The Englewood Jazz Festival kicked off Thursday in Hamilton Park and runs through Saturday with free live performances.
In its 24 years, the festival has worked to cultivate a musical community at what’s said to be the “Ravinia of South Side.”
In just their mid-20s, Isaiah Collier and Alexis Lombre have already been performing for more than half of their lifetimes. They’ve been described as young prodigies by colleagues in their field.
It’s a reason their mentor of sorts, Ernest Dawkins, believes they’re the perfect artists to represent the future of the Englewood Jazz Festival.
“They’re the future generations, and they come out of our programs,” said Dawkins, executive director of the Live the Spirit Residency. “Why would we not produce them?”
Collier and Lombre were both members of the Young Masters Ensemble, a free program for kids to learn jazz music.
Dawkins said it’s Collier’s fusion, among other factors, that makes him stand out.
“Isaiah, he’s learned from so many influences,” Dawkins said. “I can hear bits and pieces of everything.”
“I’ll be performing this weekend with the Chosen Few band,” Collier said. “It just feels really great to be able to bring the culmination of my work back to my community, because that’s where it’s most important. I’ll also be playing some new work.”
When it comes to Lombre, Dawkins said it’s her drive that sets her apart.
“I like Alexis because she has the energy and she is ambitious,” Dawkins said. “You don’t find that in a lot of people.”
“I’m excited because this is my first time at the Englewood Jazz Festival as a leader, leading my own group, and I am debuting some compositions,” Lombre said. “I am debuting a piece that’s centered around my synesthesia. So synesthesia means that two senses are mixed, are felt at the same time, so I see color when I hear music.”
As the festival looks ahead to 25 years, Dawkins said the goal will still be focused on celebrating music where it originated.
“The music has come from this community, along with blues and other kinds of jazz,” Dawkins said. “When I was coming up, the music was in the community. … I want these young people to be involved. We want them to further their careers, we want them to be successful. We want people to see that young people your age can do it.”
The Englewood Jazz Festival features performances at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. It’s an all-day affair Saturday, with programming from 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.