Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
What a pleasure it was to attend two of trumpeter Orbert Davis events within a few days to commemorate the debut of his Chicago Jazz Philharmonic(CJP) CD entitled "Collective Creativity." The initial set took place on Thursday, November 20th at the Chicago Federation of Musicians Hall on West Randolph in a very informal setting. This listening party included a silent auction which benefitted CJP's artistic and eduction program. Performing with Orbert that evening was saxophonist Ari Brown, keyboardist Ryan Cohen, bassist Eric Hochberg and drummer Ernie Adams. Song Bird extraordinaire Terisa Griffin provided beautiful vocals. This was truly a wonderful occasion as Orbert and his partner Mark Ingram hosted this evening of Music and networking. It was only a preamble of what was to occur during the weekend at the Green Mill.
This listener only intended to stay for one set on the 2nd of two standing room only nights at the fabled Green Mill, but found himself mesmerized as Orbert and his band mates were in a "zone" the entire evening. The group at the Green Mill included the same aggregate as was present at the Musician's hall with the exception of bassist Stewart Miller who replaced Hochberg.
The opening number of this performance set the standard for the entire evening. Orbert opened with an extended solo with Adams keeping time with a vengeance on the drum kit. This was followed by nice solos from the other members of this all star band , as the Saturday Night Green Mill crowd was barely seated. It was apparent from the top that this would indeed be a special club engagement. Although this set was billed as a "CD Release Party," to debut CJP's "Collective Creativity," it was obvious that the occasion would only be used to introduce the CD to the audience while the quintet jammed away all night playing classic standards that were not included on the CD.
Throughout the night, each ensemble member shined with solos while occasionally, friendly bantering took place between musicians.On one occasion, it was Ari and Orbert during the rapid fire playing of "What Is This Thing Called Love," and on another Ernie and bassist Miller "battled" back and forth on Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." These guys really were in a groove as each set only consisted of a few numbers. Once they began a song, they seemed to just "play" off on one another, without "stepping" on one another. Ryan Cohen also had his finest moment on this number. He seems to have such great command of both the right and left hand when ever he plays. It was a beautiful sight.
Perhaps the most stirring and symbolic moment of the evening occurred when Orbert played "America The Beautiful." He began this number in "Avant Garde" style while maintaining the recognizable melody. This number needs to be performed at President Obama's Inauguration next month in D.C. It certainly "chilled" the spine of this listener.
What a weekend of exceptional music that was produced by Orbert Davis and his outstanding quintet.It's not often that one has the opportunity of observing him fronting a small group, as he's often in front of his 50plus piece Philharmonic. Nevertheless, whatever the configuration might be, one can always rest assured that a top flight performance will be the end result.