BEVERLY — Orbert Davis and his wife, Lisa, had a Sunday morning tradition before moving to Beverly. First, they'd go to church. Then, they'd visit open houses within the far Southwest Side neighborhood.
"I always wanted to live in Beverly," said Davis, a noted jazz musician and artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.
Then one day, the Davis family found their dream home — a newly rehabbed house with a spacious backyard that reminded Orbert Davis of his childhood home in Momence.
"We saw the house on a Sunday. And by Wednesday, we were homeowners," Davis said.
That was more than eight years ago, and the Davis family has remained in Beverly ever since, raising their four children, Zoe, 18, Sydney 14, Donovan, 8 and Benjamin, 5.
Professionally, there's been plenty of milestones along the way as well. Davis reflected on his career and his recent historic trip to Cuba ahead of an upcoming concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of his signature 60-piece symphonic jazz orchestra.
The concert itself is notable in that it honors 90-year-old Gunther Schuller, who coined the term "Third Stream." Davis' upcoming concert is homage to this style of music that combines jazz and classical techniques. Schuller will be in the audience for the concert set for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Symphony Center at 220 S. Michigan Ave. in the Loop.
Davis began his career as a trumpet player with a goal of becoming a studio musician. He graduated in 1978 from DePaul University in Lincoln Park and immediately began lending his skills to movie soundtracks, commercials and other background sounds.
"Chicago at the time had a very big jingle market," said Davis, who recalled lending his horn to countless commercials for McDonald's and the long-running "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" ads.
At the behest of his college professor, Davis would often visit the now-defunct Wise Fools Club near campus. That's where he began to interact with fellow studio musicians as well as orchestra musicians and jazz artists.
He soon began hanging out and performing with some of the top musicians throughout the city at such iconic jazz clubs as The Bop Shop and the Green Mill. After enough encouragement, Davis finally agreed to perform on his own.
"My very first concert, Howard Reich from the Chicago Tribune was there, and he wrote this glowing review," Davis said. "A lot of doors opened up for me after that."
Playing with Stevie Wonder is among Davis' career highlights as well as working as a jazz consultant to Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes for the film “Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.
Most recently, Davis returned from a cultural exchange program in Cuba. Davis arrived on Dec. 15 at the Universidad de las Artes in Havana. While Davis was there working with high school, college and professional musicians on Dec. 17, President Barack Obama announced that the United States and Cuba had re-established diplomatic relations.
"Everyone just erupted in applause," Davis said, adding that the percussionists spontaneously began playing a rumba upon hearing the news.
Since returning on Dec. 22, Davis has focused his energy on the upcoming concert dubbed, "The Godfather of Third Stream: Gunther Schuller." Davis encouraged those unfamiliar with this form of jazz-classical fusion to come to the concert with an open mind.
"The music will totally erase any preconceived notions of what they expect it to be," Davis said. "They will walk away saying, 'That was fun.'"
In addition to the Davis' compositions, the show will also feature the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic's first commissioned piece. Daniel Schnyder, a Grammy-nominated composer and saxophonist, will conduct the jazz symphony as well as perform. Davis is also set to perform on during the show.
While contemplating on his career and the upcoming concert, Davis thought back to his days as a studio musician. Among the lessons he learned was how music is so influential in setting the scene for a movie or television program.
It's the music paired with the images on the screen that bring the audience to tears or make them jump with fright, Davis said.
"Music tells you what to feel," Davis said. "That's the music of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic."
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