Jazz Institute Celebrates Big 5-0 With June 28-30 Birthday Bash

In his 1961 painting "Hot Rhythm", Archibald Motley explores the Chicago South Side jazz music scene.

The distinct, innovative sound and legacy of jazz music in Chicago takes center stage from June 28-30 for Chicagoans of all ages as the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC) celebrates “50 Years of Making Jazz Happen” during a multi-event, free Birthday Bash weekend at venues in Hyde Park.

Birthday Bash activities will feature jazz artists, music, dance and spoken word performances, and exhibits. Chicago’s own Orbert Davis, DJ Duane Powell, Nicole Mitchell and Maggie Brown will be among the music standouts performing during the June 28-30 celebration extravaganza.

The JIC is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating jazz as a true American art form and as a legendary staple in the city’s storied music history.

It is collaborating with an array of local partners to celebrate the beauty, diversity and rich history of Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene through multiple events at Connect Gallery, 1520 East Harper Court; The Promontory, 5311 South Lake Park; and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at 915 East 60th Street.

Known for its inventive and collaborative spirit, the JIC has successfully partnered for half a century with musicians, cultural institutions, community organizations and city agencies to showcase the distinctly innovative DNA of Chicago jazz.

Birthday Bashing it will be Orbert Davis and Maggie Brown

Free and open to the public, the Birthday Bash will feature commissioned world premiere music; renowned Chicago jazz musicians including Orbert Davis, Maggie Brown, Joan Collaso, and a virtual performance by Nicole Mitchell; community discussions; performances by exciting, emerging jazz artists; and poetry, visual art and dance as art forms that enjoy a long-time, mutually beneficial relationship with jazz music.

Joan Collaso will be on hand. Here she is performing at Norm Bolden’s Room 43. Photo by 2elevenphotography.

Sponsored by the Epstein Family Foundation and presented in partnership with the Logan Center for the Arts, the Birthday Bash also will engage families with children who can watch an original play and participate in art-making activities.

JIC Executive Director Heather Ireland Robinson. Photo by Erin Hooley.

“We couldn’t be more excited and honored to invite the entire city and Chicagoans of all ages to help us celebrate ‘50 Years of Making Jazz Happen’,” says JIC Executive Director Heather Ireland Robinson, who emphasizes the non-profit’s commitment to expose a new wave of inventive jazz artists to new audiences.

“What better way to connect the community to the rich, vibrant jazz culture than by offering three days of free events and activities to celebrate this wonderful art form that has helped define multiple generations? We look forward to joining our many partners, supporters and music peers in celebrating the Jazz Institute’s contributions and the mastery of our local jazz artists.”

There will be a virtual performance by Nicole Mitchell.

Ireland Robinson added, “We are very much committed to celebrating our robust history while keeping our eye on the future. We continue to nurture and promote jazz citywide through education programs that support all aspects of a young artist’s career and musicianship, as well as free public programming in city parks, and of course, programming the Chicago Jazz Festival.

“We believe in building bridges by creating programs in neighborhoods and presenting music where people of all ages live, work and play.”

Half A Century Later

Dating back to its first concert in 1969, the Jazz Institute has played a major role in the development and growth of jazz nationally and worldwide.

The poster for JIC’s very first concert on March 16, 1969.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that the Jazz Institute of Chicago is 50 years old, except for the fact that almost every milestone in my career has been as a result of JIC’s ingenuity, dedication and support,” notes Orbert Davis, Emmy Award-winning trumpeter, composer, educator, and co-founder, conductor and artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.

“The JIC is the ‘hub’ for Chicago jazz; a driving force that preserves rich cultural legacies while forever fostering the ‘new’.”

The second JIC concert, on April 20, 1969, featured Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge.

“Congratulations and thank you to the Jazz Institute for promoting and nurturing jazz in Chicago for 50 years,” adds Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

“The Jazz Institute has been our partner on the Chicago Jazz Festival since its inception more than 40 years ago. The Festival and the Birthday Bash both reflect the power of jazz music to unify us all. And the fact that the Bash is free and represents the exciting depth and breadth of Jazz Institute programming makes it a must-do summer event.”

Here are some of the highlights that stand out among the nearly two dozen music, dance and spoken word performances planned for the Birthday Bash:

Friday, June 28

DJ Duane Powell

• Freedom Jazz Dance presented by Soundrotation at Connect Gallery: Join music historian and DJ Duane Powell for an interactive session exploring jazz as dance music. The session also will include a special performance choreographed by dance legend Amaniyea Payne of Muntu Dance Theatre. 5-7 p.m., 1520 East Harper Court.

Drummer Makaya McCraven

• Birthday Surprise Concert at The Promontory featuring special guest artist Makaya McCraven, the renowned drummer, producer and sonic collagist. McCraven is one of Chicago’s savviest cultural players and a multi-talented force whose inventive process and intuitive, cinematic style defy categorization. He will be joined by Junius Paul, Matt Gold, Greg Ward, and Irvin Pierce. 8-10 p.m., 5311 South Lake Park.

Saturday, June 29 at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 East 60th Street
• Jazz Links Emerging Artists Project Ensemble (Café Logan, 1-2 p.m.)

• UNDU: Nicole Mitchell, Jonathan Woods, Tatsu Aoki and the Miyumi Project. (Performance Hall, 2-3 p.m.) This original project was commissioned exclusively for the Bash.

Saxophonist Isaiah Collier

• Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few (Café Logan 3:30-4:30 p.m.). Composer, arranger and saxophonist from the South Side, Collier is a graduate of the Chicago High School for the Performing Arts and has played with any number of Chicago music legends.

• Panel discussions: “Black and White: An Examination of Segregation and the Jazz Life on Chicago’s South Side” (Screening room, 2nd floor, 4:30-5:30 p.m.). “Digging Our Roots: Chicago’s Greatest Hits – The Singers” (Screening room, 2nd floor, 6-7 p.m.) focuses on three of Chicago’s greatest vocalists – Oscar Brown Jr., Dinah Washington, and Johnny Hartman.

Discussion will center on Chicago jazz singing legends Oscar Brown Jr. (top), Dinah Washington, and Johnny Hartman (bottom).


Sunday, June 30 at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 East 60th Street
• The Orbert Davis Quintet featuring Ari Brown: Vibe with the legendary Orbert Davis on trumpet, Ari Brown on saxophone, Leandro Lopez Varady on piano, Stewart Miller on bass, and Ernie Adams on the drums. 7:30-8:30 p.m.

J Is For Jazz children’s play (Penthouse, 9th floor, 2-3 p.m.) This original play will debut at the Bash.

• “The City Was Yellow: Jazz & Improvised Music 1980-2010” book release and panel discussion (Screening room, 2nd floor, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)

Subject of a panel discussion.

The JIC’s partners for the Birthday Bash include: Logan Center for the Arts, The Promontory, Connect Gallery, Columbia College Chicago, Asian Improv aRts, Jazz Journalists Association, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Chicago Film Society, The Stillwell Institute, and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre.

The Jazz Institute of Chicago’s concert and education programs are created to bring jazz directly to communities throughout Chicago. They include:

• the Jazz Links education programs – a series of programs for teachers, and elementary, high school and college students designed to expand their knowledge through mentorship and performance;

• performance opportunities for emerging artists;

• and the Chicago Jazz Festival, produced by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago since 1979.

For full program schedules, more information on membership or how you can support jazz in Chicago, click here!

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