Jazz-related art was installed on a South Shore resident's front yard during the 2019 Back Alley Jazz Fest. Credit: Pat Nabong/Block Club Chicago

SOUTH SHORE — The free Back Alley Jazz festival is back for its sixth year starting this weekend, and this time around, the South Side’s outdoor jazz performances will last through the rest of summer.

Back Alley Jazz kicks off noon-6 p.m. Saturday on the 7300 block of Paxton Avenue in South Shore.

The Thaddeus Tukes Quintet, the Isaiah Spencer Quartet and DJ Duane Powell will perform on the block, which was where Back Alley Jazz was first held in 2018.

More performances are scheduled semi-regularly around South Shore and in nearby Greater Grand Crossing through early September. The calendar is as follows:

Universal Alley Jazz Jam, a “direct descendant” of the landmark Jazz in the Alley performances, coincides with the run of Back Alley Jazz.

The Chris Christmas Band headlines the Aug. 5 Universal Alley Jazz Jam while the schedule of performances Aug. 12 is still being worked out, organizers said. Both sessions run from noon-6 p.m. at 6916 S. Bennett Ave.

The Universal Alley Jazz Jam was co-founded by the late saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, who served as Back Alley Jazz’s grand marshal in 2019 and was honored at the 2021 festival, which took place one month after his death.

Some Back Alley and Universal Alley performances will include food trucks, while attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and water. Street parking and restrooms are available, but limited.

With the jazz jams and others in the community, like the South Side Jazz Coalition‘s in Calumet Heights and the Cosmic Alley collective’s in Woodlawn, the South Side is reclaiming its history as a hub for free, live jazz, organizers said last year.

“That’s part of the aim — not just to reach the people that know the music, but to introduce it to new generations,” said Jonita Sharpe, one of Back Alley Jazz’s original hosts alongside her sister, Jeannine “Katie” Sharpe, and neighbors Gail Mangrum and Zenja Vaughn.

The events are supported by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which provides a stage, sound equipment and tech support, and is funded in part by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information on Back Alley Jazz, visit the event’s website.

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