When Chicago trumpeter Victor Garcia picks up his horn on Friday night, he'll be making news in at least two ways.
He'll be leading a new septet, and he'll be introducing listeners to a potentially major new room: the performance hall at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts, which doesn't have its official launch until next month.
For jazz listeners, that makes Garcia's appearance at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival Gala a major event. For Garcia, it will be a journey into the unknown.
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"I haven't seen the place yet, but I'm told it's amazing," says Garcia. "It's going to be an honor to open up such a beautiful room. I told the guys (in the band) to suit up."
But the band itself will be making its maiden voyage, even though Garcia already has been performing in a quartet with its core players: organist Dan Trudell, drummer Charles Heath and saxophonist Rocky Yera. That Garcia should expand the lineup to a septet makes sense, if only because of the success that he and pianist Darwin Noguera have enjoyed with their big band, the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble (CALJE).
The septet will enable Garcia to indulge his interest in a wider sonic palette without the challenges involved in running a large ensemble, he says.
"One of my favorite things is to write for horns and create colors and counter melodies," explains Garcia, who has added alto saxophonist Rich Moore, trombonist Luke Malewicz and guitarist Scott Hesse to the mix.
"I didn't want this to be a whole big band, but I felt with four horns you have many different options, not only for harmonizing, but for messing with counterpoint, which I love: melody against melody.
"I always write for CALJE, and that's eight horns. If I divide that by half, it will be a lot freer, a lot funner. A lot of the rules for writing for big band don't apply (for septet). And it might be easier to get gigs."
Certainly Garcia will be unveiling his septet at a high-profile occasion: the fund-raising gala for the sixth annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which has become an essential event on Chicago's fall music calendar. The emergence of the $114 million Logan Center stands to instantly elevate the festival, which will host concerts, film screenings and jazz conversations there.
It's quite fitting, then, that the gala also would unfold at the Logan Center, which could become a much-needed nexus for jazz performance (and much more) on the South Side of Chicago.
By engaging Garcia and his new band for the gala, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival reiterates its determination to constantly reinvent and improve itself, which helps explain its vitality and popularity.
As for Garcia, he says he has lined up funding to record his septet later in the year, and he gives much of the credit for its creation to veteran Chicago organist Trudell.
"He turned me on to the sound of the organ," says Garcia. "We've done a few gigs just as a quartet – me, Rocky (Yera), Charles (Heath) and Dan (Trudell). It's been some of the happiest music-making I've done. …
"The reason I love the organ sound is because I can't help but smile when I hear it. It's such a happy sound in jazz."
This time, it will be driving a larger ensemble in a brand new concert hall – a tantalizing prospect.
Also worth hearing
Englewood Jazz Festival: The 13th annual event, organized by Chicago saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, takes place rain or shine and this year will feature Bill McFarland and the Chicago Horns at noon; singer June Yvon, 1:30 p.m.; the Ernest Dawkins Afro/Straight Quartet with guest trumpeter Maurice Brown, 3 p.m.; presentation of the Spirit of Jazz Award to Geraldine de Haas and Timuel Black, 4:30 p.m.; Live the Spirit Big Band with Brown, 4:45 p.m.; at Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.; free; 312-747-6174 or englewoodjazzfest.org
Ernest Dawkins: Saxophonist Dawkins will be busy this weekend, overseeing the previously mentioned Englewood Jazz Festival and holding down a residency at Andy's Jazz Club. He'll perform with trumpeter Marquis Hill starting at 9:30 p.m. Friday; and leading an Englewood Jazz Fest After Party at 9:30 p.m. Saturday; at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $15; 312-642-6805 or andysjazzclub.com
Mike Reed: The irrepressibly creative drummer-composer-impresario leads his People, Places & Things band, which re-examines facets of Chicago jazz of the 1950s and '60s through a 21st century prism. He's joined by alto saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman and bassist Jason Roebke. 9 p.m. Friday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $12; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com
Mulgrew Miller: Pianist Miller commands a mighty technique and wide-ranging musical interests, though he can be a bit reserved at the keyboard, as he was a couple of years ago at the Jazz Showcase. When he's playing at something closer to full power, however, he's a mighty force. He'll lead a trio. 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday; at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct.; $20-$25; 312-360-0234 or jazzshowcase.com
Ryan Cohan: Equally gifted as pianist and composer, Cohan will lead his quartet, featuring saxophonist Geof Bradfield, bassist Lorin Cohen and drummer Kobie Watkins, plus percussionist Victor Gonzalez. They'll play music from Cohan's album "Another Look," plus new scores. 8 p.m. Saturday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $12; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com
Bobbi Wilsyn: Listeners know her best for her many years of singing with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, but this time Wilsyn will appear in a more intimate context, with saxophonist Ari Brown, pianist Miguel de la Cerna, bassist Jim Cox and drummer Charles Heath. 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday at Room 43, 1043 E. 43d St.; $10; hydeparkjazzsociety.com
To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.
Victor Garcia Septet
7:30 p.m. Friday at Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.; $50 for concert only; $200 for concert plus gala, which starts at 6 p.m.; 773-324-6296 or hydeparkjazzfestival.org