Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic:
Messages of Hope

Premieres Saturday, June 5 at 7 PM
Available on Demand until July 3
Tickets: $25/$125/$250
Reserve Your Spot

Jazz is the music of freedom - even in times of great uncertainty. Messages of Hope is a virtual program that features musical reflections from Chicago’s brightest jazz artists including Grammy-award winning harmonica player Howard Levy and beloved vocalists Maggie Brown, Dee Alexander, Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke. Using music as a refuge, a source of hope and joy, artists share their creative responses to conditions affecting our community and the world.  Let us turn to music to unite us in these challenging times.


 Media Sponsor

WDCB Jazz 

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.




Orbert Davis 250

One of Chicago’s “most admired jazz artists” (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune), Orbert Davis was named by Chicago Magazine as “Y2k Best Trumpeter in Chicago” and “Chicagoan of the Year for 2002.” In September 2011, Davis was named Artist-In-Residence for the Chicago Jazz Festival, an honor held by only one other Chicagoan in its history. Davis won an Emmy Award for the composition and production of an original score for the national PBS documentary, “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis.” He is also co-founder, conductor and Artistic Director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, a 55+ piece jazz-symphonic orchestra dedicated to multi-genre projects.

Howard Levy 250

Howard Levy is an acknowledged master of the diatonic harmonica, a superb pianist, innovative composer, recording artist, bandleader, teacher, and producer. At home in many musical styles, the two-time Grammy Award Winner (Pop Music Performance and Instrumental Composition with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones) is a favorite with audiences worldwide and a recording artist sought after by Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton, Paquito D’Rivera, Styx, Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, and many others. Howard has appeared on hundreds of CD’s and several movie soundtracks, most prominently on A Family Thing with Robert Duval and James Earl Jones. His solo CD Alone and Together (Balkan Samba Records) and his trio CD Tonight and Tomorrow (Chicago Sessions) both received 4-star reviews in DownBeat.

 Maggie Brown and Africa Brown 250Singer, songwriter, actress, producer, and director Maggie Brown is said to be “one of the most fiercely committed artists in Chicago” by Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich. One of seven children of singer, songwriter, and playwright Oscar Brown, Jr., Maggie started acting professionally at age 15, performing in the musical IN DE BEGINNIN at Body Politic Theater. In 1995 Maggie launched her independent label MagPie Records and released her first solo project FROM MY WINDOW. Before her father’s passing, Maggie produced a live concert recording with her father called WE’RE LIVE.
Maggie has recorded with Abbey Lincoln, Jonathan Butler, Ramsey Lewis, Stevie Wonder, and her father. In her hometown of Chicago, Maggie is called on to bring authenticity and integrity to whatever the job calls for and has worked with a diverse list of band leaders including: Tom Washington (South Side Big Band), Joan Collaso (11 Jazzy Divas), Douglas Ewart (AACM Inventions Ensemble), and Orbert Davis (Chicago Jazz Philharmonic). With an upbringing rooted in jazz, she is comfortable singing blues, gospel, pop, and even rapping—with impressive conviction and flow. Maggie’s distinctive voice can be heard providing tour guide voiceover on the Detour.com App. In Spring 2017 Maggie provided new poetry for and was a featured vocalist with a stellar ensemble brought to Poznan, Poland for a re-imagined live performance of the historic jazz recording, WE INSIST: Freedom Now Suite, a groundbreaking 60’s collaboration involving Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, and Oscar Brown, Jr.
 Dee Alexander and John McLean 250

Dee Alexander's talents span every music genre, from Gospel to R&B, from Blues to Neo-Soul. Yet her true heart and soul are experienced in their purest form through her performance of Jazz music. From a soft, sultry traditional ballad, to a contemporary Jazz-Funk groove; from a high flying swing, to a scat-filled romp, Dee Alexander delivers each style with a passion and love of music that comes across in each and every note, and with a style and grace that is truly her own. Besides being a phenomenal headliner in her own right, Dee has shared the stage with Ahmad Jamal, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Gerald Albright, Roy Ayers, Joshua Redman, and the O’Jays.

