Chicago-Sun Times – Starry display jazzes up dynamic festival (2006)

Chicago-Sun Times – September 2, 2002
by Kevin Whitehead

Saturday was one of those nights to make you realize what an amazing gift free Chicago Jazz Festival is. On tap were two of the music’s best tenor saxophonists, Wayne Shorter and Jimmy Heath, the latter conducting the Chicago Jazz Orchestra in top form; dynamic singer Carla Cook, really connecting with the crowd, and two new-jazz dynamos the Jazz Institute’s unsung programmers paired up for the first time, Oliver Lake and Mal Waldron.

At open-air venues like the Petrillo Music Shell, a big, bold statement usually works best. But alto saxophonist Lake and pianist Waldron’s 5 o’clock opener grabbed the gathering crowd without shouting. Waldron soloed in his typical two steps forward, one step back manner, but the sound he gets is more delicate and less heavy than ever: parlor piano for a very large parlor. Lake’s snaky lines jogged Waldron off some of his pet patterns, and the pianist’s dusky chords beautifully supported the altoist’s blow-torch tone, on Waldron classics “Fire Waltz” and “Soul Eyes.” It was an effectively intimate prelude to the fireworks ahead.