As readers know, I am into works created by architects, which typically are made of glass, steel, and stone. Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a benefit concert for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. This year the Festival honored Judith Stein, an architect of a different sort, who has been one of the driving forces behind the annual jazz festival, which is held the last weekend in September. It celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The benefit was held at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, which is not surprising given the close partnership that has evolved between the Center and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival.
Judith has been there since the beginning. She is chief fundraiser, booster, and goodwill ambassador. Everyone in Chicago jazz circles knows the exuberant Judith, who is seen at events throughout the City. Like the Postal Service, wind, sleet, and snow don't slow her down. While she has not been at it as long as Chicago impresario Joe Segal, she certainly is continuing the tradition that Segal began in 1947.
The festival may be the most important jazz event in the Chicago each year, in large part because it presents two solid days of music at 15 or so venues in a neighborhood rather than in the central city. Judith's efforts have been instrumental in developing a celebration of music, diversity, and people. Well done Judith. You deserve the honor.
If you doubt me, read Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich's tribute to Judith in yesterday's Tribune. The Jazz Lady.
In addition to an excellent buffet dinner (actually appetizers, but more than enough for dinner), the tribute and benefit concluded with an hour plus concert by Ken Peplowski, one of the masters of the clarinet. With Peplowski were Ehud Asherie on piano, who did an outstanding solo rendition of Fats Waller's Honeysuckle Rose, Joel Forbes on bass, and the very capable and subtle Aaron Kimmel on drums. After two songs, Peplowski brought out the evening's special guest, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet. Peplowski jokingly said Pelt would begin with a ballad because he can't play fast. As the concert progressed, it was clear that Pelt can play anything that he wants, whether fast or slow tempo.
Peplowki and his crew don't venture into the abstractions of the AACM. They play what is often characterized as more traditional jazz. They play it very well, making the case that this music is not out of fashion. The quintet ended with Body and Soul, which proved to be one of the night's standouts. It was fun seeing musicians having such a good time on stage. They even performed When October Goes, written by Johnny Mercer, but scored by Barry Manilow, but you would never know it.
Given Judith's tastes in music, she must have been in seventh heaven as Peplowski and crew serenaded her and somewhere around 125 other jazz aficionados. In the house were Chicago luminaries Victor Goines, Art Hoyle, Norman Malone, and Richard Steele. Tribune critic Reich was present for the reception and ceremony, but had to leave before the concert began.
Steele, who has been a longtime on-air fundraiser for WTTW, Chicago's Public Television's outlet, did the honors when it came time to raise needed funds from attendees. He is good, really good. My wallet knows. A tad lighter.
Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel. All Rights Reserved