Chicago Jazz Philharmonic | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Jazz Philharmonic


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In 1924 Paul Whiteman tried to "civilize" jazz by diluting it for a symphony orchestra, but when Chicago trumpeter Orbert Davis takes the stage with his 55-piece philharmonic, the effect's just the opposite: he gets the damn thing to swing and swing hard, harnessing the orchestra's tonal and harmonic possibilities to his own design. At Millennium Park last summer Davis presented compositions and arrangements that ranged from slightly ragged to genuinely exciting, but more importantly the concert showcased the enormous potential of his concept. Davis sees the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic as more than just powerful ensemble passages and lush backdrops for soloists; much of his oeuvre strives for the subtly layered, rhythmically nuanced writing for multiple voices that spurred the invention of the symphony in the 18th century and keeps it vital today. The size and expense of the behemoth means that Davis can only rarely assemble it, but anyone who's heard it even once will be eager to witness how Davis's vision has evolved. At this concert he'll unveil a new piece, Chicago@173, commissioned by CityArts in honor of Chicago's founding and history. The ensemble will also reprise some of the music it played last summer: several Davis pieces, including three movements of his Four Tone Poems for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra; classics from the repertoires of Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan; and adaptations of music by Puccini and Stravinsky, starring soloists Ari Brown (tenor sax), Ryan Cohan (piano), and Nicole Mitchell (flute), and of course Davis's own searing trumpet playing. Sat 3/4, 8 PM, Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110, $19-$59.

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