Chicago loves its jazz. We celebrate it over the Labor Day weekend every year with a public festival on the lakefront. And we have Duke Ellington to thank for it.
The Duke’s death in the summer of 1974 sparked several Chicago musicians to stage a festival to honor his legacy. They held it at the southern end of Grant Park near the museums in the old band shell. The crowd was ten thousand strong. It became an annual event, but by 1978 there were three different August jazz events being planned. When confronted with the dilemma of issuing overlapping permits, a solution was proposed by the city to combine them all into a full week festival. Starting with two days called Jazz Panorama, a tribute day for Ellington, one for John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery, the 29th celebrating Charlie Parker’s Birthday, followed by a day for Blues and Swing and ending with a day without a title that featured Benny Goodman and Mel Torme, the Chicago Jazz Festival was born.
The Petrillo Music Shell was new and over 125,000 people attended the first Jazz Fest. Putting it on Labor Day weekend and broadcasting portions of it on WBEZ and WDCB have helped it become a worldwide draw for fans of jazz.
Grab your sunscreen and head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for this year’s edition of the Jazz Fest, now held in Millennium Park. It’s some of the best free music around. Hope to see you there!
For a full schedule, click here.
~Lydia Barnes (email@example.com)
The Smooth Video of the Day: The promotional video for the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival.