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Chicago Jazz Festival: Schedules, performances, how to get there

Everything you need to know

A black man wearing orange tinted sunglasses and a white graphic tank top plays a gold trumpet on stage with a digital screen in the background.
Christian Scott at the Chicago Jazz Festival at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park in Chicago Illinois, September 4, 2016.
Getty Images

The 41st annual Chicago Jazz Festival is twice as long this year and includes neighborhood performances leading up to the headlining performances in Millennium Park. It will celebrate some of the greatest musicians from our city and those from around the world with 10 days of music and a special tribute to Nat King Cole by his brother Freddy Cole.

Music is a strong part of the city’s fabric: house, jazz, and gospel all have roots in Chicago. The jazz festival began in the 70s after memorial concerts for Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and an independent show from the Jazz Institute converged. Since 1978, the city has continued to offer one of the largest, free jazz festivals.

Here’s what you need to know about the all-ages event in Millennium Park, the nearby Chicago Cultural Center, and surrounding neighborhood institutions.

Who is headlining?

The headliners will take the stage at Pritizker Pavillon, some of those artists include: Freddy Cole with a tribute to his brother Nat King Cole, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Eddie Palmieri. In the final weekend of the festival, there are nearly 60 sets of jazz music with more than half of the artists at the entire festival local to Chicago.

When is the festival?

Beginning Thursday, August 23 until Friday, August 30 there will be neighborhood performances on the North, South, and West sides. Cultural institutions and venues like Brown Derby Jazz Revue, Sleeping Village, and Museum of Contemporary Art are all hosting performances. A pop-up performance with special guest Jamila Woods is even happening in an Englewood Whole Foods parking lot (no need to go far for snack supplies!).

Then the sets will move to several stages in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center from Labor Day weekend on Thursday, August 29 to Sunday, September 1.

Where can I find the schedule?

Each part of the festival has a tab on the city’s website:

Neighborhood concert schedule
Millennium Park, Thursday
Millennium Park, Friday
Millennium Park, Saturday
Millennium Park, Sunday

Festival Map

How do I get there?

For each neighborhood concert it’s best to check the venue’s website which will have transportation information. If you’re headed to Millennium Park or the Cultural Center the nearest CTA stations include:

  • Washington/Wabash or Adams/Wabash for Green, Pink, Brown, Purple, Orange lines
  • Monroe or Jackson for the Blue line
  • Jackson or Harrison for the Red line

As for the Metra, if you arrive at Ogilvie Transportation Center take the Green or Pink line to Washington/Wabash or the J14 Jeffery Jump bus route to get close to the fest. From Union Station, take the No. 1, 7 or 126 bus route to get near Millennium Park.