Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jazz, Classical and World Sounds Intersect Delightfully at Corner of Golf & Skokie Blvd. -- Chicago Jazz / Classical Review

Jazz / Classical Review

Four Corners of the World
Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble
featuring Trio Globo
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie, IL
April 24, 2015
(Same program Sunday at Beverly Arts Center, Chicago)

On Friday night, music from "four corners of the world" was heard within the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, located just two major corners from my home.

And while I can't provide much in the way of scholarly analysis or expert assessment, I liked everything I heard.

Attracted by the word "jazz" on the NSCPA calendar--a relative rarity--I was able to easily get a ticket at the door. While there was no "day-of-show" or "rush" pricing lowering the $32 minimum for entry, after buying a ticket for the last row of the balcony but before heading up the stairs, I was "comped up" to a seat on the main floor. (And I was even told that photography without flash was permissible during the performance.)

I imagine I would have also enjoyed a more straightforward jazz performance, but though I was somewhat surprised by what I encountered--due to having done little reading about the slated program and perceiving it, in shorthand terms, as a "jazz show"--I was nonetheless quite pleased.

Headed by trumpeter Orbert Davis, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP) is a 55+ piece symphonic jazz
orchestra that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

However, as this concert featured the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, only seven members of the CJP joined Davis onstage and all but a drummer played stringed instruments.

These included two violins, a viola, cello, acoustic guitar and standup bass. 

Though I presumed all the players were first-rate musicians--and had that well-corroborated--I was slightly chagrined at the outset to note no saxophone, by far my favorite jazz instrument.

But not only was Davis terrific on trumpet, the breadth of the jazz-classical hybrid was further expanded by being accompanied all night by the Trio Globo.

Comprised of noted harmonica player Howard Levy--who also showed himself to be an excellent pianist--cellist Eugene Friesen and percussionist Glen Velez, "founding father of the frame drum movement," Trio Globo seemingly took the CJP in new directions, and vice versa.

Per the program's title, "Four Corners of the World," music was performed representing Africa, India, Venezuela, other Latin cultures, Bohemia by way of Iowa (i.e. Dvorak) and various other global soundscapes. 

Trio Globo opened the performance with just Levy, Friesen and Velez onstage for a Levy composition titled "Lumbriga," but were joined by Davis and members of the Jazz Philharmonic by the second number, also by Levy--"Stephanie's Dance"--and the full chamber ensemble for the third onward.

It certainly seemed like a collaboration all were enjoying, onstage and in the audience. Davis was a rather amiable host, but as several pieces were written by members of Trio Globo, he graciously deferred to the composer to introduce their songs.

Two of the works written by Velez were especially tasty, as on "Tuppim" he explained that the title refers to the hand-held frame drums that are his specialty--along with some great soloing by him, I noted Levy playing a flute/recorder-like instrument I can't name--and cited that "Miriam's Prophecy" blends sounds of the Middle East and South India.

The unique and diverse instrumentation was certainly a pleasure to hear, including Davis dazzling on trumpet, Levy on harmonica, Friesen playing cello with a bow but also at times plucking as though it were a guitar, guitarist John Moulder having some really nice solos and the CJP string section adding lovely depth, even to more jazzy numbers.

In introducing "Amadeus Had a Dream," which Davis noted that he composed based on Mozart's "String Quartet No. 13 in D Minor, K.173, 3rd Movement," the trumpeter suggested that Amadeus' dream (as least per his imagination) was that there be no separation of musical genres.

I can cite several more pieces that I found particularly enjoyable--Friesen's "Maracaibo," Davis' "El Moreno," derived from Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain," a new arrangement of Dvorak's New World Symphony by Davis & Levy, those two soloing back and forth on Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," Levy's long solo (on harmonica) version of "Amazing Grace," the buoyant, show-closing La Cucarachaesque "Street Corner" written by Friesen--but unless you can get to the Beverly Arts Center for a 3pm performance today, this particularly program likely isn't something you'll be able to enjoy in exactitude.

Yet while other great artists have intertwined musical styles, whether in terms of genres or worldwide influences, Trio Globo meeting Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble at the corner of Golf & Skokie Blvd. made for a rather unique, euphonic and even euphoric intersection.

So if you can catch either, or both entities, or something similar somewhere down the road, I suggest you should, especially if it's just around the corner.

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