HYDE PARK — Local jazz musicians will take over Harper Court the first Friday of every month this summer for a series of free, outdoor concerts.
Jazz in the Court returns this week after a two-year pandemic hiatus. All concerts take place noon-2:30 p.m. at 5235 S. Harper Court in Hyde Park.
The Dee Alexander Quartet performs Friday, while the Denise Thimes Quartet will perform July 1.
Bassist Chuck Webb and vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb, who are married, will join percussionist Tony Carpenter on stage Aug. 5. The Thaddeus Tukes Quartet will close out the summer series Sept. 2.
“It’s very exciting” to see the series come back this year, said series producer Carolyn Albritton, who’s organized Jazz in the Court since 2009. The series was previously held in the Hyde Park Shopping Center’s courtyard at 55th Street and Lake Park Avenue.
Albritton co-founded the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which was first held in 2007. But she has been a presence in the South Side’s jazz and entertainment scenes since long before that, she said.
Albritton was in charge of booking artists at the Cotton Club, drawing famous names like singer Morgana King, vibraphonist Roy Ayers and conguero Poncho Sánchez to the South Loop jazz joint. She also worked as Bernie Mac’s manager after the comedian won a Cotton Club competition she organized in 1990, she said.
Most of this year’s Jazz in the Court performers were drawn from Albritton’s wide network of musicians across Chicago, she said.
Albritton shared high praise for Alexander, whose quartet kicks off the series Friday. Alexander performed at last year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival and Back Alley Jazz in South Shore, and sang at both the public and private memorials for civil rights activist and noted jazz lover Timuel Black.
“We’ve been girlfriends for years,” Albritton said. “Whenever I’m on a project to book artists, I book Dee Alexander. She’s outstanding.”
Thimes, a vocalist originally from St. Louis, has showcased her talents with musicians like Wynton Marsalis — and for dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II.
Webb’s bass notes can be heard in works by musicians in jazz and many other genres, from Ramsey Lewis to Aretha Franklin and Buddy Guy. Murphy-Webb first gained notoriety as a vocalist and bandleader on jazz clubs along 75th Street in Greater Grand Crossing.
Tukes, a vibraphonist and mainstay at the Quarry Event Center‘s jazz nights in South Shore, was the only artist Albritton hadn’t worked with prior to this year’s series, she said.
Albritton has steadily returned to her passion of booking artists since a 2017 stroke. In addition to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and Jazz in the Court, she’s booked a Latin jazz group to come and perform for neighbors at her Edgewater apartment building later this month, she said.
She’s encouraged to continue producing events, thanks in part to the response of South Siders who are jazzed for Jazz in the Court’s return, she said.
“I’ve missed it a lot, and now everybody’s very excited,” Albritton said. “I’ve been getting a lot of, ‘Oh, we’re ready — we’re ready.'”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: