The Jazzcat

The 2007 Chicago Jazz Festival

by on Oct.15, 2007, under News


Click Picture above for Slide Show


Click Pictures of Herbie's band for an article on his performance at the festival!

Herbie Hancock was a wonderful way to start off my Chicago

Jazz Festival excursion. The next morning bright and early I was on my way back

to the Symphony Center. The performance space where I

saw Herbie is only one component to the complex. In another hall there was a

film about New Orleans

musicians produced by Valerie Shields called “Follow the Second Line”. She is a

film writer who was inspired by the plight of the musicians after Katrina and

wanted to document how musicians were proceeding forward in the aftermath of

one of the world’s most devastating disasters. She told her story primarily

through the eyes of one individual named Evan Christopher, a clarinet player

from New Orleans.

We did not get a chance to see the entire film but the excerpt she produced for

us gave us a strong idea with respect to the style, concept and manner in which

she approached the film.


This part of the film actually does not take place in New Orleans at all but in Paris! Evan traveled to Paris to go on the

road to with his fellow New Orleans musicians to spread the word, the music and

the energy of New Orleans to let those in other parts of the world letting them

know that this is real, people are still affected by the tragedy and most of

all to support the cause so that “They Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans”!


After the film, in the darkness and still, under the

auspicious spell of the footage we have just witnessed, Evan played his solo

clarinet, a touching way to blend the story of reality with reality itself. Valerie

had a guest panel, which included Evan as well as the New

Orleans educator and tenor extraordinaire Kidd Jordan. The

other panel members included Delmark record label owner/founder Bob Koester, Mark Ruffin, Edward Wilderson, Fred Anderson and they talked about the

plight of what is happening (or not happening) now, the music, the musicians as

well as their own personal stories and a Q & A.


Next on my list were the evening performances, which

featured all kinds of wonderful artists. It was interesting because the Detroit

Jazz Festival was happening at the same exact time so for these few days, jazz

was rockin’ the Mid West in a big way!


The week prior to the Chicago Jazz Festival I had an

interview, on my weekly segment “Live with the Jazzcat”, with Michele Rosewoman

who was slotted to perform with her band at the festival and  was bringin’ it to em’ with the power of

sound diversity! She led a cast of characters to the fork in the road and

dropped them off. Each had the freedom to take the music in their own direction

and they all met back at the crossroads jamin’ on the corner of funky and

musical diversity!


The Latin Jazz All-Stars had me and everyone else screamin’

with super hot clavination; All in tribute to bless the memory of a beautiful

cat and wonderful pianist who left us tragically and way too soon, Mr. Hilton

Ruiz. He was and still is certainly one loved cat. The Latin Jazz All-Stars

feature a number of great players including Arturo O’Farrill on piano, Steve

Turre on trombone and Ray Vega on trumpet.


Ray is loaded with personality and charisma! He introduces

all of the cats one by one and each player is bangin’ hard at the top of their

game. The rhythm is Nutella rich and just as delicious. Arturo O’Farill is

incredible and burning in the brightest chords and colors.


The dance is all up in the music and it is full of

happiness. They are playing the music of Hilton as well as tunes that he liked

playing like ‘Home Cookin’”, an original and a favorite of Hilton’s. The great

pianist also has a beautiful and spirited daughter named Ida who is doing a

great job at keeping Hilton’s name and music in the forefront of our hearts and

memories. These boys have “Puente of Soul”; obviously a tune dedicated to the

great Tito Puente and another favorite of Hilton’s.  If you look out in the crowd, Grant Park is

packed with Chicago

jazz fans and the All-Star Latin Band had them up on their feet groovin’!


Another favorite of the crowd was Medeski, Martin, and Wood

together with John Scofield they rocked the house with electric funkified super

groove rhythms blended with rock, soul and perhaps a splash of the JA double on

the side, making for crowd pleasing, intoxicating funky fun!


Now any band calling themselves “The Cookers” is bound to be

using gas. Night and day, they are the ones. When can you ever see such an

exciting group of headliners combining their talents and turning the music into

a stealth display of fine engineering. Eddie Henderson, James Spaulding, Cecil McBee, and Billy

Harper, etc are some of the best in the business and still holdin’ it down to

“The Core”, a Freddie Hubbard composition.


Cecil McBee is lighting up the bass and Billy Harper’s sound

on that gorgeous black saxophone is enough to make you want to do thangs! When

the Cookers play on one of his tunes, the energy is so intense. These are guys

that you don’t often see in the West.



speaking of Wes, I am so happy to see Mr. Frank Wes looking and sounding

so magnificent! The facility and structure are firmly in place and besides a

couple of minor sound problems with speakers, Frank put in a nice days work! I

am on of the Master of Ceremonies at the Monterey Jazz Festival and a few years

back, Frank was suppose to perform with “Flutology”, a group with two other

flutists, Ali Ryerson and Holly Hoffman. He missed the performance due to

illness but, this time the dapper gentleman of jazz is doing fine and playing

is full romantic swing. He is shortly joined by Miss Ernestine Anderson as they

sing, play the blues, and express how “They Love Being Here with You”!


Charlie Haden was a hard workingman this weekend. He was the

Chicago Jazz Festival’s 2007 Artist-in-Residence and performed each day at the

festival in different configurations. He performed with the students, his own

band and he brought out all of the instruments for his very powerful

re-emergence of the “Liberation Orchestra’; liberated music, freedom of speech,

power to and for the people; a blend of brass and rhythm whose big luminous

sound marches like the strong willed political views that the concept

represents. Carla Bley arranged all of the music.


On Sunday, Bobby Watson was onstage with his band and their

passion, honesty and integrity were superbly in sync with the delivery of the

music. These cats feel the music and it is more than just great sound. Bobby is

such a warm cat that you know his spirit, energy and good nature transfer into

the music.


“Country Cornflakes”, “Monk He See, Monk He Do”, “The Look

of Love” and “Lemons and Moonshine” were just a few of the delightful tunes in

the repertoire. This is truly “Horizon Re-Esembled”. Romantic harmonies,

dancing melodies and tunes that burn with passion is what this “Messenger”

brings every time!


The big man, Charles Mingus lives forever through the big

sound of the “Mingus Big Band”. Sue Mingus is relentless in her efforts to keep

Mingus music in the forefront of American culture and she does so by having the

band play a regular gig at the Iriduim in New York City as well as booking the

band at all of the major jazz venues and world festivals.


“Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” was originally composed as

one piece but, for the sake of commercialism, it was broken down into smaller

digestible segments. Today, we get to hear it in its entirety. By far the most

animated compatriot of the Mingus Big Band Legacy is Frank Lacy; leading,

conducting, singing and playing the trombone with captivating passion all in

honor of the underdog. At times also orchestrates the audience to clap in time

and join in on the rhythm.


Mingus music is a living drama, performed by a passionate

group of killer musicians destine to express the sentiments of a misunderstood

giant, whose physical emotion produced great music, generous compositions and

controversy of proportions just as large. Epitaph, one of the world’s largest

compositions written, which has close to 4000 measures, was literally a life’s

work in progress for Mingus. The big band swung through the measures as well as

beautiful rendition of a piece written about the great Lester Young, “Good Bye Pork

Pie Hat”.


John Stubblefield was a member of the Mingus Big Band and

also played with Charles for many years and wrote this arrangement of ‘Song of

Orange” while on his deathbed. Seamus Blake does the arrangement and the music

justice as he blows his breathy saxophone on the piece.


That was how they did it and do it every year at the Chicago

Jazz Festival. Hopefully, next year I will see you there!


LeRoy Downs

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