E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune
December 16, 2013
Anyone who was there will never forget the moment: Willie Pickens, 82, alone on stage at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, making the piano roar in a solo version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Pickens' energy, virtuosity and musicality drew cheers from thousands and gave the 35th annual Chicago Jazz Festival one of its greatest highlights.
Yet this performance was but one of several treasured moments that Pickens offered Chicagoans in venues large and small this year. Whether he was breathing fire alongside visiting alto saxophonist Bobby Watson or duetting ingeniously with vibist Stu Katz at the Jazz Showcase or leading his own, brawny quintet at the Green Mill, Pickens proved that youthful passion is not confined to the young.
-Howard Reich, Tribune critic