Jazz Poetry concerts hearken back to more intimate years
City of Asylum's Jazz Poetry concert has grown into a monthlong affair.
The annual free event that celebrates the group's role in the North Side will start off Sept. 15 to 17 with concerts featuring avant garde sax star Oliver Lake.
But music and poetry will continue on weekends through Oct. 9, which will bring in guitarist Mary Halvorson in the trio Thumbscrew.
“We are moving away from the big setting of the past few years (in nearby West Park) and trying to restore the intimacy of the early years,” says Henry Reese, City of Asylum's executive director.
The group provides sanctuary to politically oppressed writers but also has become greatly involved in North Side growth and cultural development.
The location of the year's opening performances was planned for City of Asylum's new Alphabet City headquarters on North Avenue in the North Side, but Reese says work is continuing to finish the job there.
While he has a temporary occupancy permit, Reese is moving this weekend's shows to the group's tent on nearby Sampsonia Way.
Oliver Lake should feel at home there. The saxophonist, who is one of the founders of the World Saxophone Quartet, has been at every Jazz Poetry event since the founding in 2005.
“And he'll be celebrating his birthday with us this year,” Reese says with a laugh. Lake turned 74 on Sept. 14.
He will perform solo Sept. 15 and in the quartet Sept. 17. Hamiet Bluiett, another member of the quartet, will be featured with drummer Roger Humphries on Sept. 16.
Humphries, a lifelong North Side resident, seems pleased with Reese's work.
“It is great to watch him create things,” he says. “He is doing it the way it should be done — one step at a time.”
The Alphabet City performance area will seat about 200, Reese says.
Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer