Four-Month Miles Davis Fest begins Friday at Auditorium Theatre

Partnering with a number of local jazz clubs and institutions, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University hosts a “Miles Davis Festival,” January-April.

Partnering with a number of local jazz clubs and institutions, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University hosts a “Miles Davis Festival,” January-April. This ambitious four-month celebration of Davis, arguably the best known and influential jazz musician of the 20th century, will bring sounds of “The Prince of Darkness” to venues citywide, including the Auditorium and the streets of Chicago. The fest features 19 concerts and tribute events recognizing the 85th anniversary of the Alton, Ill. native’s birth.

Vince Wilburn Jr., whom I’ve known since he was a kid (aka “Li’l Vince”), nephew of Davis and one of the executors of his estate, was in town last week to finalize the celebration with Brett Batterson, Auditorium Theatre executive director, in order to showcase “the finest in cultural and community programming in Chicago.” I was good friends with Vince’s mom, the late Dorothy Davis (“Tucker”) Wilburn, Miles’ sister. “We’re grateful to Chicago and the Auditorium Theatre, in particular, for organizing this festival,” he said. “People often say my uncle was the living personification of cool. He would be thrilled to know that 40 years after the release of Bitches Brew, it would be celebrated in a city where the music scene embodies the adventurous and innovative spirit he so loved.” “Davis’ influence on the world of music is immeasurable, consistently inventive and adventurous,” said Batterson. “This jazz genius was a pioneer in the development of bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and jazz fusion. The Auditorium Theatre is proud to bring together Chicago’s music community and fans to salute Davis, celebrate his dizzyingly robust body of work, commission a new piece inspired by his legacy and create a new generation of Davis devotees. ”Several events are free; ticket prices for others range from $5-$69. The fest kicks-off this weekend: Friday and Saturday with Corey Wilkes at Close-Up 2, 416 S. Clark, $10; Sunday at Red Pepper’s Masquerade Lounge, 428 E. 87th St., with Crosswind Does Miles, free admission. Festival highlights: March 31, Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln, $25, Bitches Brew 40th anniversary band celebrates Davis’ legendary Bitches Brew recording session; regarded as one of the most remarkable albums in Miles’ career and jazz history in general, the album, originally released in 1970, became his first gold album.

Participating musicians: Miles Davis alums, Darryl Jones, Blackbyrd McKnight, Badal Roy, Vince Wilburn Jr., Nicholas Payton, DJ Logic, et al; April 14, “Sketches of Blue: An Orbert Davis Tribute to Miles” featuring the Orbert Davis Sextet with Ari Brown and Ernest Dawkins playing selections from “Kind of Blue” and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble performing passages of “Sketches of Spain,” 7:30 p.m., Auditorium Theatre, $30-$69; available online at, (800) 982-2787 or at the box office; groups of 10 or more can call (312) 431-2357. And more: Auditorium Theatre’s Dept. of Creative Engagement is organizing a Jazz Music Drive for schools in celebration of the fest. Used CDs, sheet music, scores, music history books and albums will be collected at select sites and will go to high schools looking to expand and grow their music programs. For more info, visit

Newsy Names – Happy b’day to our country’s First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama, 101-year-old Lakie Moman, Rev. Ramah E. Wright, Marquis Miller, Natasha Robinson, Ytasha Womack, Charla Draper, Marilyn D. White, Gregg Brown, Robert Starks, Sheila Moss-Brown, Jane Brown, Charles Lofton, Hazel Domanque, Salim Mawakkil, T’Shaun Barrett, Shirley Jackson, Turtel Onli, Glenn Duvall Pettway and Glenn Harrell Happy anniversary to Rev. and Mrs. Patrick L. Daymond (Antonia), pastor and “first lady” of Sixth Grace United Presbyterian Church), and to Steven and Dayna Jones The Rat Pack’s Business Corner & Steppers’ Set on Wednesday at Marmon Grand, 2230 S. Michigan, will raise funds for Haitian Relief which will be accepted by state Sen. Kwame Raoul. Also the b’days of Annette Brewer and Sarge Dodson will be celebrated, says Bill Williams, Rat Pack prexey … While here last week, Vince Wilburn Jr. said his dad, Vince Sr., former Chicagoan who now lives in Arizona, is soon to undergo surgery for a pacemaker. You’re in our prayers, “Big Vince.”

