Jazz Fest Masters

2015 Fest featured ...

Ernie Adams — Drummer

Ernie Adams is a very experienced, high profile all-styles drummer, who has performed and recorded with many of the worlds greatest musicians. He is known for his perfect timing, solid groove, and brilliant technique that he combines with great musical taste and a wonderful personality. He has performed, recorded, and toured with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, AI DiMiola, Joe Williams, Billy Dickens, Arturo Sandoval, Steve Cole, Dianne Reeves, Stanley Turrentine, Ahmad Jamal, Richie Cole, James Moody, Joe Zawinul, Slide Hampton, Clark Terry, Orbert Davis, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and the list goes on.

Having graduated as a Jazz major from University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Ernie has been a Ravinia Jazz Mentor since 1995, tutoring young drummers and percussionists.


Orbert Davis—Trumpet

Emmy-Award winning trumpeter, composer and educator Orbert Davis is co-founder, conductor and artistic director of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP), a 55+ piece symphonic jazz orchestra dedicated to bringing together audiences of diverse backgrounds through multi-genre projects.

In 1998 Davis founded "Jazz Alive" (the Arts Education outreach arm of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic,) an interdisciplinary enrichment program that focuses on teaching life and academic skills through music and the arts. Currently running in fourteen Chicago Public Schools, the program also to creates and develops "jazz bands" at the elementary school level. Davis also owns and operates Discover Music: Discover Life, Inc. a company that develops curriculum and implements programs that uses music to teach academic and life skills.

Orbert was consultant to Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes, for the feature 
film "Road to Perdition" starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Recent projects include "Home and Away", a Boeing Company commissioned that honors U.S. service men and women, and an Emmy-Award winning original score for the national PBS documentary "DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis" produced by WTTW.

Orbert’s 2004 CD release entitled "Blue Notes" was the follow-up to his critically acclaimed "Priority" CD, which garnered an LA Times 4-star review, hit Top-50 "most played on national radio" Jazz CDs in 2002 and was named Top-10 best Jazz CDs of 2002 by the Chicago Tribune. Orbert’s latest release, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s “Sketches of Spain [Revisited],” is an orchestral transformation of the 1960 iconic original by Miles Davis and Gil Evans and is currently receiving rave reviews internationally.

Orbert recently celebrated his 150th show as radio personality and host of "The Real Deal with Orbert Davis", a weekly 3-hour program airing on 90.9fm WDCB (also streaming live online at wdcb.org).

Orbert has a Bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance from DePaul University and a Master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University. He is a former associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and artist-in-residence at Columbia College Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his wife Lisa, their two daughters, Zoe and Sydney, and sons, Orbert and Benjamin.


Larry Gray—Bass

Larry Gray, Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at University of Illinois since 2007 began his musical studies at the age of six when his father brought home an accordion and introduced him to his first teacher. Invigorated by this study, Larry added the guitar to his arsenal and studied piano seriously for many years thereafter. It was not until he was in his twenties that he decided to switch to the double bass. Larry went on to study classical music extensively, eventually adding the cello to his long list of loved instruments. His principal teachers were Joseph Guastafeste, longtime principal bassist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and cellist Karl Fruh, a highly regarded soloist and teacher. Under Mr. Fruh's guidance, he received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Cello Performance from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University.

Throughout his long and varied career, Larry has worked with numerous exceptional artists and jazz legends, including McCoy Tyner, Jack DeJohnette, Danilo Perez, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson, Steve Turre, Lee Konitz, Bobby Hutcherson, Sonny Stitt, Phil Woods, Jon Faddis, Roscoe Mitchell, Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, and Donald Byrd, among many others.

Larry has toured extensively, and continues to do so, performing at jazz festivals and clubs around the globe, including the Umbria Jazz Festival, the Havana Jazz Festival, Rio Sao Paulo Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, ECM Festival in Poland, Monterey Jazz Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Village Vanguard, Blue Note (New York and Tokyo), Kennedy Center, and the Ravinia Festival, with such jazz luminaries including Marian McPartland, Clark Terry, Nancy Wilson, Frank Morgan, James Moody, Larry Coryell, Louis Bellson, Joe Williams, Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band, Kenny Drew Jr., and Ramsey Lewis. As a classical musician, Larry has worked on many occasions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under master conductors Erich Leinsdorf, Rafael Kubelik, Carlo Maria Guilini, and Sir George Solti. He was principal bass of Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and also has worked with Lyric Opera of Chicago. Larry is an arranger and composer whose work has been widely recognized as uniquely melodic and exceptionally refined.