Jazz guitarist John McLean's 25 year career has included work as a performer, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader and educator.  Since completing studies at Berklee College of Music (B.M.) and the University of Miami (M.M.), he has toured throughout the world, performing and recording in a wide variety of musical contexts.  He has appeared and recorded with Kurt Elling, Mose Allison, Dave Douglas, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Patricia Barber, Randy Brecker, Adam Nussbaum, Jane Ira Bloom, Jerry Granelli, Arthur Blythe, Scott Robinson, Jay Clayton, Jack Mouse, Janice Borla, and many more.

 Rodrick Dixon and Alfred Burke 250

Rodrick Dixon
possesses a tenor voice of extraordinary range and versatility that has earned him the respect and attention of leading conductors, orchestras and opera companies throughout North America.

Alfreda Burke’s vocal artistry has been described as “voluptuous, creamy and luxuriant” (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune); and she has appeared in concert throughout North America and in Europe.
 Sharel Cassity 250Saxophonist, Composer and Educator Sharel Cassity (pron. "Sha-Relle") is well established on the New York and Chicago jazz scenes. Listed as "Rising Star Alto Saxophone" in Downbeat Magazine for the past decade, Sharel has appeared on the Today Show, won the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award & has been inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Her four albums released as a leader have received top-rated reviews in publications like JazzTimes, Jazziz, Downbeat & American Indian News & earned her a cover story in Saxophone Journal. Cassity's latest album, "Evolve," was recorded and distributed on her record label, Relsha Music. A skilled and versatile sideman, Sharel is a regular member of the Dizzy Gillespie Latin Experience, Nicholas Payton TSO, Cyrus Chestnut Brubeck Quartet, and the Jimmy Heath Big Band. She has also performed regularly alongside renowned Grammy-winning artists Roy Hargrove, Lewis Nash, Joe Chambers & Darcy James Argue. Sharel has toured 24 countries and performed at leading venues like the Newport Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival & the North Sea Jazz Festival. Additionally, she has shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, and Natalie Cole. Sharel was lead alto in the Diva Jazz Orchestra from 2007-2014 and performed in Wynton Marsalis' Broadway musical After Midnight. 
 Richard Johnson 250Richard D. Johnson was first introduced to the piano at the age of five by his father, a gospel pianist. After receiving a scholarship and graduating from the Berklee School of Music in just two years, Richard entered the Boston Conservatory where he earned a Master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy. He then went on to receive an Artist Performance Diploma at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory under the direction of the influential Ron Carter. Richard was invited to become a member of Wynton Marsalis' Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which he did from 2000-2003. He also played as part of the Russell Malone Quartet, Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet & The Bobby Watson Quartet. After completing his tenure with those groups Richard started the Reach Afar program for young people in 2003 catering to the ages of 7-17, educating them about jazz, classical & Hip-Hop music. As a representative through the U.S. State Department, Richard was named Musical Ambassador. During that time he performed in more than 76 countries. Richard has also accompanied such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval. In 2005 Richard became the musical director for the Atlanta Spirit LLC. This joint project enabled him to create a live instrumental five member band for the N.B.A and perform at all fourty-six home games and outside activities. Currently Richard is the founding member of “Johnson works LLC” a management placement service for musicians. In his current role he performs with world-class artist promoting jazz to a vast array of audiences. Richard also serves as one of the two full-time Jazz professors at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD as well as the piano instructor for the Ravinia Jazz Program located in Chicago, IL. Richard is an accomplished composer and arranger with four musical releases as a leader. His latest co- lead project with Gregory Generet, entitled 2 of A Kind, features a stellar cast jazz ensemble consisting of Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Jon Beshay on tenor saxophone, Barry Stephenson on Bass, & Henry Conerway on drums.