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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) announces the 2017/18 Symphony Center Presents (SCP) Jazz series programming. Now entering its 24th season, the SCP Jazz series includes 10 concerts that underline a commitment to presenting some of today’s most acclaimed and innovative jazz artists.

Highlights of the 2017/18 series include the annual, multi-day visit by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in an October residency, an evening featuring legendary vocalist Irma Thomas, The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Preservation Hall Legacy Quintet, tribute programs to iconic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk and American composer Leonard Bernstein, as well as special projects from NEA Jazz Masters including Jack DeJohnette, Chucho Valdés, Dave Holland and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

This year’s series also features compelling work from some of jazz’s most original musical voices including Chicagoans Mike Reed and Amir ElSaffar, as well as Antonio Sánchez, Terence Blanchard and 2016 Grammy Award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Program details for each of the 10 concerts in the 2017/18 SCP Jazz series concerts and related special concerts follow. All SCP Jazz series concerts take place on Fridays at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

A highlight of the SCP Jazz series each year, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) return to Symphony Center to launch the 2017/18 season of jazz performances with two days of concerts and activities that begin with their jazz series concert on Friday, October 13. Marsalis and JLCO also perform two SCP Special Concerts on Saturday, October 14, beginning with an 11 a.m. Jazz For Young People concert and concluding at 8 p.m. as Marsalis and JLCO welcome a special guest artist for an evening program. Full program details to be announced at a later date. Led by renowned trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, the 15-piece ensemble has made it their mission to not only entertain audiences, but also to enrich and expand the jazz community through performance, education and advocacy. In addition to their three performances at Symphony Center, musicians from JLCO extend their commitment to youth in Chicago through several in-school workshops with young musicians that are scheduled during their October visit.

On Friday, October 27, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Irma Thomas joins six-time Grammy Award-winners The Blind Boys of Alabama and The Preservation Hall Legacy Quintet for a program of musical collaborations and traditional standards. Widely recognized as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans,” Thomas has been a popular singer for decades, receiving her first major recognition for a string of hits in the 1960s including “Time Is On My Side” and “It’s Raining.” In 2006, Thomas recorded After The Rain in Louisiana weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The album won Thomas her first Grammy Award as well as a Blues Music Award for Soul-Blues Album of the Year. Thomas joins one of today’s most decorated gospel and roots groups, The Blind Boys of Alabama, whose distinctive sound and musical style has captured the attention of audiences around the world for more than seven decades. Rounding out the artist roster for this special program is The Preservation Hall Legacy Quintet, made up of some of the historic Hall’s most respected alumni, many of whom have toured internationally with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for years.

The next SCP Jazz series concert on Friday, November 17, is a double bill with the Ravi Coltrane Quartet and Trio Beyond: Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield and Larry Goldings. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, guitarist John Scofield and pianist Larry Goldings on a Hammond B- 3 organ form Trio Beyond which was created in 2003 as a tribute to percussionist Tony Williams. Trio Beyond played their first show at Queen Elizabeth Hall during the 2004 London Jazz Festival, which was later turned into their live, and only recording, Saudades. Led by Chicago’s own Jack DeJohnette, who turns 75 this year, Trio Beyond continues to chart new musical territory in their live shows. Opening the evening’s double bill is the Ravi Coltrane Quartet led by Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Ravi Coltrane, the son of legendary tenor saxophonist John Coltrane.

On Friday, January 26, 2018, Grammy-nominated pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley leads his MONK’estra band in a program that pays tribute to iconic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk

(1917-1982), whose centenary is in 2017. The 15-piece ensemble plays modern interpretations of Monk’s music with influences of hip-hop and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Led by one of jazz’s most versatile musicians, Beasley has worked alongside jazz and popular music greats such as Miles Davis, Steely Dan and Freddie Hubbard. The MONK’estra is joined for this performance by harmonica player Grégoire Maret and trumpeter and vocalist Dontae Winslow. Opening the concert is Chilean tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana. In 2013, Aldana won the Thelonious Monk Competition, making her the first female South American recipient. She has also received the Martin E. Segal Award from Jazz at Lincoln Center and Chile’s highly prestigious Altazor Award.

Thought-provoking projects from two of Chicago’s most innovative jazz artists are part of the SCP Jazz series on Friday, February 9, 2018. Drummer Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone project evolved after he and his band found themselves in the middle of a neo-Nazi rally during their 2009 tour of the Czech Republic. Exploring different aspects of race, politics and culture through the languages of jazz and spoken word, the critically acclaimed project was first premiered in 2015. Aside from gaining recognition as a jazz drummer, Reed is also a founding director of Pitchfork Music Festival, programming chair of the Chicago Jazz Festival and owner of Constellation, an arts venue located in Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood.

