Grammy Winner Cassandra Wilson to Open Hyde Park Jazz Festival


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World-renowned jazz musician and vocalist Cassandra Wilson will kick off the Hyde Park Jazz Festival with a performance at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

The concert will include selections from Wilson's most recent album, “Loverly, “ which earned a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, plus a collaboration with students from the Kenwood Academy Concert Choir. The students will perform several songs with Wilson, including an original piece that will be composed during a series of workshops slated to take place with the students prior to the concert.

“I'm always excited about performing, but to have the opportunity to work with students is about as good as it can get, “ said Wilson.

Two members of the University's Southside Arts and Humanities Network sponsored the concert: the Hyde Park Alliance for Arts and Culture, an organization dedicated to showcasing the rich artistic culture of Hyde Park and the official sponsors of the Saturday, Sept. 26 daylong jazz festival; and the IFA Yoruba Contemporary Arts Foundation, which seeks to promote the connection between American music and the artistic traditions of Africa's largest ethnic group, the West African Yoruba. Wilson is one of the IFA Foundation's founding board members and hopes to display the Yoruba-laced rhythms at her concert, especially because Chicago's South Side is known for its appreciation of jazz and African culture.

“I come from a tradition. My music is a continuum that is derived from an African, specifically West African, cultural context, “ Wilson said. “There's a spiritual component that is ever present in my music."

Wilson, the daughter of a teacher and a musician, started her career almost 30 years ago in Mississippi with a local jazz band. By the '80s she was becoming a sought-after producer, songwriter and lead vocalist on the New York jazz scene. To date, Wilson has received two Grammy awards and has 16 albums to her credit. According to a recent New York Times review of “Loverly, “ the album feels like “the engineer pressed the record button in the middle of a jam session in which everyone was happily hanging behind the beat."

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 and will run until 2 a.m. Sunday. The third annual event, which is free and open to the public, will take place across 12 venues in Hyde Park.

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