What Is This Thing Called Jazz? Notes from the Composer: Orbert Davis

August 25, 2016 - 12:00 am

Be ‘in the know’ for the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival opening night!


On Thursday, August 25, enjoy comments from trumpeter, composer, and educator, Orbert Davis, on his new composition Soul Migration that will debut on the opening night of the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival. The conversation will be led by Howard Mandel, President, Jazz Journalists Association.


Presented by the Education Committee of the Jazz Institute of Chicago.


August 25, 2016

Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington)

Claudia Cassidy Theater




Family friendly and FREE!




About Orbert Davis’ Soul Migration

Premieres at the Chicago Jazz Festival on Thursday, September 1, 2016


There has never been a band in this town quite like the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, the 55-member jazz-meets-classical ensemble conceived and directed by trumpeter Orbert Davis. As the legend goes, the seeds for this band were planted when programmers at the Jazz Institute of Chicago told Davis to “think big” in making plans for his performance at the 2004 Chicago Jazz Festival. If you were lucky enough earlier this year to hear the CJP perform Davis’ Emmy-winning soundtrack for the 2010 WTTW documentary, DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis, you know how well-suited he is to an XXXL sound.


There’s a good chance, however, after hearing the more modest-sized group Davis put together for this year’s festival, that you’ll be left thinking you’ve never heard anything quite like it, either. In commemoration of the Great Migration, when six million African Americans emigrated to Chicago and other points north, Davis will lead his expanded quintet on a bold multi-part work that marries words and music, electric and acoustic sounds, North and South, present and past.


Think Louis Armstrong superimposed over Curtis Mayfield. Think, if you can, trad jazz mingling with jazz-rock fusion. “I’m going to take advantage of everything at my command,” said Davis, who in writing Soul Migration did intensive research into this remarkable chapter in American history.


The CJP is such a juggernaut that Davis’ virtuosity sometimes get lost in the sound. Look for him to amply restate his brilliance on trumpet and flugelhorn (as well as EVI, or electronic valve instrument, which he first played in pop bands years ago). He’ll be joined by guest vocalist Maggie Brown, who will enliven the lyrics in her singular, soulful way, and celebrated journalist John Fountain, who will handle the spoken word duties. The consummate drummer Ernie Adams will hold down the center even as he propels the music. Also on board: Steve Eisen on flutes and saxes; Michael Salter on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet;Leonardo Lopez Varady on keyboards and Joel Ross on vibraphone, plus, in selected spots, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Youth Brass Ensemble and String Quartet.

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