Music always resonates in Hyde Park, but over the weekend it was practically ubiquitous.
The 12th annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival was the reason, musicians performing in far-flung venues, from churches to concert halls to the great outdoors.
Following is one listener’s diary of some of Saturday’s events, which kicked off two days of stylistically wide-ranging jazz.
4:30 p.m. — Brandee Younger Trio. Performer and venue are well matched when harpist Younger unfurls celestial tones in Hyde Park Union Church. Even apart from the setting, there’s no mistaking the spirituality at the core of Younger’s performance. She opens with what amounts to an homage to Alice Coltrane, who gave the harp prominence in jazz. Performing alongside bassist Rashaan Carter, Younger offers florid playing in Coltrane’s “Rama Rama,” then expands the ensemble with flutist Anne Drummond in “Games,” from the “Afro-Harping” album of another key jazz harpist, Dorothy Ashby. Here, Younger weaves several layers of sound yet sustains exquisitely long melodic lines.
11:07 p.m. — Ravi Coltrane and Brandee Younger. Saturday’s activities at this festival always culminate with a late-night set at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, but I’ve never seen this enormous space more crowded during the Hyde Park Jazz Festival than on this occasion. The audience enthusiasm is justified, for saxophonist Coltrane and harpist Younger — joined by drummer Johnathan Blake and bassist Rashaan Carter — play music from Coltrane’s program “Universal Consciousness: Melodic Meditations of Alice Coltrane.” As the title suggests, saxophonist Coltrane conjures the serene, otherworldly message of Alice Coltrane, his mother, whose musings Younger evokes on harp. Which is not to say that this music is entirely ethereal. Though Ravi Coltrane starts softly, he builds intensity, switching from tenor saxophone to soprano and back in performing “Journey in Satchidananda,” “Blue Nile” and “Rama Rama” without interruption. The most tender music emerges in “For Turiya,” which Charlie Haden wrote for Alice Coltrane and recorded with her on their “ ‘Closeness’ Duets” album. Ravi Coltrane’s declamatory melody-making on tenor saxophone and Younger’s shimmering passagework on harp represent the high point of the set and one of the most effective performances Coltrane has led in Chicago. Remarkably, he manages to make the most of the cavernous room’s heavily reverberant acoustics, using this dynamic to dramatize his sound. A vivid close to a most rewarding day.