September is always an exciting month for live music in Chicago. I still love the feeling of the city waking up after a summer of doing things outdoors. This year is especially exciting as audiences continue to watch the creation of music in person.
It’s impossible to write about music in Chicago in September and not talk about the Jazz Festival (September 1-4), which returns to in-person concerts for the first time since 2019. All the lineup is fantastic, but I’m particularly interested in Regina Harris Baiocchi’s set in the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s New Works Fresh Voices series.
Baiocchi is a versatile composer who has written everything from avant-garde classical, to blues and gospel-influenced tracks, to pure jazz numbers, and this set features her 6Degrees Jazz Sextet performing a set of all original compositions, including new work commissioned by the New Series Works Fresh Voices.
The theme of the concert is “A call to peace and love”. It’s a typically eclectic setlist that also features homages to Von Freeman and Miles Davis, as well as a spotlight on Black Lives Matter. This concert will take place on September 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Von Freeman Pavilion in Millennium Park.
Later that same day, the Jazz Festival presents another major project in the New Works Fresh Voices series, in Ethan Philion’s “Meditations on Mingus,” performed by his ten-piece band specializing in the music of Charles Mingus. Playing in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at 4:15 p.m., this program also features a strong message of social justice.
Along with being one of the most influential musicians of his time, Mingus also spoke out against injustice of all kinds, and Philion’s set was chosen to speak in the modern age. “Mingus’ message still resonates in our present time, a time marked by increasing incidents of hate crimes, aggressive political polarization and ever-increasing wealth disparity,” says Philion. “The compositions performed in ‘Meditations’ – such as ‘Pithecanthropus Erectus’, ‘Meditations on a Pair of Wire Cutters’ and ‘Haitian Fight Song’ – speak to these issues of injustice. The compositions ask listeners to reflect on humanity’s capacity to do evil, but as Mingus’ psychiatrist put it, they are also “a call for acceptance, respect, love, understanding, fellowship, freedom – a plea to turn evil into man and end hate.'”
Another concert that excites me is that of cellist Ian Maksin at the Epiphany Center for the Arts on September 10. If you haven’t been to Epiphany, it’s well worth the visit. It is housed in a historic old church called the Epiphany Church which opened in 1885 at 201 South Ashland and was built of sandstone imported from Lake Superior.
This beautiful church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and is a Chicago landmark, but had to close in 2011 due to a dwindling congregation. It then sat empty for eight years until developer David Chase and his wife Kimberly Rachal turned it into an events venue, closing it in 2020.
Their vision is that Epiphany can once again be a place for people to come together, this time around art and music, and they have 42,000 square feet to do just that. The center includes three performance halls: the huge Epiphany Hall which accommodates almost a thousand, the ancient sanctuary and the newly restored catacombs.
I have known Ian Maksin for many years and he is one of the most versatile musicians in town. Born in Leningrad, trained there and then at the Manhattan School of Music, he spent decades as a classical musician before embarking on another path. Maksin today performs a mix of classical music, rock, jazz and original compositions with an infectious flair.
Maksin will perform music from his last two releases, “The Alchemist” (2021) and “Sempre” (2019), as well as new original music, including his latest single, “Rain Again”, which he dedicated to the people of Ukraine . , with proceeds from its sales benefiting humanitarian aid efforts in that country.
“This war has affected me deeply,” says Maksin. “It is my mission, as a human being and as an artist, to do all I can to support the Ukrainian people by raising humanitarian funds and sharing my music with those who need it most in these times. difficult times. I believe that music will help bring peace, first to our souls and then to the world around us.
Ensemble Dal Niente opens its seventeenth season on September 24 with a concert featuring the music of pioneering German composer Carola Bauckholt, whose works blur the lines between visual arts, musical theater and concert music.
An experimental composer with a unique sense of style whose music is often playful, Bauckholt has a keen ear for musical timbre and her scores are incredibly detailed with the exact sounds she is looking for, whether those sounds come from a cello, a a card shuffler or an empty soap bottle.
Dal Niente will present one of his most popular works in “Oh, I See”, for clarinet, violin, cello, two balloons and video. They will also present George Lewis’ ‘Flux’ for sixteen players, a work inspired by Jeff Donaldson’s prodigiously complex painting ‘JamPact/JelliTite (for Jamila)’. The piece is equally complex and a formidable challenge for the ensemble, employing a wide range of extended techniques, including quarter tones, multiphonics and exotic bowing techniques in the strings. This will take place at another relatively new venue: DePaul’s stunning Holtschneider Performance Center at 800 West Belden.
With the return of Jazz Fest in full swing, exciting new venues opening, and bands planning full seasons for the first time in nearly three years, September has plenty to offer fans of adventurous music.
Seth Boustead is the founder and executive director of Access Contemporary Music, where he has produced over a hundred live concerts and created the Sound of Silent Film Festival, the ACM School of Music, the classical music street festival Thirsty Ears and many other programs designed to present classical music as, well, fun. Seth is the voice of the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial Minute video series, and he gave a TEDx talk on the future of classical music, which he insists isn’t bleak. He is also the creator and host of Relevant Tones, the nation’s only weekly syndicated radio show about contemporary composers.
Contact: [email protected] | Website: www.sethboustead.com