tenor guest star George Coleman was all warmth and passion on "My Foolish Heart," until some incongruous foolish squawks at the very end.
Mal Waldron and Oliver Lake comprised another piano/tenor duet, playing together for the first time. Waldron would spin out a phrase, then vary it a bit, then re-examine it again, and again, until his playing began to resemble an exercise for jazz piano wannabes. But it's a tantalizing mode of playing. Lake, on alto, swooped and soared above Waldron's dense foundation. An effective pairing.
Jimmy Heath's animated conducting of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra was a highlight, a big band bebop extravaganza that even the preboppers in the park had to love. Heath composed all the music on the bill, including the spunky "Gingerbread Boy," written for his son, and the ballad-turns-swaggering blues in three-quarter time, "Gemini," named for his daughter.
Chuchito Valdes is the third generation of Cuban pianists, and the emcee accurately forecast "he will scorch this stage." Now settled in Chicago, the son of Chucho, grandson of Bebo, led a 10-piece band through flame-hot renditions of Latin and mainstream jazz.
The festival's final night began with the all-Chicago tenor duo of Von Freeman, about to turn 80, and Eddie Johnson, who's 82, both playing with the vigor and imagination of those half their age.
The NOW (New Orchestra Workshop) Orchestra from Vancouver fulfilled the festival's annual commitment to import at least one act from abroad, and to expose audiences to experimental music well beyond what most of us would call jazz. Composer and guest conductor was George Lewis, and his showmanship kept me glued to my seat even though much of what ensued was chaos. Ridiculous? I thought so, but then many in the park seemed enthralled. Maybe the joke is on me, stuck-in-my-ways, play-me-some-melody-harmony-rhythm and stay-in-one-key-for-awhile dinosaur that I am.
See Mark Ladenson's 2002 Chicago Jazz Festival photo exhibit .
One moment, you will be redirected shortly.