For its 25th anniversary season, SCP Jazz Series once again will present the greatest artists of the genre, including Ahmad Jamal, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Chick Corea and Nicholas Payton. In addition, the season will bring three commissions: Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran on Chicago’s Great Migration saga, Reginald Robinson celebrating the legacy of World War I bandleader James Reese Europe and a work by Oded Lev-Ari for clarinetist Anat Cohen and her tentet.
In addition, several artists will make their SCP Jazz series debuts: clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and jazz vocalists José James, Will Downing, Nona Hendryx and Quiana Lynell.
Established in 1994, the 10-concert series is known for presenting jazz’s most acclaimed and innovative artists. Along with performances, the series provides educational opportunities for Chicago-area students to attend performances and learn directly from jazz legends and innovators.
Program details for each of the 10 concerts in the 2018-19 SCP Jazz series follow. All concerts are scheduled for Fridays at 8 p.m.
Ahmad Jamal, Shahin Novrasli, Oct. 12: The pianist, composer and NEA jazz master, who turns 88 this year, continues to thrill audiences with his creative energy. For this performance, Jamal will showcase his latest project, “Marseille,” which serves as a love letter to the French coastal city. To open the concert, Azerbaijani pianist Shahin Novrasli makes his Symphony Center debut with a solo performance. A classically trained prodigy, Novrasli creates original music that blends his country’s traditional mugham folk music with jazz and baroque influences.
Branford Marsalis Quartet with Roy Hargrove; Reginald R. Robinson, Nov. 2: The NEA jazz master and saxophonist returns, along with guest trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who first appeared on the series during the 1995-96 season. With its tight, intuitive communication, the Branford Marsalis Quartet welcomes Hargrove’s bold and flexible sound to their musical conversation.
The program also features Chicago contemporary ragtime pianist, composer and MacArthur Fellow Reginald R. Robinson in an SCP Jazz Series commission that marks the centennial of the World War I Armistice. The commission honors ragtime and jazz musician James Reese Europe, who first introduced the musical genres to Europe as a bandleader for the 369th Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters” in France during World War I.
Joshua Redman Quartet, the Anat Cohen Tentet, Feb. 1: Since winning the Thelonious Monk Competition in 1991, saxophonist Joshua Redman has regularly appeared at Orchestra Hall. This time, he brings his longtime sidemen Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums for a program featuring original music alongside Redman-arranged standards.
The concert also features Israel-born clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen and her tentet, which draws on influences from South America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. The set will showcase a concerto for solo clarinet and ensemble composed by Cohen’s longtime colleague Oded Lev-Ari. This work is a co-commission of the SCP Jazz Series and Carnegie Hall, where it receives its world premiere a few weeks before its Chicago debut.
“Jazz in the Key of Ellison,” Feb. 22: This multimedia tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Ralph Ellison showcases works of his favorite jazz artists Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles and others. This program, which is presented in music, words and images, features Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton, R&B and jazz vocalists Will Downing and Nona Hendryx, Quiana Lynell, winner of the 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, and the Andy Farber Orchestra.
Paquito D’Rivera Quintet; Pedrito Martinez and Alfredo Rodríguez, March 8: Two generations of Cuban artists appear for an evening of Latin jazz. In his SCP Jazz series debut, 14-time Grammy Award-winning clarinetist, saxophonist and NEA jazz master Paquito D’Rivera appears with his quintet for a program that straddles jazz and classical genres. The evening also features the duo of percussionist Pedrito Martinez and pianist Alfredo Rodríguez. Martinez’s style reflects the polyrhythms of the African roots of his santeria faith. Rodríguez blends his affinity for modern jazz and classical composition with popular Cuban dance styles.
The Bad Plus with Kurt Rosenwinkel; José James, March 25: With new pianist Orrin Evans, the Bad Plus released its latest album, “Never Stop II,” filled with original pieces that range from lyrical to abstract, with influences that touch on West African drumming patterns, rock/punk/grunge and post-bop harmonies. Kurt Rosenwinkel, one of the most influential jazz guitarists of his generation, adds his signature sound to this program. The other half of the concert features jazz vocalist José James, making his SCP Jazz debut, in a tribute to singer-songwriter Bill Withers, who penned such hits as “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Monterey Jazz Festival’s 60th anniversary celebration tour, April 12: A lineup of today’s young all-stars appears for this tribute to the influential, long-running California festival. DownBeat magazine’s female vocalist of the year, Cécile McLorin Salvant headlines this group, and pianist Christian Sands, whose own music embraces Afro-Cuban rhythms and hip-hop beats, directs the ensemble. The lineup also features Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, who made her Symphony Center debut in January; bassist Yasushi Nakamura, who performs with the New Century Jazz Quintet and Japanese-based J-Squad; New York-based, Canadian trumpeter-singer-songwriter Bria Skonberg, and New Orleans-based vocalist and drummer Jamison Ross.
Chick Corea and Béla Fleck, May 3: The keyboardist and NEA jazz master and banjo virtuoso reunite for a duo program that demonstrates their shared affinity for jazz, bluegrass and flamenco. Over his 50 years, Corea has won 22 jazz Grammys. A 16-time Grammy winner himself, Fleck has created projects ranging from classical concertos to collaborations with African instrumentalists.
Jason Moran’s “Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration,” May 24: MacArthur Fellow and pianist Jason Moran will be joined by his wife, mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran, Pastor Smokie Norful on piano and vocals, the Imani Winds, Chicago’s Kenwood Academy Jazz Band, and Joseph Joubert, music director for this project. “Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration,” tells the story of blacks’ resettlement from the South and how their journey shaped American culture. Moran taps the young musicians of the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band for their second collaboration for the SCP Jazz Series; gospel pianist and vocalist Smokie Norful demonstrates the role of the church within this culture and the Imani Winds reaffirm how much of the music of this culture has roots in the classical tradition.
Wayne Shorter Quartet, June 7: The revered saxophonist returns with his longtime quartet. While Shorter’s driving sound serves as the group’s heart, the band’s music has embraced a world of traditional hard bop and expansive fusion.
Along with the 2018-19 SCP Jazz Series, several Symphony Center Presents Special Concerts have been announced: South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m.; the Japanese taiko-drumming troupe Kodo, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m., and tabla master Zakir Hussain, April 19 at 8 p.m.
Subscriptions for the 2018-19 SCP Jazz season in five-concert or 10-concert series are on sale now and begin at $130. SCP Jazz subscribers may purchase single tickets to any Special Concerts now. Single tickets for SCP Jazz concerts and Special Concerts go on sale Aug 1.
Subscriptions for the 2018-19 Symphony Center Presents Jazz series and tickets to Special Concerts can be purchased at cso.org/jazz, by phone at (800) 223‑7114 or (312) 294‑3000, or at the Symphony Center box office: 220 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL 60604.