Chicago Jazz Ensemble’s 4th Annual American Heritage Series

Acclaimed composer/conductor William Russo will celebrate the rich history of 20th-century American music this fall, when he leads his Chicago Jazz Ensemble of Columbia College Chicago in a three-program, 18-concert subscription series beginning Sept. 6 and running through March 7, 2003. Russo will explore three milestones in the evolution of jazz, from Duke Ellington to Miles Davis to jazz pioneers Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Bix Beiderbecke. Russo will also conduct the world premiere of his own work, Jubilatum. The series is made possible by a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Russo will conduct the following programs:

l September: Duke Ellington’s Jump for Joy was the first all-black musical and addressed the issue of racial problems and stereotypes in America. This was also the first musical that Ellington had ever written, and he felt it was “the hippest thing we ever did.” Noted jazz historian Patricia Willard describes it as “upbeat, satirical, topical, socially aware, ebullient and abidingly hip.” In 1958, Verve Records asked William Russo to write music for a recording based on Jump. The resulting recording, featuring Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans and Milt Hinton, was released to critical acclaim. Both the Ellington and Russo versions will be presented in this concert. Jump for Joy will be performed at six Chicagoland locations: Rockford College; Columbia College Chicago; Wheaton College; Gorton Community

Center (Lake Forest); Metropolis Performing Arts Center (Arlington Heights) and Beverly Arts Center.

l November: Sketches of Spain is recognized as “one of the most important musical triumphs that this century has produced” (Down Beat). After Miles Davis heard a recording of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjues in 1959, he began working with composer/arranger Gil Evans on a jazz version. Released the following year, Sketches set the mark for orchestral jazz achievement, and it remains a top-selling jazz recording. Special guest artist, trumpeter Orbert Davis, will perform in this program.

Throughout the course of his career, Grammy Award winner William Russo has composed more than 200 pieces for jazz orchestra, but he has also experimented with music written outside of the jazz idiom. His latest composition, Jubilatum, is based on an ancient musical form—the Gregorian chant, which is thought to have originated from Hebrew and Byzantine melodies. Russo’s work features solo trumpet, solo soprano voice, and small chorus, as well as jazz ensemble augmented to include French horn, timpani, and auxiliary percussion. Special guest singer Dawn Holt Lauber will be featured in this world premiere program.

Sketches of Spain and Jubilatum will be performed at five Chicagoland locations: Metropolis Performing Arts Center (Arlington Heights); Rockford College; Centre East Theater at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (Skokie); Columbia College Chicago and Beverly Arts Center.

l February-March 2003: “The Birth of Jazz” concerts focus on three groups at the advent of jazz history: Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens, and Bix Beiderbecke’s Wolverines. All three were drawn to Chicago in the early ’20s where the dawn of radio and the recording industry made them and Chicago famous with a new, uniquely American art form.

Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have invented jazz, and this may be true. The New Orleans native, born in 1890, grew up to become a virtuoso pianist and the first important jazz composer.

Louis Armstrong is generally thought to be the most influential musician ever to play jazz. Born at the turn of the century in New Orleans, Armstrong was introduced to the cornet at age 14. A few years later, he was breaking new ground in jazz, with his improvisational skills, brilliant playing and vocal techniques. When he died in 1971, Dizzy Gillespie said, “If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be any of us.”

While his career only spanned eight years, Leon Bix Beiderbecke was the first great white jazz musician, recognized for his command of the trumpet, his expressive tone and unparalleled originality. Today’s musicians still marvel at those rare talents.

This program will feature two special guest artists: veteran tenor saxophonist Franz Jackson, and jazz violinist Johnny Frigo. “The Birth of Jazz” will be presented at seven Chicagoland locations: Columbia College Chicago; Wheaton College; DuSable Museum of African American History; South Suburban College (Holland); Metropolis Performing Arts Center (Arlington Heights); Gorton Community Center (Lake Forest) and Rockford College.

Three-concert subscriptions are $50, and two-concert subscriptions are $40, available by calling (312) 344-6245. Single-tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors and $15 for students). Inquiries for all venues may be made to (312)344-6245. More information is available at the website,

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