Symphony Center to present 2 Jazz artists

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa

CHICAGO: The Symphony Center (SCP) is organizing a Jazz series with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and Grammy®-nominated vibraphonist and composer Stefon Harris and Sonic Creed for a double bill on Friday, February 26.

The two of today’s most exciting young jazz band leaders, Harris and Mahanthappa will showcase their newest projects in this evening of genre-crossing jazz.

Heralded as “one of the most important young artists in jazz” by the Los Angeles Times, Harris is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music, where he received a B.M. in Classical Music and a M.M. in Jazz Performance. He is a recipient of the prestigious Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center and has earned four Grammy® nominations including Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Urbanus (Concord Music, 2010), Best Jazz Album for The Grand Unification Theory (2003) and the 2001 release of Kindred (Blue Note) and his 1999 release of Black Action Figure (Blue Note) for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls is an ambitious collection of original compositions inspired by the tunes of jazz legend Charlie “Yardbird” Parker which recently earned Mahanthappa places on several 2015 Top 10 Album lists, including The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Jazzwise Magazine, the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, and the 63rdannualDownBeat International Critics Poll.

The DownBeat poll also named Mahanthappa Rising Star Composer of the Year, and Alto Saxophonist of the Year. Like Parker, Mahanthappa plays alto saxophone and the new release demonstrates that he and his bandmates are experts at trading phrases in the style of Parker, as well as the young Miles Davis.

His accomplished quintet includes drummer Rudy Royston, pianist Matt Mitchell, trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and bassist François Moutin. An inventive and fiery improviser, Mahanthappa’s previous projects have explored his Indian American identity, but he considers himself first and foremost a jazz musician, and says his biggest inspiration has been Charlie Parker.

“Stylistically we traverse lots of different directions. There’s a bit of my Indian roots in the music, and there are really strong elements of pop and hip-hop and funk, and of course all of the jazz that’s happened since Charlie Parker.”

Mahanthappa has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and numerous commissions from the MAP Fund, Chamber Music America, and American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year four of the past five years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Polls and for five years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association.

Armed with marimbas, vibes and a powerful stage presence, Stefon Harris leads his newest ensemble Sonic Creed to produce “a high-gloss, dizzyingly virtuosic blend of postbop and funk- and R&B-informed groove” (Time Out New York ). The seasoned young talent joining Harris includes Elena Pinderhughes (flute), Mike Moreno (guitar), James Francies (piano), Joshua Crumbly (bass) and Jonathan Pinson (drums).

Symphony Center Presents Jazz series is sponsored by Exelon.

Stephanie Kulke

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