1335 S. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605
All concerts are fee and begin at 5:30 PM
you can also tune in to WDCB to hear each of the concerts broadcast live at 90.9fm
Mon August 31st – Kim Cusak and Paul Asaro
When popular music made sweeping changes in the 1950s, Kim Cusack decided there probably wasn’t much future in playing the music that he and his fellow high school musicians turned out in the dance band they had. Highly impressed by the work of the Salty Dogs Jazz Band, at the time a band made up primarily of Purdue University students, Kim decided this was the kind of music he wanted to play. And not too many years later, he found himself playing clarinet in this very band. And after over fifty years he’s still this venerable band’s clarinetist.
Being from Chicago, Kim had the opportunity of playing with some notable elder statesmen of jazz such as trombonists Albert Wynn, Floyd O’Brien, and Georg Brunis, trumpet player Bob Schnoffer, cornetist Wild Bill Davison, and pianists Art Hodes, Art Gronwall, and Eurreal “Little Brother” Montgomery. Kim spent a summer working a steady 5-night a week job in a trio led by Little Brother.
Kim has worked and recorded with a number of other bands such as various groups under the leadership of the late marvelous cornetist Ernie Carson; Gene Mayl’s Dixieland Rhythm Kings, with whom Kim spent eight grueling weeks in Alaska; the Ted Butterman / Bob Sundstrom Gold Coast Jazz Band, which toured with Phyllis Diller; and James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band – awesome!
Having left the Chicago area, Kim no longer plays with these bands on a regular basis: Red Rose Ragtime Jazz Band,, Petra’s Recession Seven, and the Chicago Cubs Dixieland Band, of which he was a charter member.
Currently he can be heard most often at various festivals around the country with Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band and Ray Skjelbred’s Cubs.
Paul Asaro is known as one of the finest of a select group of pianists who have mastered the demanding two-handed jazz and ragtime piano styles from the first half of the 20th century. The Stride piano of James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Fats Waller, the New Orleans styles of Jelly Roll Morton, the ragtime of Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake, stomps, boogie woogie and swing, Asaro plays them all with a fine ear for detail, blending the elements into his own personal style. Indeed, most of Paul’s earliest influences were more recent pianists such as Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton and Butch Thompson, musicians who worked within these traditions while at the same time developing their own unique approach..
In a career now spanning two decades, Paul has performed at theaters and clubs worldwide and has appeared at such major venues as the Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal and the Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland. He has performed onstage with such musical legends and luminaries as Leon Redbone, Steve Allen, Marian McPartland, Butch Thompson, Jeff Healy and Vince Giordano. He was the featured pianist in the Obie award winning Broadway production of “Jelly Roll! The Music and the Man”, performing solo and accompanying the show’s creator and star Vernel Bagneris. Asaro also played for the national tour and numerous regional theater productions of “Jelly Roll!” including a run in Philadelphia resulting in a Barrymore Award nomination for best supporting actor. Asaro has had long runs as house pianist aboard the legendary New Orleans steamboat “Delta Queen” and in Chicago with Jim Beebe’s band featuring former Louis Armstrong All-Star Barrett Deems and the legendary tenor man Franz Jackson.
Currently Asaro tours the country as accompanist to Leon Redbone, playing concerts as a duo as well as appearing on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Mountain Stage” and recording for Leon’s latest studio album. Paul’s piano can be heard on two recent albums by singer and guitarist Loudon Wainwright III including the 2010 Grammy Award winning “Charlie Poole Project”. Recent appearances include solo and two-piano duets with Butch Thompson and Jon Weber for the Twin Cities Jazz Festival’s “Stride Piano Night”, an extended solo tour for Allied Concert Services, and onscreen with Vince Giordano’s band in the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire”. When not on the road Paul holds down the piano chair in the seven piece jazz band “The Fat Babies”, performing weekly at the long established Chicago jazz club The Green Mill and at the Honky Tonk BBQ. The group plays a wide variety of jazz from the 1920s through the 1940s and has released two albums to critical acclaim with their Delmark Records release “Chicago Hot” being named one of the best jazz album releases of 2012 by the Chicago Tribune.
Tues September 1st – Bethany and Willie Pickens
Willie Pickens is one of Chicago’s most in-demand jazz pianists. A former faculty member of the American Conservatory of Music, Mr. Pickens has performed with a wide variety of internationally recognized jazz artists. Among those with whom he has toured and/or recorded are Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Eddie Harris, Wynton Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Louis Bellson, Bunky Green and Red Holloway.
Bethany began her keyboard training under the watchful tutelage of her Father, world class Jazz Pianist Willie Pickens, followed by more classical training at the American Conservatory of Music. Bethany recalls being a member of the Chicago Children’s Choir for nine years, as the single-most musically impactful experience of her formative years. While in college, Bethany received Outstanding Pianist and Composer awards at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival, Notre Dame Jazz Festival and Music Fest USA(Philadelphia). Since graduating from the American Conservatory of Music she has performed at various Jazz and Music Festivals such as, The Chicago Jazz Festival, Jacksonville Jazz Festival and Ibiza Jazz Festival in Spain. Bethany has performed duo concerts with her Father at Symphony Center, Ravinia,The Steinway Society and The International Association of Jazz Educators.
Ms. Pickens is a Illinois State Board Certified Music Educator in Instrumental Music Grades Pre-K-12.
She has worked as an Artist in Residence with the Jazz Institute of Chicago,Chicago Public Schools All-City Elementary Jazz Ensemble and is an occasional Instructor with the Ravinia Jazz Scholars Program. Ms Pickens is currently a Piano Lab Teacher at Kenwood Academy High School, her Alma Mater!
Living in Chicago has given Bethany the opportunity to compose music for Theater, Commercials and Film as well as conduct clinics, perform and record with such artists as Ray Brown,Branford Marsalis,Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Courtney Pine ,Von Freeman, Clark Terry, Terance Blanchard,Oscar Brown Jr., Roy Hargrove, Darryl Jones, Jon Faddis, Louis Bellson and DeeDee Bridgewater,Pattie La Belle, Josh Groben, Aretha Franklin, Rascal Flats, and Usher!
Wed September 2nd – Rob Clearfield
“His unhurried tempos and deliberate right-hand lines stood in sharp contrast to the work of many other under-30 jazz musicians who confuse speed with excitement and noise with drama. Clearfield, on the other hand, allows his music to speak straightforwardly and in its own time.”
-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune