By Ken Tanaka
A fellow named Theodore Walter Rollins...I think they call him "Sonny"...kicked off the 30th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival at Chicago's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on Thursday night (August 28th). Living across the street from the Park, and having spent countless hours there since it opened in 2004 I can tell you that the crowd for this concert must have easily been among the largest to-date. Not only was the main seating filled but the entire Great Lawn under the sound canopy was also packed. This was the scene ten minutes into the concert. (I think this is exactly what Frank Gehry had in mind as he designed the Pavilion, too.)
And what a superb performance. Sonny Rollins is nearly 80 (and his band is not far behind) but you'd never know it from their performance. They began playing at 6:30 pm and played straight through until 8:30 pm. No happy talk b.s., no union potty breaks. Just two hours of some of the most smooth, delicious, old-school jazz that you'll ever hear delivered over the Pavilion's 21st century sound envelope system. I got the impression that, on this mild summer night, they could have played until dawn. It was magic.
I am no jazz scholar but I sure know a true living legend when I hear one. That's exactly what this enormous crowd came to hear Thursday night...for free!