Nonstop week of music surrounds Chicago Jazz Festival

From Ken Vandermark to Roy Haynes, a lot to see at 34th annual event

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves plays the Petrillo Music Shell at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 1. (August 23, 2012)

Though the 34th annual Chicago Jazz Festival surely has its flaws, it generates tremendous energy and interest for America's greatest gift to the arts: jazz.

The festival proper features major shows at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Aug. 31 at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, near Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. Then the action shifts to Grant Park, with four stages at or near Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard. Shows run roughly from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 1 and 2 and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 1 and 2 at Petrillo Music Shell.

Following are some of the most promising performances scheduled. More information is available at 312-744-3316 and chicagojazzfestival.us or jazzinchicago.org

Monday

Monika Herzog: The pianist kicks off three nights of solo keyboard performances from various artists at the PianoForte Salon, with a recital at 5:30 p.m. Monday; followed by pianist Darwin Noguera, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday; and pianist Greg Spero, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday; at PianoForte Salon, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 825; free; reservations required; 312-291-0291 or pianofortefoundation.org

Tuesday

Wynton Marsalis: Through the decades, Orchestra Hall in Symphony Center has become Marsalis' primary home in Chicago, whether he's leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra or smaller ensembles. This time, he fronts a quintet staffed by Jazz at Lincoln Center members: reedist Walter Blanding, pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ali Jackson. 8 p.m. at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $25-$68; 312-294-3000 or cso.org

Wednesday

Jazz Club Tour: Depending on your perspective, this annual event is either the greatest bargain or the biggest nuisance in jazz. This year's attractions will include Alfonso Ponticelli's Swing Gitan and saxophonist Frank Catalano at Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; Ira Sullivan and Stu Katz at Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court; saxophonist Mike Smith and guitarist Andy Brown at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; Jon Menges Group at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Road; Justefan and Ernest Dawkins at Room 43, 1043 E. 43rd St.; Donovan Mixon's Hybrid Project and Taylor Moore & Friends at South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan Ave.; and Marquis Hill and Katie Ernst at the Drake Hotel's Palm Court, 140 E. Walton St.; starting at 6 p.m.; $25 in advance, $35 at the door; 312-427-1676 or jazzinchicago.org

Thursday

Chris Madsen Bix Quartet: An accomplished reedist and creative thinker, Madsen launches three hours of attractions at the Chicago Cultural Center with his attractive rethinking of Bix Beiderbecke's music. Noon to 3 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; free

"Exquisitely for Ella: A Songbook Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald": The first night of the Chicago Jazz Festival doubles as the last night of the "Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz" series. This accomplishes the welcome feat of opening the fest at Pritzker Pavilion, where listeners enjoy top-notch sound in a civilized setting (as opposed to the weekend offerings at the acoustically challenged, relentlessly crumbling Petrillo Music Shell). The kickoff concert will feature three fine Chicago singers — Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee and Spider Saloff — singing the praises of Fitzgerald with Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra. 6:30 p.m. at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park; free; 312-742-1168 or millenniumpark.org

Aug. 31

Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee: Chicagoan Vandermark kicks opens his tenure as artist-in-residence for this year's festival by going one-on-one with a revered figure in avant-garde jazz. Though multi-instrumentalist McPhee and reedist-composer Vandermark represent distinct generations, they share an ardent curiosity for unexpected sounds and alternative forms of expression. 5 p.m. at Roosevelt University's Ganz Hall, 430 S. Michigan Ave., 7th floor; free

Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band: At 87, drummer Haynes indeed stands as a kind of fountain of youth in jazz, but not only because of his apparent immortality. Equally important, Haynes' drum work exudes the energy and drive of a young man with something to prove. His resume almost defies credulity, considering he worked with Charlie Parker in the late 1940s and early '50s, thereafter partnering with Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and other bebop icons, as well as later-generation masters, from Stan Getz, Lennie Tristano and Eric Dolphy to Art Pepper, Horace Tapscott and Miles Davis. Also on the bill: the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble at 6:30 p.m.; Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band at 8 p.m.; at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park; free; phone 312-742-1168 or millenniumpark.org

Sept. 1

Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love: Vandermark duets with Norwegian drummer Nilssen-Love, the two having collaborated in far-flung contexts through the years. Their deep familiarity with each other's disparate musical languages could yield provocative musical exchanges. 2 p.m. at the Jazz and Heritage Stage

Frank D'Rone: The great Chicago singer this year turned 80 and released arguably the best recording of his career, "Double Exposure." You'd think that would merit a slot on the main stage, but the programmers of the Chicago Jazz Festival deemed otherwise. Even so, D'Rone never should be underestimated, as he showed during a recent, brilliant run at the Jazz Showcase. 2:20 p.m. at the Jazz on Jackson Stage

Ambrose Akinmusire: The most talked-about young trumpeter in jazz — who drew wide critical praise for his 2011 Blue Note Records debut "When the Heart Emerges Glistening" — has made precious few appearances in the Chicago area. That would have made his Chicago Jazz Festival set an opportunity for the widest audience possible to hear him. But Akinmusire doesn't get a prime-time slot this time around. 3:30 p.m. at the Jazz on Jackson Stage

Resonance Ensemble: A brave booking for the Chicago Jazz Festival — which always has embraced new music, sometimes to the consternation of casual listeners — this appearance by Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble looms large. For starters, it will bring to a mainstream audience Vandermark's experiment in writing for an 11-musician contingent of innovators from Chicago and Europe. Moreover, because of the groundbreaking nature of Vandermark's work, it could take listeners to the creative edge of large-ensemble jazz composition. 6 p.m. at Petrillo Music Shell

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