Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

“Bristling innovation and mainstream melody-making classical modernism and free jazz Improvisation – all these elements, and others, converge when the CJP takes the stage.”
– Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

Orbert Davis’s history as a gifted trumpeter, composer and visionary founder of the spectacular Chicago Jazz Philharmonic is evident once again in the brilliant new CD COLLECTIVE CREATIVITY.

Davis is not one to shy away from monumental undertakings, as he proved with his symphonic suite “Hope in Action” honoring Nelson Mandela, which was performed in Chicago’s Millennium Park to outstanding reviews.

– In 1994 he successfully integrated jazz rhythms with lush strings and formed the superb ensemble “Orbert Davis with Strings Attached”.

– In November 1998 he presented the world premiere of his classical composition, “Concerto for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra” performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta at Symphony Center Chicago.

– In 2003, Davis premiered his complex “Four Tone Poems for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra” at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall with his ensemble and the Chicago Sinfonietta.

– In July 2005 Davis’s 55-piece classical-and-jazz-combining Chicago Jazz Philharmonic collaborated with the AACM on Millennium Park’s stage.

The cover art for this new CD is an original painting by the late artist, musician, teacher and writer, Ben Richardson.

Davis: ‘This band is about breaking down barriers’

Chicago Tribune

Can genre-defying CJP’s meteoric rise be sustained? Imagine a thundering symphony orchestra that swings as hard as the sharpest jazz quintet. An ensemble that plays Ellington and Strayhorn with the technical bravura usually reserved for Beethoven and Brahms, but also with a sense of freedom and individuality unique to jazz.

Then imagine this unusually versatile organization led by a world-class trumpeter who has been compared to Wynton Marsalis — as virtuoso instrumentalist, music educator and visionary composer.

That confluence of musical possibilities might seem about as likely to occur as a series of lunar eclipses. Yet for Chicagoans, it requires no act of imagination at all.

. . .Moreover, this band has no peer in the United States, for it not only gleefully ignores boundaries that long have separated classical music and jazz, it unveils a stack of impossible-to-categorize, world-premiere compositions at every performance.

“We’re breaking down barriers,” says Davis, 47, in explaining why he’s attempting to pull together so many art forms for this biggest concert yet in the CJP’s existence.

“I believe we’ve not only redefined the boundaries of two genres,” adds Davis, referring to classical and jazz, “but we may be creating a new one.”

If so, it has no name, because the Third Stream appellation long used to describe jazz-meets-the-classics scores seems far too corny and ancient for Davis’ freewheeling, genre-defying venture.

Just last June, for instance, Davis and the CJP gave listeners at the Auditorium Theatre the world premiere of a ragtime piano concerto — of all things — inspired by music of MacArthur “genius” award winner Reginald Robinson, who brilliantly played the solo part. Though the piece must be considered a work-in-progress because Davis clearly needs to bulk up two of the movements, the aptly titled “Concerto for a Genius” literally has no equivalent in the entire jazz or classical repertory (James P. Johnson’s brief “Yamekraw” is a trifle by comparison).

Two years earlier, at Millennium Park, Davis and the CJP presented another striking world premiere: his audacious “Collective Creativity Suite.” Here was a vast symphonic work that dared to embrace the “free jazz” improvisational techniques of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The CJP’s classical string players, in other words, were liberated from merely interpreting the score, as classical musicians are trained to do. Instead, in several passages they spontaneously invented music alongside such AACM giants as flutist Nicole Mitchell and saxophonist Ari Brown. And because Davis in this piece drew inspiration from scores by the Russian modernist Igor Stravinsky — of all things — listeners had the rare pleasure of hearing the haunting “Berceuse” from “The Firebird” suite reinvented as a sensuous, earthy blues (in tenor saxophonist Brown’s gorgeous rendition).. .

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