Story by James Walker
The Midwest Young Artist Summer Big Band (comprised of high schoolers from the midwest) opened the inaugural "Made In Chicago" Jazz series at the Pritzkler Pavillion in Milliennium Park on July 30th. It's always a pleasure to see young folks performing art form that began in America in the '20s. Let's hope they continue to embrace this sound for it's in their hands to mold , develope, and preserve for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.Based on their recent effort, this group is headed in the right direction.
Uruguayan born jazz and classical composer Elbio Barilari undertook a bold challenge with his "Lincolniana", based on the lives of the late President Abe Lincoln and America's first African-American President, Barack Obama.
The first movement of this Suite featured one of Chicago's finest musicians/composers, trumpeter Orbert Davis with actor Henry Godinez reading from Carl Sandberg and Walt Whitman.
This was a very challenging piece as it attempted to incorporate the jazz sound, featuring the high octave notes from Davis in addition to the classical movement from the Hawk String Quartet and Mariachi music from the Sones de Mexico band.
As separate entities, each had highlighted moments, but seemed to be a bit disjointed as a unified piece.
It wasn't until the "Sounds of Hope" segment (written by Barilari and El'Zabar) with energetic conductor El'Zabar and vocalist/narrator Maggie Brown's arrival that the entire suite seemed to connect with the audience.
El'Zabar was a sight to see as he incorporated dance movements while expertly sliding from side to side giving directions to each section of the orchestra. He was like an artist painting a picture, and the audience loved it!!!!!!!!!!
Not to be up staged, upon his return, Barilari was also dynamic with his orchestration. These two were as entertainig as the musicians. This piece really captured the true spirit of President Obama, as it integrated the sounds from each section of the "orchestra" while at all times demonstrating the masterful leadership of the two "maestros".
Special mention must be given to percussionists Ernie Adams and Ruben Alvarez for their time keeping and Eric Hochberg on the double bass, as he was on point all night long.
"Made in Chicago " continues each Thursday in Millennium Park at 6:30pm through Sept. 3rd. August 13th's installment feature keyboardist Robert Irving III's tribute to Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans. This truly should be a highlight of the summer jazz season.