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Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble Releases New Album “Havana Blue”

Jazzed Magazine • News • June 16, 2016

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JAzzPhilharmonicHavanablueIn a momentous collaboration, beginning with an exploratory trip to Cuba in October 2012, Orbert Davis shares his experiences and brings the Cuban culture’s rich history to life in a vibrant new CD entitled

“Havana Blue” Recorded live at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

Havana Blue was conceived as a collaboration between the artistic directors of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and River North Dance Chicago, Orbert Davis (composer) and Frank Chavez (choreographer), to discover their African and Cuban roots through a live presentation of music and dance. It premiered and was recorded ‘live’ at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre on April 13, 2013 as a highlight of the theater’s Music + Movement Festival.

To develop the work, Davis and Chaves spent nine days together in Havana, Cuba in October 2012. For Chaves, it was a return home to a place he never really knew, having left the island of his birth at the age of six months. For Davis, it was an opportunity to experience one of the most musical places on the planet. “I learned so much just being there”, says Davis. “Everywhere I went, I took my trumpet and would play whenever I could – just started jamming’. The streets, the restaurants, hotels… Everyone has such respect for the music. It’s amazing.” If Chaves’ goal was to say something about being Cuban, Davis sought to, as he puts it, ‘become Cuban’ by connecting his cultural roots to Cuba, where the African heritage is prominent.

Broken into seven vignettes, Havana Blue tells the multi-faceted story of Cuban culture and brings out the many flavors of passion, romance, angst, energy and uncertainty that are embedded in a tumultuous society. From a joyous celebration in the streets of Havana, to a dramatic, intense journey out of a devastated country, the piece infuses Cuban rhythm with pure emotion.

“We wanted to create an innovative, contemporary take on Afro-Caribbean music, departing from the cliché of fast tempos, bright colors, and ruffled shirts,” Davis explains. “Havana Blue explores the similarities between African and Cuban rhythms and culture and how that heritage helps people overcome the challenges of everyday life.” 

Havana Blue is the beginning of the extraordinary journey that led to Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s relationship with the Universidad de las Artes (ISA) – a residency that coincided with the historic normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba in December 2014.

[Some excerpts written April 10, 2013 by Don Macica for]

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