Chicago Jazz artist Kahil El'Zabar and Delmark Jazz Promoter Alana Rocklin co-produced a concert Thursday night, January 20th, as a tribute to AACM pioneer Lester Bowie who passed away on November 8, 1999 at the age of 58; thus an avant garde jazz festival took place at the stately Hyde Park Union Church to rivalling any recent Jazz Festival evening in Grant Park.
Percussionist El'Zabar, one of Lester's closest friends and musical cohorts, brought the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble including Lester's younger brother Joseph Bowie (trombone), Ernest "Khabeer" Dawkins (alto sax), and Fareed Haque on guitar. They delivered a truly spiritual set, creating a vibe that was to continue throughout the evening.
The North side was represented by the Vandermark Five, which played Lester's composition "New York is Full of Lonely People," a very moving tribute featuring a sonically unbelievable solo by Ken Vandermark. The group had of Vandermark on reeds, Dave Rempis (alto), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Kent Kesseler (bass), and Tim Mulvenna (drums).
Duets by James Carter (tenor sax) and Hamiet Bluiett (baritone sax) proved just how exciting and humorous two unaccompanied horns can be. They saluted the comical side of Lester, featuring an impromptu piano/vocal performance from Hamiet Bluiett.
Fellow AACM founder Roscoe Mitchell brought his quartet featuring Willie Pickens (piano), Joel Brandon (whistle, flute), Harrison Bankhead (bass) and Vincent Davis (drums) to close the proceedings. Roscoe delivered a relentless set, proving how influential the AACM & Lester are to modern jazz.
The event was an enormous success and raised over $4,000 for the Zola Bowie College Fund.
The producers of the event asked that thanks go out to everyone who weathered the snow and attended the concert. They are also grateful to the press, specifically Howard Reich, Peter Margasak, Michael Jackson, and Josh Klein who contributed greatly to attendance. A special thanks to Susan Kruglinski who was instrumental in promoting the event. Co-sponsors of the program included the Jazz Institute of Chicago, Reckless Records, Chicagogigs.com, 32 Jazz Records, Thrill Jockey Records, Doctor Wax Records & Tapes, and the Hyde Park Union Church. Credit goes to Archer Prewitt and Ray Harmon for the poster that helped draw eyes to the event.