Story and Photos by James Walker
The first day of the annual Lake Meadows Art and Music Festival occurred under the beautiful sun drenched skies a day after Chicago was hit with a massive thunderstorm. Taking place on the Southside in the middle of Lake Meadows shopping center, this year's event featured vocalist Al Mack, saxophonist Art Brown, keyboardist Ken Chaney and sultry vocalist Joan Collaso.
Al Mack opened the festival on June 20th, with an ensemble including Duke Payne on sax, Corky McClerkin on keyboards, Curtis Prince on drums and Jimmy Willis on bass. In addition to the above mentioned musicians. keyboardist/vocalist Dave Green joined the fray for a couple of numbers.
This set's highlight included Mack's deep baritone sound of "Old Man River." Not a "household" name around the Chicago Jazz circle, Mack can really deliver a number.
One of Chicago's premier performers, saxophonist Ari Brown, followed Mack. Ari was joined by his brother Kirk on keyboards, Frank Russell on bass and Avreeayl Ra on drums. What an outstanding set by this group, with many highlight solos from bassist Frank Russell. He's such a pleasure to watch on any stage, as he truly demonstrates his love of the art. Art's a Chicago legend, and as always was superb. He had the crowd on its feet when he picked up both the tenor and soprano sax, blowing them simultaneously. Ari is one of the few in Chicago capable of that feat.
Keyboardist Ken Chaney and his bandmates initiated day two of the festival. Chaney a veteran Chicago musician, was accompanied by drummer Cliff Williams, and a couple of performers from the previous day - saxophonist Duke Payne and electric bassist Frank Russell.
Unlike Saturday, gray clouds covered the festival area on this day, but that did not deter an appreciative crowd from enjoying the music and fellowship. This set included several numbers from Chaney's critically acclaimed CD, "Spring Thing." Kudos again for Russell and his outstanding solos, in addition the the solid play of leader Chaney.
The final act of the two day festival was Ms. Joan Collaso and the Larry Hanks Trio. What a climatic ending to several days of wonderful music and a beautiful display of art and craft.
Joan and keyboardist/musical director Hanks were joined on stage by bassist Ron Hall, and drummer Vem Allision, Jr. Joan also included daughter Rayzine Collaso, and sister Robin Robinson as backup.
Joan, with great stage presence in addition to her exceptional vocalizing was at her absolute best during this two set performance. She even got the crowd involved on a couple of numbers.
Although it began to rain just as Joan took the stage, by the time she brought the festival to a conclusion, the sun had returned and she concluded this successful festival with an encore version of "Here's to Life". The crowd simultaneously rose and gave her a well deserved standing ovation.
Thanks to Don Rashied, who was an excellent MC for the 2nd day's activities. And of course, this fair could not have been possible without the leadership of organizer Helen West and the fair's original founder, Dr. Margaret Burroughs, founder of DuSable Museum of Africian-American History. It was such an honor to see Dr. Burroughs in attendance enjoying the music and displaying some of her art works.