Chicago Jazz Festival Brings Big Talent To The Lakefront This Weekend

09/01/2010 06:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In a year where city events are being cut left and right due to budget shortfalls (July 3 fireworks, anyone?), the Chicago Jazz Festival has pulled off a miracle. It's not only returning to the lakefront for its 32nd year; the festival is expanding to four days from an anticipated two.

The festival's growth, as the Chicago Reader reports, is due to a major contribution from the Chicago Jazz Partnership. Budget details aside, though, the result for festival-goers is a long weekend of amazing performances, both homages to the traditions of America's music and cutting-edge displays of its new direction.

Festivities kick off Thursday at 12 p.m. at Millennium Park with "Umbrella Music," a group that combines improvised jazz and dance elements. Ramsey Lewis, a titan of the Chicago jazz scene, will celebrate his 75th birthday on Friday night with a concert at Pritzker Pavilion; artist-in-residence Nicole Mitchell will play with her quartet Sonic Projections on Saturday afternoon; later that night, at the Petrillo Music Shell, the tribute band Charisma will play a set of legendary trumpeter Lee Morgan's music. Grandiose pianist Brad Mehldau's performance with his trio on Sunday should also not be missed.

From jazz icons to talented local youths, from African roots to avant-garde electro, the weekend will offer an eclectic and lively display of jazz in all forms. And as always, it's all free of charge.

Check out the Reader's detailed guide to the festival.

What: Chicago Jazz Festival

When: Thursday, Sept. 2, 12 - 4 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 3 12 - 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 4 & Sunday, Sept. 5, 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Where: Millennium Park, 55 N Michigan Ave., Chicago
Grant Park, 337 East Randolph St., Chicago
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington St., Chicago

Price: Free!

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