Story and Photos by Brad Walseth
Saturday was the date of he first annual Jazz Fest Glen Ellyn. Sponsored by WDCB, the McAnnich Arts Center, Karnes Pickett Design and the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce, the event proved to be a major success - drawing a large crowd that filled the center of downtown Glen Ellyn. The crowd was there to hear some of the finest musicians in the world, and they were not disappointed.
Chicago is home to many world-class musicians, and the organizers of this event should be applauded for their strong choices for the inaugural performers. This lineup was utterly top notch.
Starting off the day was pianist Joan Hickey's Trio, featuring bassist Clark Sommers and drummer extraordinaire George Fludas from the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. As wonderful as this rhythm section was, pianist Hickey was the star - creating piano lines charming in their grace, and surprisingly inventive in her twists and turns.
Following Hickey's wonderful set, was the guitar duo of Paulinho Garcia and John Moulder. Garcia delighted the crowd with his beautiful vocals on such fare as Jobim's "Children's Game," and "The Girl from Ipanema," and Gershwin's "Embraceable You." Equally as delightful was his work on the nylon string guitar (overcoming a buzzing monitor throughout). As for Moulder, he is perhaps Chicago's finest and most sensitive guitarist, repeatedly drawing amazed gasps from the audience for his intelligently delicious playing. This winning combination brought the audience to their feet, and set the stage for the next act: pianist Ken Chaney and his trio.
Chaney's brand of straight-ahead jazz proved extremely popular with the crowd, but don't let the description fool you. This was interesting and well played music - ranging from originals like Chaney's own "Spring Thing" and the stellar "Bronzeville Blues" to standards like "Night and Day." The well-respected pianist's lines were exemplary, while his rhythm section featured two of the finest players in Chicago: bassist Junius Paul and Charles "Rick" Heath on drums. These two are familiar to jazz fans through their work as leaders and sidemen with many of the top jazz artists around town.
Finally, trumpeter Bobby Lewis and his sextet took the stage. This group featured a fine rhythm section of Bob Rummage on drums and Stewart Miller on bass, with energetic percussionist Alejo Poveda adding his spark. Pianist Jim Ryan was in top form and sparkled on his exciting solos, while special guest Burl Lane, from the Chicago Symphony added a fine solo. But, along with Ryan, the set was highlighted by Lewis and young firebrand saxman Pat Mallinger. If you haven't see and heard Mallinger, you really owe it yourself to hear this young man in action as he is a true "monster" on the reeds and one of the best sax players in this city. Some of the most memorable events from the entire day, were the exchanges between this young man and his mentor, the inimitable master trumpeter Lewis. At times, it brought to mind the pairing of Stan Getz with Chet Baker, but that doesn't do justice to actually seeing these two interacting on stage. Some highlights were Claudio Roditi's "The Monster and the Flower," Wayne Shorter's "Edda," Dizzy Gillespie's "Tanga" and Lewis' own "Jasmine." All members contributed choice solos, with Ryan eliciting a huge laugh when he broke into "chopsticks" after one particularly heated Mallinger solo.
The good will was palpable in the air at this event, that enjoyed sunshine and a cool summer breeze, and WDCB and the other sponsors of this event should be commended. I'm still buzzing from the great vibrations Saturday, and I'm ready for next year already.