September 11, 2013

When it comes to the perennial musical question—“What to do for an encore?”—organizers of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival keep finding ways to top themselves. Two years ago, Chicago magazine named the event the city’s best neighborhood music festival; last year, it added shows at the Logan Center for the Arts as a prelude to the building’s grand opening in October 2012.

Now in its seventh year, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival picks up where it left off. The Sept. 28-29 event will feature five performances at the Logan Center (including three at its 474-seat performance hall) and a growing commitment to musical diversity in this year’s lineup, spanning some 33 acts at roughly a dozen venues.

"The Hyde Park Jazz Festival has become a great venue for showcasing the talents of local artists, including University alumni and current students and faculty, while enhancing the broader cultural offerings of the neighborhood," said Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement. UChicago's Office of Civic Engagement is the founding and lead sponsor of the festival.

“What’s so exciting as a leader of the festival and a lover of this music is that the program is far more diversified than in the past,” said Kate Dumbleton, the festival’s director. “It best represents the creative history of jazz. We’re including some very important members of the more experimental community, and featuring some fantastic work that in past years hasn’t been represented.”

So while festival-goers will face the usual embarrassment of riches, with two stages in the Midway Plaisance acting as the nerve center, they’ll want to dive deep into the schedule to spot the treasures Dumbleton’s talking about. Experimentation and improvisation, for example, are well represented and much of the talent is homegrown, too, such as UChicago’s Jazz X-tet, led by jazz luminary Mwata Bowden. (They’ll play Sept. 28 from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Logan Center’s performance penthouse.)

The Logan Center also will host MacArthur Genius Fellowship winner Ken Vandermark on Sept. 28, from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. in the Performance Hall. There he’ll lead nine internationally acclaimed improvisers in “The Music of the Midwest School.” The stars of that set include bassist Nick Macri (who has played with Liz Phair and Mark Eitzel) and drummer Tim Daisy, part of the experimental jazz powerhouse Klang.

Another member of Klang, James Falzone, will give a solo clarinet performance in the Oriental Institute’s gallery (3:30 to 4 p.m. and 4:30 to 5 p.m. Sept. 28). “Having him in there is such a great thing, because of his history with the deep exploration of Eastern music,” Dumbleton said. “It took us two years to get him there.”

Percussive maestro and UChicago alum Dana Hall, PhD’10, now an associate music professor at DePaul University, will lead his quintet from 8:15 to 9:15 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Midway’s James Wagner Stage. Just following at 9:30 p.m. from International House, cellist Tomeka Reid will take part in a quintet performance.

Equally adept in the jazz and classical modes, Reid is just finishing her tenure as an artist-in-residence with UChicago’s Arts and Public Life initiative and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture. She first performed at the Hyde Park festival with Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble when the event was in its infancy, “and it’s been amazing to see it grow into such a great festival in such a short time,” she said. “To be asked to lead my own projects there has been an honor and great motivator to grow each year.” And for 2013, Reid will add drums to her usual trio mix, a wrinkle sure to keep the players and audience members on point.

As Dumbleton puts it, this year’s festival is far more than just a fest for jazz lovers of all stripes. “It’s so important to appreciate the creative history of this music on the South Side,” she said. “And in the 21st century, there’s no place like Chicago that has the depth in this music.”

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Sept. 28 and from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29 at venues on and near the UChicago campus. For more information, visit or call (773) 324-6926.

In addition to the Office of Civic Engagement at the University, other sponsors of the festival include the Hyde Park Jazz Society, the South East Chicago Commission, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Southwest Airlines, WBEZ Radio, and WDCB Radio.