The 35th annual Chicago Jazz Festival gets into full swing this weekend, with free shows at Millennium Park, near Randolph Drive and Michigan Avenue.
Following is a guide to some of the most promising sets, plus a listing of after-fest sessions. For more details on the festival, phone 312-744-3316 or visit chicagojazzfestival.us.
2 p.m.: Von Freeman Pavilion dedication: Chicago tenor saxophone legend Von Freeman died last summer, at age 88, but his legacy endures. His brother, guitarist George Freeman, and son, Mark Freeman will be present to dedicate one of the new stages at the Chicago Jazz Festival. At the Von Freeman Pavilion, on the South Promenade of Millennium Park, near the Cloud Gate sculpture.
2 p.m.: Mike Smith: The Chicago alto saxophonist has been playing a steady engagement at Andy's Jazz Club for more than three decades. For those who inexplicably still haven't caught him, here's a chance to hear Smith fronting his quartet. At the Jazz and Heritage Pavilion, on the North Promenade of Millennium Park, near the Cloud Gate sculpture.
3:30 p.m.: Hamid Drake: This year's artist-in-residence acknowledges the city's Asian-American jazz scene by collaborating with the Tsukasa drummers, directed by Tatsu Aoki. Jazz and Heritage Pavilion
4:40 p.m.: Miguel de la Cerna. Pianist de la Cerna has served as evocative accompanist for singer Dee Alexander and has penned ambitious, quasi-classical instrumental scores. This time he'll lead his quartet in an event presented in partnership with the Hyde Park Jazz Society. At the Von Freeman Pavilion.
5 p.m.: "A Tribute to Ken Chaney": Chicago pianist-bandleader-educator Chaney died last December at age 73, leaving a legacy of fine music and thankful students. Former Chaney collaborator T.S. Galloway will preside over big-band arrangements of Chaney compositions. Jazz and Heritage Pavilion.
6:30 p.m.: Geof Bradfield's "Melba!": The development of Chicago saxophonist Bradfield as composer of major suites has been gratifying to behold, and "Melba!" stands as his most satisfying work to date. Conceived as a tribute to pioneering trombonist-arranger Melba Liston, the opus will be performed by Bradfield with an extended ensemble that includes one of Liston's key collaborators, pianist Randy Weston. Pritzker Pavilion
7:40 p.m.: Wadada Leo Smith's "Ten Freedom Summers": If the Chicago Jazz Festival had been more enterprising, it would have arranged for a complete performance of Smith's sprawling score, which was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize in Music (I served on the jury). Fest-goers will have to settle for an hour's worth of excerpts of the piece, under Smith's direction. Pritzker Pavilion
9 p.m: Charles Lloyd: There's no mistaking the spiritual, questing underpinnings of Lloyd's music. His appearances in Chicago have been infrequent, which makes this performance a kind of corrective. He'll be joined by fellow jazz searcher Bill Frisell. Pritzker Pavilion
11:30 a.m.: Whitney Young Magnet High School Jazz Combo: The Chicago Jazz Festival will continue to shine a spotlight on young musicians, with students playing a long run of daytime shows on Saturday and Sunday. The series kicks off with the Whitney Young ensemble and concludes with the Kenwood Academy High School Jazz Ensemble at 3:45 p.m. At the Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Pavilion, on the Harris Theater Rooftop.
1:10 p.m.: Hamid Drake Quartet; Artist-in-residence Drake will partner with like-minded experimenters: saxophonist Kidd Jordan, bassist William Parker and pianist Cooper-Moore. Von Freeman Pavilion
3:30 p.m.: Chevere de Chicago: This explosive band plays the Green Mill periodically, but not often enough to satisfy demand. Staffed by such admired Chicago musicians as percussionist Alejo Poveda, saxophonist Steve Eisen and harmonica virtuoso and pianist Howard Levy, Chevere brings both musical virtuosity and intellectual firepower to the bandstand. Jazz and Heritage Pavilion
6:10 p.m.: Gregory Porter: The up-and-coming singer has played Chicago before, but never in so high-profile a setting. He celebrates the release of his Blue Note Records debut, "Liquid Spirit." At the Pritzker Pavilion
7:25 p.m.: Rudresh Mahanthappa: Longtime Chicago listeners will remember when altoist Mahanthappa was an emerging artist playing tiny venues across the city. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and he stands as a significant artist expanding the definition and vocabulary of 21st century jazz. Pritzker Pavilion.
8:45 p.m.: Jason Moran: Everyone knows Fats Waller tunes such as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Jitterbug Waltz," but no one deconstructs – then re-constructs – them as ingeniously as pianist Moran. The MacArthur "genius grant" winner will offer a reprise of his "Fats Waller Dance Party." Pritzker Pavilion.
11:30 a.m.: Jones College Prep High School Jazz Combo: The second day of young people's bands features a run of performances, starting with the Jones unit and ending with the Lincoln Park High School Jazz Ensemble at 3:35 p.m. At the Chicago Community Trust Young Jazz Lions Pavilion, on the Harris Theater Rooftop.