His discography includes 1,2, 3,..., on Chicago Sessions, the solo bass record, Gravity, One Look, and Solo + Quartet, all on Graywater Records, as well as the Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson collaborations Meant to Be and Simple Pleasures. He can also be heard on Appassionata, Time Flies, With One Voice, and Songs From the Heart. The newest CD by the Larry Gray Trio, 3=1, was released in April, 2011. Larry is a first-call studio musician, and his playing can be heard on many jazz recordings as well as commercial radio and television jingles and studio projects. He also was part of the PBS television series, Legends of Jazz, where he can be seen performing alongside Jim Hall, Benny Golson, Chris Potter, Phil Woods, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Clark Terry, and Roy Hargrove. Larry's original composition for double bass and guitar, Five Movements, was commissioned and performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at Symphony Center in Chicago. Most recently, Larry has composed two commissioned works for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Tribute to the Bass Masters Suite was premiered at the Poznan Festival in Poland in 2008 to much acclaim. A second work, String Thing, was first presented in Chicago in October 2010 as part of the Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz in Chicago series. Larry's newest work is Seven Views of Three Bassists, with bassists Rufus Reid and Joseph Guastafeste, that was premiered in March of 2011 in Chicago. His website is www.larrygraymusic.com. www.larrygraymusic.com.


Valerie Nicholson—Piano

Valerie Nicholson is Professor of Music at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois. She earned degrees in music at Murray State University and Governors State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in music theory at the University of Chicago. Her research looks at the sonic, visual, and physical intersections of rhythm in dance and music.

Valerie has performed with many ensembles including the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and in Symphony Center and at the Chicago Jazz and Blues Festivals with Burgess Gardner’s Well-Oiled Jazz Machine. She is active with the Southland Arts Management and Business Alliance (SAMBA) and serves as the director of music at Grace United Protestant Church in Park Forest, Illinois. In addition to her musical endeavors, she is a member of the League of Women Voters and is involved in several regional arts organizations. Valerie has been recognized for her contributions to the arts by the Village of Park Forest Historical Society, Tall Grass Arts Association, and Star Newspapers.


Ari Brown—Saxophone

Ari Brown, a Chicago native, is an internationally renowned saxophonist, flautist and pianist, as well a prolific arranger composer, and teacher. Ari began his professional career around 1965,
performing with soul, rock and blues bands throughout Chicago, Wisconsin, and Michigan,
where he performed with such vocalists and vocal groups as Gene Chandler, the Chi-Lites, B.B.
King, Lou Rawls, Four Tops, and the Emotions.

In 1968, Mr. Brown received his Bachelors degree in Music Education from the Vandercook
School of Music in Chicago. Upon completion of his formal studies he continued performing with jazz and R&B bands in Chicago, the Midwest and on the East Coast, performing with such artists Muhal Richard Abrams, the Awakening, Chuck Berry, the Dells, Billy Eckstine, the Emotions, the Four Tops, Walter Jackson, Della Reese, and Sonny Stitt.

The year 1974 found Ari able to make use of his educational experience beginning with his association with the Chicago Public school system as an elementary and high school teacher. His teaching experience also includes positions at; Columbia College, Chicago (saxophone
instructor), Urban Gateways, Chicago, (teaching, lecturing and performance), Chicago Conservatory of Music, (saxophone instructor), Olive-Harvey College, Chicago (music fundamentals), Jazz Institute Mentoring Program, Chicago (teaching, the art of improvisation), and University Of Illinois at Chicago, (saxophone instructor).

Since 1979, Mr. Brown has been able to pursue his passion (musically) by performing almost exclusively in the Jazz idiom. His performances throughout Chicago, and the USA, Africa, Asia, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe, have been with his own working band, the Ari Brown Quintet, and includes The AACM Experimental Orchestra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Ritual Trio, Hamiett Bluitt, Lester Bowie, Anthony Braxton, Donald Byrd, Ken Chaney, Kahil El Zabar, Jon Faddis, Malachi Favors, Von Freeman, Elvin Jones, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, David Murray, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Stop-Time Orchestra, McCoy Tyner, Val Gray Ward, Edward Wilkerson, and Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra with Orbert Davis.

Additionally, Ari has made several appearances at major venues including: Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago (solo), Smithsonian Institute, Steppenwolf Theatre, Jazz at the Symphony Center (Chicago), Detroit Orchestra Hall, Village Vanguard, Blue Note (NYC) Newport Jazz Festival, Dakota’s Bar and Grill (Minneapolis), Jazz Alley (Seattle), Yoshi’s (Oakland), Chicago Jazz and Blues Festivals, Millennium Park Jazz Series, North Sea Festival (The Hague, Netherlands), numerous European festivals, and The Jazz Showcase (Chicago). He also has made two cameo film appearances, a clarinet solo in "The Babe", starring John Goodman, and a saxophone solo in "The Visitors", starring Christina Applegate.

Ari Brown has been recognized for his musical achievements by his numerous awards throughout his career, including; four National Endowment of the Arts Awards, NIAA Certified Gold Record, for the album "Flowers", recorded by the Emotions, Colombia Records, ©1974, Inner City Grant, Chicago Council on Fine Arts, Commissioned to write music for Foday Musa Suso and the Kronos String Quartet, 2002 recipientof the Alyo Award, Muntu Dance Company, the National Arts Initiative Chicago Legends of Jazz Award in 2008 for his outstanding contributions to the Great Legacy of Jazz in Chicago, and, most recently, the 28th Annual Chicago Music Awards Best Jazz Entertainer, 2009.

His professional associations include Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and Phi Mu Alpha Symphonia.