The City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events teamed up with The Recording Academy® – Chicago Chapter and the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMfest) to present the inaugural Lake FX Chicago, music and artistic showcases across Chicago, April 16th– 19th, 2015. On Thursday, April 16th, Lake FX Chicago’s opening night event held at the club, The Mid, was kicked-off with performances showcasing some of Chicago’s up-and-coming jazz talents which included young jazz pianist, Alexis Lombre. Alexis, along with her frequent bandmates, Isaiah Collier (Saxophone), Jeremiah Collier (Drums), and James Wenzel (Bass) formed one of the featured groups “Next Generation”. Next Generation opened the night with a high energy performance of their own arrangements of jazz standards and original compositions. Other artists featured opening night were “The Fox and the Hounds” (Jazz/Rock) and “Lili K” (Jazz/R&B).
The Chicago International Movies & Music Festival coincided with Lake FX Chicago during April 16–19, 2015, to showcase outstanding films, energetic concerts, visually stunning VJ/DJ sets and other programs showing what movies and music mean to each other. The Recording Academy®, internationally known for the GRAMMY® Awards, provided its support as an organization of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. The Academy’s Chicago Chapter works closely with many established music and arts organizations and has become an integral partner in the Chicago and Midwestern cultural communities. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy.
On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, the Highland Park High School opened its 25th “Focus on the Arts” festival with an evening tribute to jazz pianist and composer, Ramsey Lewis, and a concert performance by the Ramsey Lewis Quartet. The Ravinia Festival sponsored the opening night concert as one of several special events this year to celebrate Lewis’ 80th birthday. Lewis serves as Ravinia’s Artistic Director of Jazz. Pianist/composer Paul Johnston, an alumnus of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, performed his new tribute to Ramsey Lewis with pianist Alexis Lombre, an alumna of the Ravinia Jazz Scholars program. Also as part of the tribute, the Highland Park High School Jazz Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra premiered a new orchestration of Lewis’ greatest hits arranged by Andrew Chukerman and commissioned by Ravinia Festival.
This is the second tribute to Ramsey Lewis held in recent months that Alexis Lombre has participated in. On September 17, 2014, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs held the inaugural “Fifth Star Awards” ceremony, a free public celebration at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park honoring exemplary Chicago artists and arts institutions who have made significant contributions in arts and culture. Along with Ravinia Festival CEO and President, Welz Kauffman and Jazz Vocalist, Kurt Elling, Alexis was selected to be a part of the tribute to Ramsey Lewis who was an inaugural Fifth Star honoree. She performed a piano duet, “Ramsey Lewis Medley” with Welz Kauffman, which was followed by Kurt Elling’s performance of his arrangement of “In Crowd”, one of Lewis’ most popular hits.
Alexis Lombre will also perform in the upcoming “Tribute to Frank Sinatra & Ramsey Lewis” on Saturday, May 16, 2015 in the Ravinia Festival’s Bennett-Gordon Hall in Highland Park, IL. This event, which is sold out, will honor Lewis’ 80th birthday and what would have been Sinatra’s 100th.
On September 1st, I opened up the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for the legendary saxophonist, Jimmy Heath, at the Chicago Jazz Festival. I played my reharmonized version of the Star Spangled Banner.
On August 1st the Alexis Lanier (Lombre) Quartet opened up for Victor Garcia at the Jay Pritkzer Pavilion at Chicago’s Millennium Park. Here’s a review we received along with the video of the performance.
“I returned to Millennium Park on Thursday afternoon, arriving around 4 PM for the second installment of their Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz 2013 series. I caught up with a fellow jazz enthusiast who had decided to meet me there and beat me there. He had marked off some real estate on the grass with a clear view of the stage. With still more than two hours left before show time, sound checks were in progress.
I had enjoyed Victor Garcia’s performance a few weeks earlier at The Courtyard in Hyde Park, so I was in eager anticipation of his Millennium appearance. However, his band’s performance was upstaged by that of the opening act. I had seen it coming. During the sound check, pianist Alexis Lanier was leading her group through opening act rehearsals, with vibraphonist Thaddeus Tukes masterfully percussing through Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia.” It was the shape of things to come.
Garcia’s twelve-piece orchestra, which included a string quartet, didn’t approach my Latin jazz expectations as he tended to stay away from salsa or mambo rhythms, opting instead to serve up sounds that were of Spanish or Mexican origins. His Hyde Park performance had been one that was basically straight-ahead jazz, which might have been more palatable here as I watched more and more people exit their seats following each musical selection.
But the evening was not a bust. I came away encouraged by the Brubeck-like deftness of the sixteen year old Alexis, a junior at Whitney Young, and the vibraphonic skill of nineteen year old Thaddeus, a Northwestern sophomore who conjured up memories of the late Milt Jackson. Jazz is not dead as long as blossoms such as these are blooming on its tree.” –Fred Dunham, 2013.