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Orbert Davis

The Chicago Tribune's "1995 Arts People of the Year" and one of seven "Chicagoans of the Year for 2002", Orbert Davis is one of Chicago's busiest and most sought after jazz artists. Davis has a bachelor's degree from DePaul University and a Masters of Music in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University. In addition to being a professional jazz musician, performer, and composer, he is a clinician and teacher, having taught music theory, jazz history, jazz improvisation and trumpet performance at Columbia College during his 14 year tenure. In addition to having co-founded Discover Music: Discover Life, Inc. in 1999, he is the Founding and Artistic Director for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and is Associate Professor of Jazz History at UIC.

The Chicago River (Official Trailer)
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The Chicago River

The Chicago River is an orchestral photo-film, featuring Orbert Davis' critically acclaimed orchestral composition "The Chicago River", performed by his Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, paired with glass plate images from Richard Cahan and Michael Williams' photobook "The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Land Beyond" to document the historic reversal of the Chicago River .

Davis was captured by the notion that while the river's geography didn't change, everything around it did: "When you look at the river, you see the water and the river itself, but even more so we see the reflections in the river that change over time. I make musical connections to the aspect of reflecting."

Hailed as one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, changing the river's course greatly improved Chicago's sanitation and public health, but it also had significant consequences on the natural environment and cultural landscape for other parts of the region.

The five-moment, third stream masterwork was commissioned by and premiered at Chicago's Symphony Center in May 2013.


The story of the Chicago River is one that has powerfully impacted every community and every Chicagoan from the turn of the 19th century to today. Much more than a portrait of a geographical landmark, The Chicago River is a gripping commentary on how a rising city changed the direction of a mighty river and, in so doing, evolved into a vast metropolis. It is as much symphony as tone poem, as much multimedia art as urban biography, illustrating a major piece to the story of the city we all call home.

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