Chicago Jazz Ensemble: 10th American Heritage Jazz Series

Artistic Director Jon Faddis and The Chicago Jazz Ensemble continue the celebration of the 10th American Heritage Jazz Series with The Art of the Composer: Music by William Russo and Frank Foster featuring Special Guest Von Freeman on Friday, March 20, at 8:00 pm at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph, Chicago. In addition, Faddis and writer/broadcaster Neil Tesser will present a pre-concert conversation about the evening's performance at 7:20 pm.

Join the Chicago Jazz Ensemble for a remarkable evening featuring the music of two of the great contributors to jazz repertory - William Russo, the late great founder of The CJE and former Stan Kenton Orchestra arranger and trombonist, and Frank Foster, the Grammy award-winning veteran, NEA Jazz Master, and former leader of the Count Basie Orchestra who continues to create new music and entertain jazz audiences around the world. Chicago's own Von Freeman adds his big rich sound as special guest with The CJE.

Earl Lavon "Von" Freeman, Sr. learned saxophone as a child and at DuSable High School under the direction of the renowned educator Walter Dyett. He began his professional career at age 16 in Horace Henderson's Orchestra before joining the military and playing with the Navy band during World War II. After his return to Chicago, he performed with his brothers George on guitar and Bruz on drums at the Pershing Hotel Ballroom, where The Freeman Brothers backed numerous leading jazzmen including Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie. In the early 50s, Von played in Sun Ra's band and recorded with Andrew Hill, Jimmy Witherspoon and Al Smith. It was not until 1972 that Von first recorded under his own name, the album Doin' It Right Now, with the support of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Over the years, he has played regularly and recorded in Chicago, including making records with his son, the tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman. The elder Freeman is considered a founder of the "Chicago School" of jazz tenorists along with Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and Clifford Jordan.

One of America's most revered and influential composer-bandleaders, William Russo (1928-2003) created The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, was the founder of Columbia College Chicago's Music Department and was Director of Orchestral Studies at Scuola Europea d'Orchestra Jazz in Palermo, Italy. His career spanned five decades and included performance, conducting and composition work with talents as diverse as Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, Cannonball Adderley, Yehudi Menuhin, Dizzy Gillespie, Seiji Ozawa and Billie Holiday. He authored groundbreaking jazz scores, rock operas, classical works, film scores and texts on instrumental arrangement. During his career, he composed more than 200 pieces for jazz orchestra with more than 30 recordings of his work. In 1990, Russo received a Lifetime Achievement award from National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences. As a young trombonist, Russo studied with Lennie Tristano, the pianist and theorist who became a leader in the progressive jazz movement. During the late '40s, Russo led the revolutionary Experiment in Jazz band, and then at the age of 21 became chief composer/arranger with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. After his tenure with Kenton, Russo went on to lead his own successful bands, The Russo Orchestra in New York, and the London Jazz Orchestra, before returning to Chicago to form The Chicago Jazz Ensemble in 1965.

Best known for his work in the Count Basie Orchestra (and as the composer of the Basie hit, "Shiny Stockings"), Frank Foster began playing clarinet at age 11 before taking up the alto saxophone and eventually the tenor. By the time he was a senior in high school, he was leading and writing the arrangements for a 12-piece band. He studied at Wilberforce University in Ohio before heading to Detroit in 1949 with trumpeter Snooky Young. After completing a stint in the Army in 1953, he had the pleasure of sitting in with Charlie Parker at Birdland and he was asked to join Count Basie's band. He also was an extremely successful freelance writer, creating a large body of work for jazz, including pieces contributed to albums by singers Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, and a commissioned work for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid Suite, written for jazz orchestra. In the 1970s, Foster played with Elvin Jones, George Coleman and Joe Farrell. He led his own band, the Loud Minority, until 1986 when he assumed leadership of the Count Basie Orchestra from Thad Jones. Foster resigned as the musical director of the orchestra in 1995 and began recording albums again. In addition to performing, Foster has also served as a musical consultant in the New York City public schools and taught at Queens College and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The CJE's 10th American Heritage Jazz Series continues June 5, 2009, at 8 pm, when The CJE, with MacArthur-Award winner Regina Carter as special guest on violin, takes the stage at Symphony Center for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Echoes of Nations: Dvořák Festival in a performance of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington: "Black, Brown and Beige" and "The New Orleans Suite."

The Chicago Jazz Ensemble is: JON FADDIS, Artistic Director & trumpet;alto saxophones, DAN NICHOLSON and JARRARD HARRIS; tenor saxophones, PAT MALLINGER and ROB DENTY; baritone saxophone, BRIAN SJOERDINGA; trombones, AUDREY MORRISON, TIM COFFMAN, TRACY KIRK, and THOMAS MATTA; trumpets, MARK OLEN, LARRY BOWEN, ART HOYLE and PHAREZ WHITTED; guitar, FRANK DAWSON; bass, DAN ANDERSON; Music Director & drums, DANA HALL; vocals, BOBBI WILSYN.

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