September 5, 1882 was the United States’ first Labor Day, celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers.
Over the years, it’s also come to mean the end of summer. (insert crying emoji)
If summer must end, as it always does, what better way to celebrate than three days by the lakefront, celebrating the oldest of Chicago’s free lakefront music festivals?
The Chicago Jazz Festival has been part of the city’s summer music lineup for more than 40 years. The range of artists run the gamut from jazz legends to influential modern masters and crucial new voices in the genre’s continuing evolution.
The Roots of Chicago Style Jazz
Jazz began as a fusion of African and European musical traditions in the Deep South.
The “Chicago style” of jazz originated in southern musicians moving North after 1917, bringing with them the New Orleans “Dixieland” or sometimes called “hot jazz” styles, according to Wikipedia sources.
As Wikipedia sources tell it, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Mortonbecame stars of the Chicago jazz scene. King Oliver brought Louis (‘What A Wonderful World’) Armstrongto Chicago in 1922 while he was performing with his Creole Jazz Band. In the WTTW-produced jazz documentary ‘From Riots to Renaissance: Jazz and Blues in Chicago,they say ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong came to prominence as a precision cornet player and later as an energetic trumpeter. He created a new sound known as “scat” — singing nonsensical syllables in lieu of lyrics — using his voice as another instrument.
As WTTW’s documentary tells it, as more musicians came to the Windy City, they found themselves influenced by urban sights, sounds, and rhythms. The music evolved and grew, and with the help of Chicago’s recording industry, the sound of popular bands spread to every corner of America. Out of these beginnings came thousands of variations, including bebop, soul, fusion, swing, cool, and free jazz.
According to Wikipedia, important musicians coming out of the Chicago style included Lovie Austin, Muggsy Spanier, Jimmy McPartland, Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Frank Teschemacher, and Frank Trumbauer.
The gangsters of Chicago engaged musicians like Earl Hines, who led an orchestra in one of the city’s top locations. Louis Armstrong was also friendly with gangsters, such as Al Capone who frequently paid for private use of jazz clubs.
Chicago Jazz Festival History
More than 10,000 jazz fans attended, and it became an annual event, attracting crowds of up to 30,000. In 1978, another group organized a Grant Park festival to honor John Coltrane.In 1979, the Jazz Institute of Chicagobegan preparations for its own Grant Park Festival, which would have resulted in three separate jazz festivals being held in Grant Park at the end of August, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events stepped in and joined the three different festivals together into the Chicago Jazz Festival.
Four Days of Jazz: August 31-September 3, 2023
Today, jazz remains relevant in all its forms, and those who have followed have improved on the masters listed above.
The 2023 edition of the Chicago Jazz Festival begins at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington Street, 2nd Floor North:
- From 11am-12pm, the Festival gets underway with the ‘ Live the Spirit Residency Young Masters.’
- From 12:15-1:15pm, it’s the Asian Improv, Francis Wong’s “Legends and Legacies”
- 2-3pm – The Fred Jackson Quartet – Presented by The Elastic Arts Foundation
- 3:15-5:15pm – What is this thing called Jazz? Presented by the Education Committee of the Jazz Institute of Chicago.
At Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 8/31
- 6:30-7:30pm – Chico Freeman-100 Von Freeman Centennial
- 8-9pm – Ron Carter and Foursight
The Chicago Jazz Festival is free, and a complete schedule can be found by clicking here.
Alison Moran-Powers and Dean’s Team Chicago