For the second set of the evening on February 9, Chicago-born trumpeter Amir ElSaffar leads his Two Rivers ensemble in the latest installment of his ongoing Rivers of Sound project. Composed of both Western and Middle Eastern musicians, the Two Rivers ensemble performs ElSaffar’s original works from their 2017 release Not Two, which highlights an exploration of the space where jazz and the music of the Middle East meet. Trumpeter, composer, vocalist and santur player ElSaffar’s musical work reflects on a region of the world that continues to find itself in the midst of uncertain times and unpredictable violence as the people struggle to keep their rich culture alive.

Cuban pianists Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba come together on Friday, February 23, 2018, to perform selections from their recent duo project Trance. Valdés is the winner of six Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. The Afro-Cuban jazz innovator is widely known for founding the legendary Latin jazz ensemble Irakere in the 1970s. Rubalcaba is a 15- time Grammy-nominated recording artist. He received the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle Laureate Award and was an artist-in-residence during the 2002 Montreal Jazz Festival with Valdés. In 2010, Rubalcaba started his own record label and production company called 5Passion, which has recorded musicians such as tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake and Latin jazz percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. He has also shared the stage with jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Chris Potter and Herbie Hancock.

The Bill Charlap Trio featuring pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington brings their recent project highlighting the music of iconic American composer Leonard Bernstein to the series on Friday, March 9, 2018. The program is part of a season-long celebration of the Leonard Bernstein centenary in 2018 presented in a variety of programs at Symphony Center. The trio’s selections are from its Grammy-nominated album Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein, a set of new interpretations of Bernstein songs from West Side Story, On the Town and more. The March 9 program closes with a set from one of today’s top jazz vocalists, Cécile McLorin Salvant. A student of classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory in France with Jean-François Bonnel, her repertoire is often filled with rarely-recorded or forgotten songs. McLorin Salvant’s album WomanChild was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2014, and in 2016 her album For One To Love won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Bassist Dave Holland joins master percussionist Zakir Hussain and an all-star roster of musicians from the jazz and Indian music traditions on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, for Crosscurrents. For this project Hussain and Holland are joined by saxophonist Chris Potter, vocalist Shankar Mahadevan, keyboardist Louiz Banks, guitarist Sanjay Divecha and drummer Gino Banks for an innovative night of jazz-infused world music. In 2002, Hussain was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government and has performed and released recordings with musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, George Harrison and Van Morrison. Holland, who was recently named an NEA Jazz Master in 2017, is a Grammy Award-winning artist who has performed with a host of jazz luminaries throughout his nearly five-decade career including Miles Davis, Stan Getz and Chick Corea.

A double bill on Friday, May 18, 2018 features new work from two of today’s most intriguing young jazz artists. The evening opens with a set from drummer Antonio Sánchez and his five- piece ensemble, Migration. Sánchez has worked closely with Grammy Award-winner Pat Metheny, having recorded eight albums with the guitarist. Sánchez was asked by filmmaker Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu to compose an original score the 2014 Oscar-winning film Birdman. Two years later, Sánchez put out his second release with Migration; a 60-minute original piece called “The Meridian Suite.”

Terence Blanchard and The E-Collective complete the May 18 double bill. New Orleans native and trumpeter Blanchard leads his fellow quintet members—guitarist Charles Altura, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist David Ginyard Jr. and drummer Oscar Seaton —in music that defies distinct genres and creates its own groove in a fusion of jazz, R&B, funk and blues. Breathless, the critically acclaimed 2015 album from Blanchard and The E-Collective, offered a powerful musical reflection on the racial divide that still exists in many of our communities. Blanchard’s bold expressive voice is also a part of his scores for Spike Lee films, including Chi-raq and Malcolm X.

The SCP Jazz series finale on Friday, June 1, 2018, features an anticipated return of acclaimed jazz vocalist and 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. She opens the evening with a set inspired by her upcoming recording project Memphis, which pays tribute to the soul and blues music of her hometown.

A swinging set from The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra directed by Scotty Barnhart closes the evening with selections that highlight the unique big band styles that came out of cities including New York City, Chicago, Kansas City, among others. The orchestra has won 18 Grammy Awards and has performed at major jazz festivals around the world. Their music has also been featured in several movies and television shows such as Pearl Harbor and Raging Bull.

For 2017/18 SCP Jazz series program listings information, click here.

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