Story and Photos by James Walker
On April 11, 2009, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra (CJO), in collaboration with the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University provided an evening of exceptional jazz before a sell-out crowd at Pick-Staiger Hall on the Northwestern campus on the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston.
This program took place in two segments, with CJO's associate artistic director, Charley Harrison directing the first half, which consisted of a suite of Bill Evans compositions, in addition to a selection by vocalist Frieda Lee, and a spectacular version of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," performed by pianist Anthony Molinaro.
Molinaro, like Harrison, is a Northwestern graduate, held the audience spellbound with his bluesy tinge to this classic. Throughout major portions of this selection, the orchestra simply sat back as Molinaro soloed, moving from ragtime to blues and to classical. He was magnificent and received a well-deserved standing ovation by the appreciative audience at this popular number's conclusion.
And if that wasn't enough, belive it or not, it got even better after intermission, as Victor Goines, Northwestern, Director of Jazz Studies, provided an exceptional rendition of Nelson Riddle's "Cross Country Suite."
With the support of the CJO, and guest harmonica soloist, Howard Levy, clarinetist Goines demonstrated why he's considered one of America's finest reedmen. Goines, who has been a member of Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since 1993, was on point throughout the evening, with the highlight occurring when he was joined on stage by Levy, and the two wailed away on "The Mississippi," a bluesy movement of the suite. What a pleasure seeing those two side by side making beautiful music.
Kudos must also be given to the CJO's musical director, Jeff Lindberg, for his steadfast leadership of this renowned orchestra since its inception thirty years ago, and for his transcription of this 11-movement "Cross Country Suite" for clarinet and orchestra by the late American composer Nelson Riddle.
For information regarding the CJO's final subscription concert, a tribute to bluesman Gatemouth Brown, at the DuSable Museum on May 3, 2009, refer to their Web site at