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Chicago Jazz Ensemble

Chicago Jazz Ensemble

In 1965, William Russo organized the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, performing to critical acclaim for three years before disbanding. By offering a variety of historical jazz, the ensemble preceded similar “repertory” bands by a quartercentury.

Under auspices of Columbia College Chicago, Russo successfully revived the group in 1991, presenting classic works from Jelly Roll Morton (1926) to Miles Davis (1959) with period phrasing and articulation. New compositions, such as Russo's “Chicago Suite No. 1,” included on the ensemble's CD debut, The Chicago Jazz Ensemble: Conducted by William Russo (Chase Music Group, 1997), expanded their repertoire. A second CD, Kenton a la Russo (Hallway Records, 2000), presented arrangements Russo had done for Stan Kenton in the 1950s, as well as newer originals, including Road Runner (1998).

As the historicist ensemble, made up largely of professionals, continued to move toward a full-time status, it regularly appeared at clubs, concerts, and festivals.

Chicago Jazz Ensemble. The Chicago Jazz Ensemble: Conducted by William Russo. Compact disc. Chase Music Group, CMD 8052. 1997.
Helland, Dave. “Repertory Big Bands: Jazz's Future-Past.” Down Beat 64.1 (1997): 34–37.
Reich, Howard. “Riding a Rave: Chicago Jazz Ensemble Reaps Praise at Home and Abroad.” Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1997, sec. 7, p. 11.