Sunday, September 02, 2007

Workin' and steamin' at the Chicago Jazz Festival

Jazz musicians have been working up a sweat at the Chicago Jazz Festival this weekend. This is physical labor, with rhythm sections banging away at their instruments in 80-degree heat.

Clark Sommers, playing upright bass in he Dan Cray Trio, arrived with a sunburn, attacked his instrument like a demon, then went tourist and darted about Grant Park catching the remaining acts. Just watching was fatiguing.

Charlie Haden stopped to hear the cicadas leading a pickup band from the far end of the Jackson Boulevard stage. Paul Wertico was physically the frontman, sun shining on his drum set just beyond the stage monitors. The laid-back set was a marked contrast with New Orleans' high-energy Astral Project.

It was hard not to enjoy the small stage, where you could sit close enough to hear the instruments over the public-address speakers. But no one seemed to be enjoying himself more than Ted Hogarth, a baritone sax sideman getting to step out with friends and a stack of Gerry Mulligan big band charts, a Labor Day labor of love.

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