Blues guitarist Dave Specter will be the bandleader for the all-star group at the festival. Credit: Delmark Records

NORTH CENTER — Free concerts are on tap for the Rockwell Blues & Jazz Street Stroll from 3 to 9 p.m on Saturday, an event hosted by Burning Bush Brewery.

The stroll will spotlight artists signed to the music label Delmark Records with craft beer and food adding to the fun at the dog-friendly event at Burning Bush, 4014 N. Rockwell St.

For the third edition of this annual festival, an array of musicians will perform in honor of Delmark’s 70th anniversary, including jazz pianist Paul Giallorenzo’s trio and blues singer-guitarist Joey J. Saye, as well as headlining sets by the Delmark All-Star Blues Band, featuring Willie Buck, Sharon Lewis, Ken Saydak, Ron Simmons, Dave Specter and Big Ray Stewart.

Delmark, 4121 N. Rockwell St., claims the title of the oldest continuously operating jazz and blues independent record label in the United States.

In addition to promoting the work of contemporary musicians, Delmark manages an archive of more than 12,000 recordings, some of which have been featured on TV and film soundtracks. The 1965 Junior Wells track “Snatch It Back and Hold It,” for example, is included in “The Luckiest Guy in the World,” a recent ESPN documentary about basketball great Bill Walton.

“Making sure that the music is in a format that’s usable for us and usable for other people — and findable — that’s always the goal with archiving historical intellectual property,” said Julia A. Miller, Delmark’s president and CEO. “If you don’t maintain it, then it kind of evaporates and goes away. You really can’t let that happen. It’s the responsibility of the label to protect that and to look out for the artists and the estates that are involved.”

Delmark’s artistic director Elbio Barilari and president and CEO Julia A. Miller. Credit: Delmark Records

Delmark was founded by Bob Koester (1932–2021), who also owned the legendary Jazz Record Mart music store, which closed in 2016. Since 2018, Delmark has been owned and run by Miller and Elbio Barilari, who is the label’s artistic director (and Miller’s bandmate in the experimental jazz band Volcano Radar).

To celebrate the milestone anniversary, Delmark has released a blues anthology in digital, CD and LP formats, which will be on sale at the festival. The compilation includes music by titans such as Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, T-Bone Walker and Dinah Washington.

“It’s definitely a ‘best of,’” Miller said. “So there are really famous tracks that people who know Delmark and know blues, especially older generations, really love, and may want to introduce to younger generations.”

Delmark also will release a 70th anniversary jazz anthology later this year. Additionally, Miller said the label is working on live recordings by Tail Dragger and Mud Morganfield (whose father was the iconic bluesman Muddy Waters).

Among the gifted vocalists signed to Delmark is Demetria Taylor, a singer-songwriter who grew up on the West Side in a musical family. Both her parents were professional blues musicians, and some of her siblings have followed the same path. As a child, it was common for Taylor to see blues legends stop by her family’s house, including Willie Kent, Pinetop Perkins and Eddie Shaw.

“I was raised around blues,” Taylor recalled. “My dad and my mom used to sit around with the guitar and play all the time. Music was always in me.” Her 2022 Delmark album, “Doin’ What I’m Supposed To Do,” includes her version of “Wreck on 83 Highway,” a track that her late father, Eddie Taylor, wrote and recorded in 1972.

Specter, an acclaimed blues guitarist, has been signed to Delmark for more than 30 years. He will serve as the bandleader for the all-star group at the festival.

“Julia and Elbio really modernized the label,” Specter said. “Bob Koester was very old-school and seemed a little hesitant to enter the digital age. Julia and Elbio not only have done that, but they’ve also modernized [Delmark’s recording] studio quite a bit. Julia is an engineer, and they’re both very conscientious about their studio gear, and keeping it well-maintained and upgrading it.”

Specter explained that the festival’s headlining sets will present “a nice mix of material by musicians who normally don’t play together, but who have a lot in common.”

It’s unsurprising that these notable artists would all come together for this 70th anniversary celebration — to honor a company that has been essential to the preservation of American culture.

“Chicago is a center of the blues,” Miller said. “And the history of Chicago blues is really a foundation of American music.”

The Rockwell Blues & Jazz Street Stroll is a free event on Saturday, behind the Burning Bush Brewery, 4014 N. Rockwell St., along the river. Vendors will open at 3 p.m., followed by a variety of musical acts:

4 p.m.: Joey J. Saye (acoustic blues)

5 p.m.: Paul Giallorenzo Trio

6 p.m. : Delmark All-Star Band

7:15 to 9 p.m. (close): Jazz & Blues All-Star Jam

Street parking is free near the brewery; bringing chairs for the outdoor concert is encouraged.

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