The Reader's guide to Jazz Fest: Thursday and Friday 

Unscathed by the cuts that hit so many city fests this year, it's got

Ken Vandermark (above) teams up with Joe McPhee at 5 PM on Friday

Ken Vandermark (above) teams up with Joe McPhee at 5 PM on Friday

Mireia Bordonada

Thursday, August 30

Randolph Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center

[Recommended] Chris Madsen Bix Quartet
Noon
Last year saxophonist Chris Madsen, a music professor at Northwestern, released a trio album of music associated with legendary 1920s jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke. Plays Bix Beiderbecke (JeruJazz) is a lovely and loving tribute, and it stands out among similar efforts in part because there's not a note of trumpet on it—Madsen, who plays tenor, is joined only by bassist Joe Policastro and guitarist Dan Effland. The interpretations are hardly modern, but they do depart from the trad sound of the originals in favor of something close to swing; Beiderbecke's most celebrated colleague, saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, was a big influence on Lester Young, and you can hear a touch of Prez in Madsen's elegant, silky lines. For this show, drummer Phil Gratteau makes the group a quartet. —PM

The Hyde Park Jazz Society presents a tribute to Jodie Christian featuring Ken Chaney
1:30 PM
Veteran Chicago keyboardist Ken Chaney pays homage to fellow pianist and local icon Jodie Christian, who died earlier this year; he leads a quintet of younger players that includes saxophonists Fred Jackson (of Magic Carpet) and Juli Wood, bassist Joshua Ramos, and drummer Charles Heath. —PM

Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center

Damon Short Quintet
12:15 PM
If Damon Short were a barista, he'd be a master of pour-over coffee—he can keep things hot without letting them boil. As a drummer, bandleader, and composer, he takes full advantage of the resourcefulness of musicians who've worked with him for many years. On "Toll Free," from the self-released CD Retrofit, his quintet segues seamlessly from swinging blues to quietly bristling free play. —BM

Japonesque with Dee Alexander
1:45 PM
Japanese-born Chicagoan Yoko Noge has been putting her own spin on the blues for more than two decades, often by bringing jazz players into her bands. In her Japonesque project, she ups the jazz quotient and adds sounds from her homeland. Tatsu Aoki, usually a bassist, plays a three-stringed Japanese lute called a shamisen, Amy Homma plays taiko drums, and veteran bluesman Jimmy Burns sings and plays guitar; the additional jazz firepower comes from cellist Tomeka Reid, saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, and trombonist Bill McFarland, and the rhythm section consists of bassist Greg McDaniel and drummer William "Bugs" Cochran. —PM

Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center

[Recommended] Stu Katz & Willie Pickens
12:30 PM
Little remains of Chicago's vibrant 1960s south-side lounge scene, particularly after the loss of the New Apartment Lounge as a regular venue, but Stu Katz and Willie Pickens—both key figures on that scene, who played with all city's greats back in the day—keep the tradition alive. Katz has worked for decades with two of Chicago's finest, Ira Sullivan and Bunky Green, and Pickens made his name internationally as a member of the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. The two of them played this festival as a piano duo in 1980, but for today's set Katz, now 75, will play vibraphone; Pickens will bring his impeccable taste to the table at the 88s. —JC

Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet
2 PM
Saxophonist Jim Gailloreto has demonstrated facility in many different styles over the years, and with this project he proves he understands that combining them takes care and experience. With his pleasantly dry soprano saxophone, he fronts a classical string quartet in arrangements of jazz standards (by the likes of Monk, Coltrane, and Waller) and ambitious originals such as "American Complex," a four-part suite at the center of an album that shares its title. The bulk of the ensemble's tunes are tightly charted, leaving Gailloreto as the key soloist, but he's been giving his cohorts more and more space to improvise; tonight he'll also debut a duo piece with his wife, cellist Jill Kaeding. —PM

Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

Exquisitely for Ella: A songbook tribute to Ella Fitzgerald
6:30 PM
Three of Chicago's favorite jazz and cabaret singers—Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, and Spider Saloff—perform a program of songs associated with Ella Fitzgerald. They're backed by Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra, which is augmented by a 17-piece string section for the occasion. —PM

Friday, August 31

Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University

[Recommended] Ken Vandermark & Joe McPhee
5 PM
Joe McPhee bridges decades like they don't exist. You can feel the scorching heat and naked lyricism of vintage energy music whenever the 72-year-old picks up one of the seven reed or brass instruments he regularly plays, but he can also keep up with the panstylistic adventures of much younger avant-garde musicians such as percussionist Chris Corsano, with whom he's just released a thrilling LP, Scraps and Shadows (Roaratorio). Decades ago McPhee's 1976 solo album Tenor (Hat Hut) sparked an epiphany in Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark, putting him on the path to free jazz, and they've been frequent partners as well as mutual fans for 16 years. —BM

Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble
6:30 PM
Around these parts, the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble beats all comers on its turf—which extends into flamenco and South American regional musics. CALJE is led by local trumpeter Victor Garcia and pianist Darwin Noguera, a native of Nicaragua based in New York; tonight's lineup also includes trumpeter Freddie Rodriguez, saxophonists Rocky Yera and Carlos Vega, trombonists Craig Sunken and John Mose, bassist Joshua Ramos, drummer Juan Pastor, and percussionists Juan Picorelli and Victor Gonzalez Jr. —PM

[Recommended] Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band
8 PM
Want a surefire fitness tip? Find out Roy Haynes's health regimen and replicate it. Whatever its components (fruit? fiber? positive thinking?), we know it includes exhaustive regular workouts on the drum kit—and it works like a charm. At 87, Haynes is a rare bird, getting rarer by the day—an original bop musician who's stayed lean and mean and kept up with the times, leading his aptly named Fountain of Youth Band with the pluck of a hot young thing. Haynes has worked with an outrageous array of greats, from Charlie Parker to Andrew Hill, but though he's got the versatility to mesh with all sorts of contexts, when left to his own devices he's a thoroughly mainstream man, hip and stylish (he makes Miles Davis look unkempt) and big on chops. He's an innovator too, with an ultrasnappy snare and a cymbal sound unlike anyone else's—low, flat, fizzy, and propulsive as hell. The current Fountain of Youth lineup features pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist David Wong, and nimble saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, a member of the Mingus Big Band and the latest addition to the World Saxophone Quartet. They've all got their work cut out for them keeping up with their spark plug of a leader. I imagine Haynes will be with us for 20 more years at least, but just to be safe, don't miss this date. —JC

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