September 25, 2012

Music fans have reason enough to rejoice as the 6th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival arrives the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30, bringing with it more than 170 musicians in 17 venues over 17-plus hours. Last year, Chicago Magazine named the Hyde Park Jazz Festival the city's Best Neighborhood Music Festival; this year’s roundup offers many shows in varied UChicago locations of historical significance.

"To present jazz in places like the Robie House, the Oriental Institute, the International House and the Smart Museum Art is just an incredible example of how the University engages with the larger Chicago community," said Kate Dumbleton, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival's director.
But even with its deep UChicago roots, the 2012 festival will deliver something extra special, as it includes eight performances at the University's brand new Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

Officially, the Logan Center's grand opening takes place Oct. 12-14. But jazz fest sets should offer a rousing prelude, as master musicians light up the 474-seat performance hall and other spaces in this modernist, 11-story structure at 915 E. 60th St. The center is named for David Logan, AB,’39, JD’41, and Reva Logan, who attended the College. The Logan family gave a gift of $35 million to the University of Chicago to make the center a reality.

Among the Logan Center performers on tap will be PhD candidate and drummer extraordinaire, Dana Hall, who recently landed an associate music professor post at DePaul University. His quartet will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday Sept. 29, and if you haven't seen him, be prepared: "He's a drummer who sounds powerful and sensitive in all contexts, from traditional swing to the outward extensions of the avant-garde," said Aaron Cohen, associate editor at DownBeat magazine and author of Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace.

Hall, who studied ethnomusicology at UChicago, said: “My doctoral work at the University of Chicago has done wonders to broaden my awareness of and interest in music around the world, and in my own backyard.” As for the festival itself, “They do a great job supporting local artists and this year's festival is no exception,” Hall said. “I've planned some new music and arrangements with my quartet, and we’ll be honoring a couple of significant artists associated with Chicago in general and, in the case of one of them, Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, specifically.”

Hall also will take the stage with another UChicago music community standout: Melvin Butler, assistant professor of ethnomusicology. His quartet will play from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Assembly Hall in International House. Butler, who is deep into research on Pentecostal church music traditions in Haiti, said the show will offer a welcome respite from academic rigors, as he gets to perform on tenor and soprano saxophone.

"I feel honored to be invited," Butler said. "I'll mostly be playing traditional, straight-ahead jazz standards. One of my all-time favorites is the piece called 'Body and Soul,' which was made famous in a 1939 version by Coleman Hawkins. He's one of my influences, and I do it as a tribute to him. It's very fun to improvise over."

Then there's Mwata Bowden, whom Dumbleton lauds as "An artist and educator who is deeply significant to the history of jazz on the South Side and to the academic community at the University." His involvement this year is more peripheral and proudly parental; his son Khari B. will perform as part of the AACM "Now Generation" Ensemble, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center, 1060 E. 47th St.

"They're writing a composition just for this performance," said Bowden, who also founded UChicago's Jazz X-tet in 1995, to expand the improvisational boundaries of student players. His involvement with AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) dates to the early 1970s, but as Bowden puts it, "These guys are the next generation, and we can't hold onto this forever." Expect Bowden to introduce the Now Generation set and be a constant presence at the festival, which he deems as vital to Chicago's jazz community.  

As the Hyde Park Jazz Festival continues to branch out, UChicago’s Office of Civic Engagement has served as a lead and founding sponsor. The Logan Center for the Arts joins that sponsorship roll call, which also includes DownBeat, Southwest Airlines and The University of Chicago Medicine.

As for getting around Hyde Park to the music venues, free shuttles will transport attendees among the festival's various locations, with the Midway Plaisance as the hub. (a local music platform commissioned by Boeing Company) will sponsor one of several buses Saturday, Sept. 29.

“We’ll also interview patrons about their festival experiences on board the buses and at several venues,” said Lyla Catellier, the website’s publishing manager. University of Chicago students who plan to attend, can contact Catellier at for a chance to be featured in their festival coverage.

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival runs from 1-11:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 and 1-8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30. For more information and a schedule, visit or call (773) 324-6926.

By Lou Carlozo
SEPTEMBER 25, 2012


Music Jazz

The Willie Pickens trio will perform from 5-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Logan Center for the Arts Performance Hall. Pickens performed at the Logan Center during its Preview Period in the spring.