The Oak Park Area Arts Council hopes to ramp up its third annual Jazzin' Oak Park event this year with the booking of jazz vocal sensation Kurt Elling.
"It was a real coup for us to get him," said Reginald Winston, co-chair of the Jazzin' event committee. A handful of Arts Council leaders went to the Green Mill in Chicago to watch Elling perform one evening in September and to make their pitch for his appearance at the scholarship benefit concert.
Elling and fellow Chicago jazzman Von Freeman got a rave review from Tribune arts critic Howard Reich after their August performance at the then-newly opened Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park:
"The sheer marquee value of two esteemed Chicago soloists helped explain the evening's huge turnout, but Elling and [tenor saxophonist] Freeman gave listeners more than they bargained for, even if admission was free.
Elling was named male vocalist of the year in 2000, and received Grammy nominations on every recording he's made for the Blue Note label, according to his website.
Winston hopes Elling's draw will fill the 750 seats at the Oak Park Arts Center for the May 7 performance, and help raise more money for scholarships.
Elling's performance should pave the way for other big-name acts to perform in the future, he said.
John Lukehart, president of the Area Arts Council board, said this year's event also ramps up the council's mission to be a community organization. Elling will lead a "master's class" at Oak Park and River Forest High School for music students the Monday after the show, and OPRF students will perform as the opening act for the performance. Lukehart would like to establish such precedents to be followed in future Jazzin' events.
Previous headlining musicians were Kimo Williams in 2003 and Orbert Davis in 2004.
Scholarships?#34;in part funded by the event?#34;are awarded to area high school students attending college to study arts. Last year, eight $1,000 scholarships were awarded, and 10 are budgeted this year, Lukehart said. He estimated that more than $50,000 has been awarded in the "seven or eight" years the scholarships have been awarded.
Kurt Elling will perform at the Oak Park Arts Center, 200 N. Oak Park Ave., on May 7. The show starts at 7 p.m. An OPRF rhythm section and two horn players will perform the opening act. Tickets are $45 for general admission and $35 for members of the Arts Council, alumni association members, students, seniors and groups of 10 or more. For tickets call 358-5690.