Herron’s Jazz Fest Picks

Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 am

A festival, by definition, should be an excess of riches – including too much to do, too many things to see and maintain sanely. With so many obvious choices at the top of the marquee (three chances to see violin wiz Regina Carter, for instance; Kenny Garrett, Dave Brubeck), we thought we’d complicate your decision-making even more by calling your attention to a few things you may have missed.

Herbie Hancock: He’s a legend several times over, of course, and he’s reprising highlights of his career from the Maiden Voyage aftershave era through the era with the funk-fusion group Head Hunter (which once held the record for the top-selling jazz LP of all time) and onto his latest work. We’ll give you one more reason to see Hancock: His quartet includes Lionel Loueke, a Benin-born guitarist by way of Paris and the Berklee school, who may be the most important new jazz guitarist since Bill Frisell. Chase Main Stage, 8:45 p.m., Friday.

Lots of Lateef: Last time Yusef Lateef played the festival, some hard-boppers yelled for his hard-driving old stuff, and then went away miffed at the featured music that was at turns atmospheric, ethereal and exploratory. His set with a conventional quartet (piano, drums, bass) may have a more traditional focus. Meanwhile, the festival includes a) Steve Wood’s “Tribute to Yusef Lateef,” which harkens back to classic Lateef of the 1950s; and b) a panel discussion including Lateef, Wood, and jazz scribes Herb Boyd and Ira Gitler. Hard-bop purists, ready your questions. Wood performs at the Mack Avenue Records Pyramid Stage at 2:45 Monday. Lateef at the Pyramid at 7 p.m. Monday. The panel is at 4:15 on Sunday at the Jazz Talk Tent. It’s one of about a dozen star-studded discussions, meet-the-artist sessions and musical presentations at the tent.

Charles Tolliver Big Band: The veteran trumpeter appears on any number of adventurous Blue Note releases of the ’60s, but only last year put out his first big label release as a leader -- With Love on Blue Note (of course). The record is as stellar as his touring band lineup, which includes saxophonists Billy Harper and Howard Johnson, pianist Anthony Wonsey and drummer Greg Hutchinson. Carhartt Amphitheatre Stage, 4:15 p.m., Sunday.

Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: The trap and hand-drummer extraordinaire has helmed evolving lineups of this Chicago vanguard group. This edition has young trumpet phenom Corey Wilkes and two saxophonist of the ecstatic caterwaulin’ school, both estimable leaders in their own right: Ernest “Khabeer” Dawkins and Hamiet Bluiett. Pyramid Stage, 3 p.m., Saturday. (Dawkins also adds his fire to Detroiter Wendell Harrison’s 1:15 Monday spot on the Pyramid stage.)