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Guide To Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Hyde Park Jazz Festival
(credit: Hyde Park Jazz Festival)

Hyde Park Jazz Festival
September 24-25
Saturday 1 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Sunday 1 pm. - 6:3o p.m.
Hyde Park, various locations
Admission: Free

Few, if any, of Chicago's festivals have the dedicated focus and local ties of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Now five years old, the festival is also unique for its sprawling lineup that weaves throughout the Hyde Park neighborhood. Rather than setting up on one main drag, performances are tucked throughout the historic neighborhood in venues that are both indoors and out, with the majority of performance venues located just within walking distance of the main hub, The Midway Plaisance. Hyde Park features some of the city's most beautiful architecture, making it a stunning environment for taking in some of the best jazz of anywhere in the country.

The two-day festival is entirely free and powered by the efforts of more than 300 of the neighborhood and surrounding area's jazz-loving volunteers. The lineup is equally homegrown, with an overwhelming number of picks from this years festival hailing from Chicago, including the John Wright All Stars, Willie Pickens and the Maggie Brown Quartet. Jazz aficionados will no doubt dig the more than half day long block of non-stop music that starts up at 1 p.m. on Saturday and doesn't quit until 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. The night-owl jazz lovers don't have to get moving until mid-day Sunday when the festival picks up again at 1 p.m., ultimately closing out at 6:30 p.m. the same night.

Chicago-style jazz will be in heavy rotation due to the largely hometown makeup of the performers. However, within Chicago's rich jazz scene (and thanks to performers from outside the city) the variety will touch sub-genres of Latin jazz, Native-inspired jazz and experimental jazz. Even if you have a style you love, it's tough to pass up at least listening in on other artists given the dramatic performance spaces and free-of-charge entry. In between sets on the Midway, organizers will have kid-friendly jazz-centric activities to occupy the young ones - and help nurture the next generation of jazz fans.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2010
(credit: Hyde Park Jazz Festival)

While this is free, there are plenty of chances to infuse the local economy and support the various food, art and craft vendors set up at the fest. Certain artisans and vendors seemingly become festival mainstays when they attend the bulk of the North Side neighborhood fests; in Hyde Park, the South Side vendors come out for the party, with the wares as unique as the neighborhood itself.

The fest is scheduled rain or shine, though it mostly impacts outdoor performances in the case of inclement weather. Seating is first come, first served, and with a brisk lineup of jazz heavy-hitters, it's a good idea to plan your day so that you arrive early enough to snag a seat.

For a full list of event venues check out!

Kim Bellware is a writer, producer and print maker living in Ukrainian Village. Her non-writerly pursuits involve soccer, perfecting Spanish tapas recipes and spending more time seemingly fixing her bike than she does actually riding it.
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