Thursday March 22 3:52 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Chicago Jazz Orchestra brings Joshua Redman, Slide Hampton together for Dexter Gordon's Sophisticated Giant

03/25/2018 - 15:00
03/25/2018 - 18:00

Chicago Jazz Orchestra’s next tribute concert marks the live world premiere of “Sophisticated Giant,” the legendary 1977 recording by the late great tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. The concert will see the debut of CJO’s Jeff Lindberg’s original transcriptions of Gordon’s landmark 1977 album, played in order and in its entirety.

Slide Hampton, the 85-year-old NEA Jazz Master who arranged and performed on Gordon’s original album, personally consulted with Lindberg on his new transcriptions of “Sophisticated Giant.” Hampton will be in the house on March 25th to witness the celebrated album’s reincarnation as a live world premiere concert. The evening’s program also includes several prized Slide Hampton Octets, featuring original music provided by Hampton.

The beautiful Art Deco, acoustically clean Studebaker Theater is the ideal seating for the charismatic Redman to remind Chicago why he is such an internationally acclaimed jazz saxophonist.

In a January 2017 interview in Downbeat Magazine, Redman previewed his collaboration with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, noting “While learning the material is an immense undertaking, listening to Dexter Gordon is never homework. I have learned so much, not just about saxophone playing, but the basic building blocks and idioms of jazz improvisation from studying Dexter Gordon’s music.”

Redman will be accompanied by a 12-piece CJO ensemble boasting jazz musicians with the top chops in all of Chicago including Scott Burns (alto and tenor saxophones), Bill Overton (baritone saxophone), Kimberly Risinger (flute and piccolo), Victor Garcia and Pharez Whitted (trumpets and flugelhorn), Steve Duncan and Tom Garling (trombones), Dan Anderson (tuba), John Campbell (vibes), Dan Trudell (piano), Dennis Carroll (bass) and George Fludas (drums).

Founded in 1978, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra is the city’s oldest professional jazz orchestra in continuous operation and one of the oldest jazz repertory orchestras in the country. As recently as 2015, Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune cited the CJO as “one of the best big bands in the country.”

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Meet the Artists -“Sophisticated Giant”: A Tribute to Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon had such a colorful and eventful life (with three separate comebacks) that his story would make a great Hollywood movie. The top tenor saxophonist to emerge during the bop era and possessor of his own distinctive sound, Gordon created a large body of work and could battle nearly anyone successfully at a jam session. His first important gig was with Lionel Hampton from 1940-1943. In 1943, he did get to stretch out on a recording session with Nat King Cole. Short stints with Lee Young, the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, and Louis Armstrong's big band preceded his move to New York in 1944 and becoming part of Billy Eckstine's Orchestra, trading off with Gene Ammons on Eckstine's recording of "Blowin' the Blues Away." Gordon recorded with Dizzy Gillespie ("Blue 'N' Boogie") and as a leader for Savoy before returning to Los Angeles in the summer of 1946. He was a major part of the Central Avenue scene, trading off with Wardell Gray and Teddy Edwards in many legendary tenor battles; studio recordings of "The Chase" and "The Duel" helped to document the atmosphere of the period. After periods of inactivity during the '50s by 1960 he was recording a consistently rewarding series of dates for Blue Note. Just when he was regaining his former popularity, in 1962 Gordon moved to Europe where he would stay until 1976. While on the continent, he was in peak form and Gordon's many SteepleChase recordings rank with the finest work of his career. Gordon did quietly return to the U.S. on occasion, recording in 1965, 1969-1970, and 1972. But his return in 1976 was treated as a major media event. A great deal of interest was suddenly shown in the living legend with long lines of people waiting at clubs in order to see him. Gordon was signed to Columbia and remained a popular figure until gradually worsening health made him semi-active by the early '80s. His third comeback occurred when he was picked to star in the motion picture 'Round Midnight. Gordon's acting was quite realistic and touching. He was nominated for an Academy Award, four years before his death after a very full life. Most of Dexter Gordon's recordings for Savoy, Dial, Bethlehem, Dootone, Jazzland, Blue Note, SteepleChase, Black Lion, Prestige, Columbia, Who's Who, Chiaroscuro, and Elektra Musician are currently available.

Slide Hampton's career spans decades in the evolution of jazz. At age of 12 he was already touring the Midwest with the Indianapolis based Hampton Band, led by his father and comprising other members of his family. During these tours, Hampton encountered jazz musicians such as J.J. Johnson and Wes Montgomery, who became early influences. By 1952, at age 20, he was performing at Carnegie Hall with the Lionel Hampton Band. He then joined Maynard Ferguson's band, playing trombone and providing charts on such popular tunes as "The Fugue," "Three Little Foxes," and "Slide's Derangement." As his reputation grew, he began working with bands led by Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, and Max Roach, again contributing original compositions and arrangements. In 1962, he formed the Slide Hampton Octet, which toured the U.S. and Europe and recorded on several labels. After a 1968 tour with Woody Herman, he elected to stay in Europe, performing with other expatriates such as Benny Bailey, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Drew, Art Farmer, and Dexter Gordon. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1977, he began a series of college master classes at Harvard University and DePaul, he formed the World of Trombones: an ensemble of nine trombones and a rhythm section, and arranged and performed on Dexter Gordon’s seminal album “Sophisticated Giant.” In 1989, with Paquito D'Rivera, he was musical director of Dizzy's Diamond Jubilee, a yearlong series of celebrations honoring Dizzy Gillespie's 75th birthday. He received the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Arrangement with a Vocalist for Dee Dee Bridgewater's recording "Cotton Tail." He was also a Grammy winner in 2005 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, “The Way: Music of Slide Hampton, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra” (Planet Arts), and received another nomination in 2006 for his arrangement of "Stardust" for the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts honored Hampton with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award. 2009 saw the completion of four new compositions titled "A Tribute to African-American Greatness" honoring Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Barack Obama.

Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman is a forward-thinking jazz musician whose improvisational style balances a love of the bop with an ear for advanced harmony and playful exploration. Born in Berkeley, California in 1969, Redman grew up in a musical family as the son of respected tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Exposed to a variety of music from a young age, he first played clarinet before switching to tenor saxophone around age ten. Although he studied music throughout school, he ultimately graduated from Harvard with a degree in social studies. He had also been accepted at Yale Law School when he decided to move to New York City and pursue his musical interests. In 1991, Redman won first place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and landed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Two years later, he made his solo debut with an eponymous effort, which earned his first Grammy nomination. He followed with 1993's “Wish” featuring guitarist Pat Metheny. He then recorded and toured with Chick Corea, after which he returned to his solo work with 1998's “Timeless Tales (For Changing Times).” “Beyond” appeared in 2000. In 2001, Redman released “Passage of Time” showcasing his quartet pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. The following year, “Elastic” arrived in stores and found Redman exploring his electronica and experimental rock influences. In 2005, the saxophonist moved to Nonesuch and released the Grammy-nominated “Momentum” featuring keyboardist Sam Yahel, drummer Brian Blade, and others. “Back East” followed in 2007, with “Compass” arriving early in 2009. Redman next appeared on the 2011 debut album from the jazz quartet James Farm followed by his 2013 orchestral album, “Walking Shadows” and his 2014 concert album “Trios Live” featuring tracks from performances at N.Y.C.'s Jazz Standard and Washington's Blues Alley. A year later, he paired with maverick piano trio the Bad Plus on the collaborative effort “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.” The album earned Redman a Grammy nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "Friend or Foe." In 2016, Redman joined pianist and longtime associate Brad Mehldau for the duo album “Nearness.” It earned them both a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

About the Chicago Jazz Orchestra

The Chicago Jazz Orchestra ( strives to develop and promote an appreciation for and understanding of music for the American jazz orchestra as it was originally conceived, performed and recorded by jazz master composers and soloists.

When Jeff Lindberg and the late Steve Jensen first came up with their big band concept in 1978 (founded as the Jazz Members Big Band), they could not have predicted the remarkable metamorphosis that has turned a group of first-call musicians into what is now known as the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece premiere jazz ensemble that has garnered both national and international recognition.

Conductor and Artistic Director Jeff Lindberg is one of the foremost transcribers in jazz. As a result, the orchestra’s repertoire draws upon his vast library including the works of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, Oliver Nelson, Ray Charles. Because the CJO has its own transcriptions of the original recordings, much of the music in its concerts cannot be heard anywhere else. The CJO also performs compositions and arrangements by CJO members, including Associate Artistic Director Charles Harrison.

The CJO served as the resident orchestra for the Kennedy Center Honors Supper Dance for more than 25 years. In 2006, the Orchestra performed before a sold-out audience at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina. The CJO has toured Europe twice, including performances in Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. The Orchestra has performed with such artists as Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson, Louis Bellson, Herbie Hancock, Jon Faddis, Kurt Elling, Jack McDuff, Kenny Burrell, Roy Hargrove, Marquis Hill, Walter White and many more.

The orchestra performs at a wide variety of top venues across the Chicago area, from The Green Mill, to City Winery, to the Spertus Institute. Merit School of Music is the orchestra’s educational partner, including day-long clinics that culminate with students performing alongside members of the CJO, master classes led by renowned guest artists and open rehearsals. The CJO also provides complimentary concert tickets to underserved public school students and their families.

The CJO’s recordings include Clark Terry and Jeff Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra: George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (Americana Music, 2004), nominated “Jazz Album of The Year” by the Jazz Journalist’s Association, and a rare “Five Star” rating by DownBeat magazine, which also named it one of the top recordings of the previous decade. It also made the annual “top CD’s” lists of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz Times and Jazz Education Journal. To celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2013, the CJO released Burstin’ Out with vocalist Cyrille Aimée performing classic and original jazz arrangements. The CJO’s newest release is the 2017 compilation Live from Space, with live recordings from the summer of 2016.

CJO’s 2017-18 season finale, also at the Studebaker, is A CJO Salute to “Sinatra at the Sands” featuring Paul Marinaro, Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. Sit back and enjoy this live recreation of the famous 1966 “Sinatra at the Sands” performance, long considered to be the definitive live album of his career. The Chicago Tribune hailed CJO guest vocalist Paul Marinaro as having “one of the most beautiful vocal instruments in the business today.” Don’t miss this chance to travel back in time, one-night-only, to revisit a true classic.

The Chicago Jazz Orchestra’s 2017-18 season is supported by The Stare Fund, The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Joseph B. Glossberg Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, and The Saints of Chicago, with media sponsorship from WDCB 90.9 FM, DownBeat Magazine and Chicago Jazz Magazine.

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