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Review: The 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival

AACM's 50th anniversary dominates the 37th edition

Craig Taborn, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
George Lewis, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Henry Butler, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Jeff Parker, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Jose James, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Mark Turner, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Marquis Hill, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Muhal Richard Abrams, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015
Fred Hersch, Chicago Jazz Festival, 2015

It doesn’t take a musicology detective to track the theme of this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, which drew an estimated 140,000 to Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center for a program that was heavily Chicago-centric if decidedly rangy. The thread running through the fest’s 37th annual edition, held over an unusually warm and muggy Labor Day weekend: the continuing influence of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the collective of players and composers officially organized in 1965 by pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and others. The AACM’s emphasis on originality, innovation and experimentation continues to resonate among musicians in Chicagoland, New York, the West Coast and beyond.

The organization’s 50th anniversary called for a major performance at its hometown’s fest, and got a rare one, in the form of a closing-night set by Abrams’ Experimental Band on the Frank Gehry-designed stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, home to the fest’s headliners.

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