Harper Court

A packed night at the Harper Court Summer Music Series, Aug. 1, 2019.

After a pandemic hiatus, two summer-long music series are returning to Harper Court this week. 

The Harper Court Summer Music Series and Jazz in the Court will take place on the first Thursdays and Fridays of every month, respectively. 

Harper Court Summer Music Series

The music series, hosted by the University of Chicago, Eric Williams of the Silver Room and Rob McKay of the Connect Gallery, will feature a combination of local DJs and bands. The monthly shows will run from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

The event began in 2015, shortly after Williams relocated the Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., to Hyde Park, with the goal of bringing neighbors together around good tunes and dancing.

“We've had a chance to really spotlight a lot of local artists who don't get a chance to play, especially on the South Side, especially outside,” said Williams. “The community loves it, and it brings people from all over the city to Hyde Park.”

Williams described a typical evening in the court during the series as packed with lawn chairs and coolers, families and seniors. Acts this summer will feature jazz, funk, house and steppers music.

“We have a really young band and then some older folks, really trying to get something for everybody,” said Williams. “I think that represents what Hyde Park is about, the diversity.”

Williams also hosts the Silver Room Block Party, a two-day festival of house music and visual arts. The mid-July block party, which recently relocated from 53rd Street to Oak Street Beach, is expected to draw crowds of more than 20,000. 

 “We do this huge block party every year, but it’s nice to have these smaller community events throughout the month,” said Williams.

The Harper Court Music Series kicks off Thursday evening with legendary steppers DJ Sam Chatman. Dubbed the"Godfather of Steppin' Music,” Chatman is credited with coining the term in 1973, and gained acclaim for his West Side sets at the Keyman Club and South Side sets at the Dungeon that drew in hundreds of dancers every week.

Chatman is followed by the band Midnight Sun, a 10-piece ensemble known for its deep-cut funk and soul music. Formed in 1976, the ensemble features 3-part harmony, a full horn section and percussion. 

DJ Ayana Contreras, a cultural historian, and the LeftJones, a South Side hip-hop band, will perform on July 7.

DJ Scendsei and bassist Micah Collier will end the series on August 4.

Every show will be hosted by Mario Smith, a Chicago-based poet, producer and radio host. Smith’s show, “News From the Service Entrance With Mario,” is in its 20th year with WLPN-LP, and he has also contributed to WBEZ and Vocalo.

Williams adds that the event, returning for its sixth year after going on hiatus in 2020, is expected to draw its largest crowds yet.

“People are definitely excited to come out to the Court again,” said Williams. “It’s free, bring your lawn chairs, dance and have fun.”

More information on the event can be found here.

Jazz in the Court

The jazz series, also sponsored by the U. of C. and curated by Carolyn Albritton, will feature a variety of local jazz duos and quartets. The monthly shows will run from 12:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Albritton, a longtime figure in the South Side jazz scene, has been programming Jazz in the Court since 2009. She also co-founded the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in 2007, and before that booked artists for the South Loop’s Cotton Club.  

The series kicks off Friday afternoon with the Dee Alexander Quartet, whose musical stylings range from  Gospel to R&B, and Blues to Neo-Soul. As reported by Block Club, Alexander, a close friend of Albritton, has performed at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and South Shore’s Back Alley Jazz. 

The Denise Thimes Quartet will perform on July 8.

Chuck Webb and Margaret Murphy-Webb, a bassist and vocalist (as well as husband and wife) duo, and percussionist Tony Carpenter will perform on August 5. 

Capping off the series is the Thaddeus Tukes Quartet on September 2. 

More information on the event can be found here.

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