Gala Tribute ¡Godmother, a music, dance and video tribute to the late Dorothy Height and the Civil Rights Movement, comes to the Auditorium Theatre on Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., featuring highlights from the last century, honoring great women of the past and presented by the National Council of Negro Women, DuSable Museum, Auditorium Theatre and Karz Production. The goal: to educate, inspire, and empower a new generation and to celebrate African American life, leadership and culture. As part of the mission to further the legacy, the tribute will feature legends of today and tomorrow.

This is first of three civil rights tributes for Black History Month: Feb. 20, Symphony Hall, Atlanta, and Feb. 26, Apollo Theater, New York. Performers for Chicago: B. B. King, Taj Mahal, Mary, Mary, Nicole Cabell, winner of BBC’s “Singer of the World Competition,” Chicago Children’s Choir, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. Partnering organizations: ABC7-TV, Chicago Office of Tourism, Chicago Public Media, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Urban League, ClearChannel, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Facing History and Ourselves, Ill. Judicial Council, Knights of Peter Claver, Ladies Auxiliary of NAACP’s Westside Branch, National Education Association, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Teach for America, Teaching Tolerance, Black Star Project and YMCA of Metro Chicago. For tickets ($150 for a VIP Reception), go to Auditorium Theater box office, 50 E. Congress, call (800) 928-2787 or log on Proceeds benefit NCNW Chicago Midwest Section in support of public education and racial and gender equity programs.

On Sale! Jermikko, the celebrated, award-winning fashion designer whose label includes high-end contemporary novelty coats, jackets, suits and dresses in natural fibers with colorful, whimsical detailing and appliquΘs in addition to eveningwear in fine imported silks, is hosting her yearly 50-70 percent off end-of-the-season designer warehouse clearance sale with great items at excellent prices, she says. Visit her design-studio-factory, 329 W.18th St., or call (312) 563-1877. Her designs are found in over 650 upscale boutiques, specialty and department stores in the U.S., Ghana, Japan and Australia.

Hats Off ¡– to Chicago Chapter of National Women of Achievement who “gave back” by singing Christmas carols at All Faith Pavilion Nursing Home. Led by Shirley Venerable, president, and Dr. Carrie Filer Davis, national executive board member, the Achievers distributed treats to the seasoned seniors. JoAnn Hawkins- White directed Achievers Vivian Branton, Valerie Cadenhead, Gina Davis Esq., Verlane Franklin, Dr. Helen Davis Gardner, Dr. Sandra N. Givens, Dorothy Lockett, Dr. Mercedes Martinez, Monica Munoz, Dr. Susan Frazier, Paula Branton, Barbara Anderson and Norma Bush. Male Achievers Birdge Givens, Kossie Gardner III, Luke Lockett, Wendell Venerable and Najee Olya also harmonized and brought in holiday cheer. Achievers later enjoyed a sumptuous holiday meal at the festively decorated home of Dr. Davis Gardner.

Hands Up! – Illinois Lottery along with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s Ed Sanders launched “Raise a Hand Illinois” on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend with an Extreme Library Makeover at Morton School of Excellence, 431 N. Troy, on Saturday and Monday. Volunteers transformed a library in need from a dreary space to an inspiring reading and learning environment that will become the centerpiece for the school. On hand with Ed Sanders, singer-actress Drew Sidora, singer Slique and Illinois Lottery representatives and volunteers. RAHI is an extension of Illinois Lottery’s commitment to education and is designed to empower schools by providing books to children in public school across the state. In addition to the Morton School of Excellence event, Illinois Lottery will host Scholastic Book Fairs at 10 public schools where nearly 4,000 students will be given a coupon valued at $5 to select a book. Volunteers are needed; visit for more info.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender


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