Chicago Sun Times
September 2, 2003
Chicago Jazz Festival At Grant Park
Author: Kevin Whitehead
"Struttin' With Some Barbecue," Franz Jackson sang, but no fires burned in Grant Park on Sunday. "It Might As Well Be Spring," Karrin Allyson chimed in. Spring in the tropics.
The open-air Chicago Jazz Festival is usually lucky, weather- wise, but on the last day of the 25th edition luck ran out. Rain and more rain kept attendance light and diehard fans soggy. Still, jazz musicians know about performing under difficult conditions. They got on with it.
In the 1930s, Franz Jackson played tenor saxophone well enough to replace Ben Webster in two leading bands. Kicking off the evening at the Petrillo Music Shell, with water dripping at his feet, and a few scattered umbrellas out front, Jackson showed he's still got it.
It's not that he's loud, but he boots along every pithy phrase he plays with a proud, woolly-mammoth tone. His solos tell a little story, as the old saying goes: Each line arises from the last, and pulls you along.
This is what the grand masters sounded like, and we've got one of the very few survivors in our midst. So go hear him already. (Not that Chicago will ever run out of good tenor players; earlier on the Jackson side stage, Ari Brown showed off classic tenor virtues on "In a Sentimental Mood": a brawny tone, varied phrasing that allows for welcome open spaces, and abiding respect for a good melody.)
Kevin Whitehead is a local free-lance writer.