Music. So much can be said about that five letter word. The word defines an element of life that’s very hard to describe, especially to someone who has never experienced it before. Today, it’s a huge industry that feeds our kids and young adults with the hippest and latest contrivances of the new generation. However, as I get older and my Rock favorites gather dust at local radio stations,(Do they even use hard copies anymore?) I find myself delving into the more traditional genres. You know, Classical, Blues and Jazz to name a few. So, when I stumbled upon a public festival in Chicago, one that featured Jazz music, I was delighted and intrigued.
Not all of my excursions come up roses. As a matter of fact, there have been blog topics that I have skipped this past year, for whatever reason. Yet, some places I have visited in 2019 were fun spots or events that also didn’t make the cut. Sometimes, I just have to cram in a simple paragraph about my exploits. I did mention the Chicago Jazz Festival in my blog about Chicago. Yet, so much more could have been said. So, since I have time on my hands, I’ll say it.
So, on with my Chicago Jazz Festival Experience…
As a teenager, I hated Jazz music. I was in the high school band as a percussionist, loving the hip and fun songs we played as a pep band. Yet, I wanted to play the drum set most. The only way to get quality time in, on the complex instrument, was to join the Jazz Band. So, I did. And I sucked.
Yet, when the band went to Jazz events, I remember marveling at the professional musicians that would make guest appearances. I didn’t like the music per say, but I loved watching a drummer play a five minute long solo. One in which I knew I didn’t have a chance in hell at emulating. They were simply very good at their craft, and though I didn’t see myself going home and listening to their music, specific memories stay with me till this day.
And As I stare at an unassuming sign proclaiming the Chicago Jazz Festival, taking place this weekend, I feel compelled to go. As I age, the soothing effects the music offers provides welcomed solace. Not to mention, of all musicians in the world, I have always regarded those who play good Jazz music to simply be at the summit of the musical realm.
So we walk in Millennium Park and ,after being screened by police who stand watch at the entrance, I immediately hear the sounds of a screaming saxophone. We follow the sounds and find a makeshift stage before a large conglomeration of folding chairs. The sounds of the band are entertaining many. So much so that their isn’t a chance to find a seat. It’s standing room only.
I grab a beer at a refreshment stand, and we check out the rest of the festival. There are a few stages and a wealth of talent performing on those platforms. We decide that we’ll take in the atmosphere of Park Grill. There, we discover a three piece band playing some Jazz before the paying customers. Sipping craft beers, we enjoy the band while taking in the Chicago skyline and the bustle of Michigan Avenue.
We take a break from the festival, if only for an hour or so, to experience Navy Pier. Our goal is to return to watch a concert at the Jay Pritzker auditorium. A man named George Freeman is set to play. I’ve never heard of him, but I’ve never heard of most Jazz Musicians. I always wanted to check out a free concert at the artistically funky venue in the park.
When we get there, my immediate reaction is sheer disappointment. George Freeman is a 92 years old guitarist. I have nothing against elderly people, I’m just questioning how dexterous George’s hands could possibly be.
When the show starts, I’m pleasantly surprised. The man is very good for his age, heck he’s very good regardless of age. And the music he’s playing today is a very bluesy type set, which I’m thrilled to hear. He’s accompanied by other very talented musicians, including an excellent harmonica player known as Billy Branch. Electricity fills the full auditorium as, courtesy of George and his band, I feel bonding ties with those in attendance. Had I payed for entrance, it would have been worth the money. It’s just an added bonus that I hadn’t.
When we leave, I feel a high-and it’s not from the two beers I drank. There’s something about Jazz music. Sometimes it’s frantic, with musicians fitting as many notes as they can in a full measure. Other times it’s smooth and relaxing, as saxophones and pianos caress away the stress. In the end, when I see great musicianship, I appreciate the hard work and dedication of these artists. When their passion spills from the stage, entertaining the attentive ears before them, it’s simply a magic that can’t be duplicated.
Many Safe Travels to Come!