All Star Jazz Concert on the Lake was like a Summer Tonic

Waukegan artist Peggy Raasch and Barry Wood of Wadsworth enjoying the show. - Tina Johansson photo
Waukegan artist Peggy Raasch and Barry Wood of Wadsworth enjoying the show. – Tina Johansson photo

Above, Kahil El’Zabar’s All Star Quartet performed at Stiner Pavilion on Lake Michigan presented by the Waukegan Arts Council on June 17. – Mary Neely photo

by Tina Johansson

Friday was the perfect day for a perfect concert at Stiner Pavilion on Lake Michigan.

As light winds blew off the lake, members of “Kahil El’Zabar’s All Star Quartet” presented the incredible sounds of “Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future,” a musical tribute for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Kahil El'Zabar performing at the Stiner Pavillion in Waukegan, Illinois by the Lake Michigan lakefront on June 17, 2016
Kahil El’Zabar performing at the Stiner Pavilion in Waukegan. – Mary Neely photo

Led by internationally acclaimed percussionist and composer Kahil El’Zabar, the group mesmerized the audience, some of whom set up camp at the park with tables, candles and wine. Others felt just as good sitting on blankets and in lawn chairs.

Each of the top-notch musicians brought their best to Waukegan. If you didn’t get to experience it, I feel sorry for you — it was that good.

Award winning jazz artist El’Zabar, who recorded scores of projects including arrangements for the theatrical version of Walt Disney’s “The Lion King,” captivated the crowd with his percussion solos.

Harrison Bankhead, an incredible and adventurous bassist, put out some deeply soulful tunes with each number. Bankhead, an anchor for a number of great jazz bands, is a native of Waukegan and is well-known on the Chicago jazz scene.

Robert Irving III, a Chicago-based, Grammy nominated pianist and youth music mentor who at age 26 began performing with Miles Davis, was nothing less than spectacular.

Teodross “Teo” Avery, who has collaborated with a number of award-winning artists including among others Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill, commanded the audience with his amazing saxophone performances.

Fans were delighted not only with the rare musical performances, there was a backdrop of loveliness behind the stage – sailboats and blue waters.

One man, a musician from Beach Park who brought his own lawn chair and beer for the event, said he was floored by the quality sound. “To be honest, with the slight winds, and being on the lake, I wasn’t sure how it was going to sound. But this is really incredible. It might be the best-sounding outdoor concert ever,” he said.

Other comments were similar. Down at SiVer Park near the Waukegan Marina, where people had gathered following the program, people raved about the event. “Can you believe how good that was? Fantastic music with the beautiful lake right there. Wow!” said a concert-goer.

From left Kahil El’Zabar, Harrison Bankhead, and Robert Irving III. Not shown is Teodross “Teo” Avery. – Tina Johansson photo

The special concert was sponsored by the Waukegan Arts Council, City of Waukegan, Waukegan Park District and Waukegan Township.

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