Programs celebrating the centennials of jazz legends Charlie Parker and Nat King Cole, a 50th anniversary tribute to Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” and a 25th anniversary salute to the end of South African apartheid are among the highlights of the 2019-20 Symphony Center Presents Jazz Series, announced May 10.
Established in 1994, the 10-concert series continues its commitment to presenting today’s most acclaimed and innovative jazz artists, including Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves and many more next season.
Program details for each of next season’s 10 SCP Jazz concerts follow. All concerts are at 8 p.m. Fridays at Orchestra Hall, unless noted otherwise.
Nov. 1, Chick Corea Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade: The season begins with NEA Jazz Master and pianist Chick Corea and his trio Trilogy featuring bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. With 26 Grammy Awards among the group’s members, Trilogy features three virtuoso individuals who also happen to be stars in their own right. Corea, McBride and Blade exhibit a strong sense of dialogue and sharp dexterity on a program including original music alongside reinventions of classic Corea compositions and jazz standards.
Nov. 15, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Wynton Marsalis: Led by its dynamic bandleader, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, JaLCO returns to Symphony Center for a three-day residency. Arguably one of the today’s greatest jazz bands, the 15-member Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will perform a program of original arrangements and classic jazz selections celebrating global jazz ambassadors such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong.
After a day filled with educational activities, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Marsalis offer a musical celebration of South African democracy, 25 years after apartheid’s end, for a SCP Special Concert on Nov. 16. New York-based South African vocalists Melanie Scholtz and Vuyo Sotashe join the orchestra to perform South African music, with songs newly arranged for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Scholtz and Sotashe have helped shape the sound of jazz in the post-apartheid era, reflecting the sound of a nation defining itself anew.
Jan. 31, Makaya McCraven, “In These Times”: Making his Symphony Center and SCP Jazz series debut, the Chicago-based drummer Makaya McCraven brings a musical vision with influences of West African and hip-hop rhythms to his experiments with beats and tape loops of improvised music. He will be joined by special guests, many with Chicago ties, including trumpeter Marquis Hill, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Junius Paul, saxophonist Greg Ward and harpist Brandee Younger to perform a program titled “In These Times.” It will feature free jazz and improvisation with sociopolitical themes, and also will feature historical video footage and spoken-word segments.
Feb. 14, “The Piano Soul of Nat King Cole” with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and guests Kenny Barron, Benny Green and Russell Malone: Celebrating the centennial of the legendary singer, pianist, arranger and longtime Chicago resident, SCP Jazz presents a program developed with Chicago Jazz Orchestra bandleader Jeff Lindberg. The tribute honors Cole’s Chicago roots as a pianist by featuring selections from his Nelson Riddle Orchestra recordings. Before Cole became known as a vocalist, he was a superlative jazz pianist inspired by Earl Hines on the South Side of Chicago. The Riddle arrangements of Cole’s piano works get a fresh take by featuring special guest pianists Kenny Barron and Benny Green in transcriptions for piano and jazz orchestra. The program also salutes Cole’s classic trio with performances by these pianists joined by Russell Malone on guitar and David Wong on bass.
Feb. 28, Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya: In his Symphony Center debut, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim appears with his septet Ekaya (which translates as “home”). The 84-year-old South African native, who was recognized among the newest class of NEA Jazz Masters, has led an accomplished career that includes the founding of South Africa’s first premier jazz group, having his 1974 song “Mannenberg” adopted as an anti-apartheid anthem, and releasing more than 65 albums as a leader or co-leader. His percussive piano lines reflect the diverse influences of traditional African songs, gospel, blues, bebop and other jazz idioms.
March 21, The SFJAZZ Collective and Dee Dee Bridgewater: The Bay Area ensemble celebrates the 50th anniversaries of two classic albums, Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” and Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand!” Joining the salute, which reimagines hits from these genre-defying albums in arrangements created by SFJAZZ, is Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. “In a Silent Way” featured tracks edited and rearranged significantly from the recording session, as well as an electric sound, which divided critics at its original release. Since then, critics generally have reassessed this experimental album transcends genres and is one of Davis’ most influential. A hit from the beginning, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand!” brought the band commercial success with hits such as “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Everyday People.”
April 3, “Fly Higher: Charlie Parker @ 100”: To mark the centennial of Charlie Parker’s birth, SCP Jazz presents a special tribute. One of the founding voices of bebop in the 1940s and ’50s, Parker reinvented jazz, creating an impact that reverberates to this day. In paying tribute to Parker, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington co-direct a group of diverse musicians with influences spanning South Asian, Latin and Afro-futurist genres. Vocalist Charenée Wade, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, pianist Kris Davis, bassist Larry Grenadier and DJ Kassa Overall join Mahanthappa and Carrington for this program.
The concert also features the Sean Jones Quartet in its Symphony Center debut. For six years, trumpet phenom Sean Jones held the first chair in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and then went on to join the SFJAZZ Collective. Pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. join Jones for this performance.
April 17, Artemis: Consisting of leading women in jazz today, the supergroup Artemis allows each member to contribute her own style, resulting in bold takes on jazz standards and striking originals. The ensemble, whose members hail from four different continents, features Renee Rosnes on piano, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Melissa Aldana on tenor saxophone, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Noriko Ueda on bass and Allison Miller on drums. The concert also features Jazzmeia Horn, a rising vocalist who has won both the Sarah Vaughan and Thelonious Monk vocal jazz competitions, in her Symphony Center debut.
May 1, Kurt Elling: To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his debut disc, “Close Your Eyes,” the Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist returns to the city where he was born and where he launched his career. Since that album’s release, Elling’s warm, rich baritone and vocal technique have revitalized the role of male jazz singers and earned him a Grammy Award and recognition as Best Male Vocalist by the DownBeat Critics and Readers polls, among other accolades.
June 7, Dianne Reeves and Beleza Brazil: The NEA Jazz Master and five-time Grammy Award winner presents her latest project, Beleza Brazil. Reeves is defined by her improvisational finesse, which she has developed throughout a career that has spanned Brazilian pop music, American Songbook standards and jazz fusion. In her first Symphony Center appearance since 2015, Reeves presents a program that originated at the 2018 Monterey Jazz Festival; it showcases her affinity for Brazilian music with new interpretations of samba and bossa nova favorites from composers such as Dori Caymmi and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and features Helio Alves on piano, Romero Lubambo on guitar, Itaiguara Brandão on bass and Rafael Barata on drums.
Along with the 2019-20 SCP Jazz series, several Symphony Center Presents Special Concerts have also been announced. As previously mentioned, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis presents an SCP Special Concert on Nov. 16. Additionally, banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck, tabla master Zakir Hussain and bassist Edgar Meyer return with special guest Rakesh Chaurasia on bamboo flute on at 7 p.m. Oct. 6, and sitar master Anoushka Shankar returns with special guests with a program to celebrate the centenary of Ravi Shankar on May 22.
Subscriptions, which start at $130, are on sale now. In addition, SCP Jazz subscribers may now purchase single tickets to any Special Concerts. Single tickets for SCP Jazz concerts and Special Concerts go on sale Aug. 9. To order, call (800) 223-7114 or (312) 294 3000, visit cso.org or stop by the box office, 220 S. Michigan.