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Woodstock Jazz Festival brings crowds, Chicago acts to Square

Don’t think you’re a jazz fan? The Woodstock Jazz Festival aims to change your mind.

In its eighth year, the weekend-long festival will draw well-known Chicago acts to the Woodstock Square Aug. 21 & 22. Yes, there’ll be jazz. All types of jazz. And the music might just surprise you.

“A lot of people who come to see us know absolutely nothing about jazz music,” said Chris Greene of the Chris Greene Quartet, performing at 8 p.m. Aug. 22 at Stage Left Café, 125 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock. With seven CDs and a big Chicago fan base, the band blends its jazz with funk and hip-hop.

“As much as I’m a jazz artist, at the same time I want to reach these people and entertain them. I’m happy that jazz fans are digging me,” he said. “It’s also important to get the people that don’t really know anything about jazz because those are the people who will say, ‘I didn’t think I liked jazz, but I like you guys.’ They’ll be the ones buying your CD, the ones showing up at your next show.”

With opening act the Rick Embach Trio, the quartet is one of several top acts performing at Stage Left Café, where seating is limited.

Other Stage Left Café acts include the Nia Quintet, with opening act the Johnny Weber Trio, at 8 p.m. Aug. 21.

Because of large crowds at last year’s festival, organizers for the first time are offering reserved premium seats (within the first four rows at Stage Left Café) at a cost of $20 a person available only at

Tickets costing $10 a person will be sold at the door on a first-come, first-seated basis.

“In the past several years, we’ve actually had to turn people away because we’ve reached the capacity at Stage Left Café,” festival organizer Bryan Kyrouac said.

“This year will be kind of our tester year, the gauge as to whether we need to start looking for a larger venue or move to the main stage of the Opera House or find something in between,” he said.

“It’s a challenge. We’re growing.”

Along with the Stage Left Café performances, free performances will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 22 on the Woodstock Square. Among the bands performing are the Outcast Jazz Band, Sketchbook and Potts & Pans Steel Band.

The scene is a favorite of performers, such as Greene, who make repeat appearances to the Woodstock Jazz Festival.

“I really like the change of scenery,” said Greene, who has been playing the saxophone since the age of 10, professionally since the age of 21.

“It’s a little bit of a slower pace than playing in front of a city audience. They’ve really gone out of their way to cultivate the scene, as well as cultivate a listening audience.”

To him, jazz is a mix of numerous genres of music, including blues, funk, soul and hip hop.

Along with jazz greats Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Steve Coleman, he’s a fan of Prince, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, to name a few.

“[Jazz] always has been a music convergent with other styles. ... It’s really up to the musicians to blend all those things with creativity and integrity,” he said.

“I hope that’s what we’re doing.”


WHEN: Aug. 21 & 22

WHERE: Woodstock Square and Stage Left Café, 125 W. Van Buren St., Woodstock

COST & INFO: Promotion of jazz music in all its diverse forms and colorful history. Schedule: 8 p.m. Aug. 21, Nia Quintet at Stage Left Cafe ($10 general admission, $20 reserved seating); 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 22 on the Square, Sketchbook at 8:30 a.m., Potts & Pans Steel Band at 9:45 a.m., Outcast Jazz Band at 11 a.m. (all free); 8 p.m. Aug. 22, Chris Greene Quartet at Stage Left Cafe ($10 general admission, $20 reserved seating). Tickets and information:

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