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OPTION: Dee Alexander & Miguel de la Cerna

  • ESS 5925 North Ravenswood Avenue Chicago, IL, 60660 United States (map)

Born on Chicago’s west side, Dee Alexander is one of Chicago’s most gifted and respected female vocalist/songwriters. Her talents span every music genre, from Gospel to R&B, from Blues to Neo-Soul. Yet her true heart and soul are experienced in their purest form through her performance of Jazz music. From a soft, sultry ballad to a scat-filled romp; Dee Alexander delivers each style with a passion for music that comes across in every note, and a grace that is truly her own. Growing up in a household that was steeped in recordings of Dinah Washington; Ms. Alexander names Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald among her major influences. As well as Chicago saxophonist Henry Huff, who encouraged her to take risks and cross boundaries thus setting her on the path to becoming one of the most accomplished voice improvisers in the world today.

Her 2007 “Sirens of Song” tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion (commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago), introduced her to a larger audience and marked the beginning of world recognition for her artistry as well. The result being frequent tours in France, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Poland. Ms. Alexander boasts long and fruitful associations with Chicago’s jazz elite; including Ramsey Lewis, Orbert Davis, Nicole Mitchell, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). She leads her own Dee Alexander Quartet and the Evolution Ensemble whose music ranges from original compositions to renditions of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.

Ms. Alexander received the Chicagoan of the Year in Jazz award in 2008, and her CD Wild is the Wind was named the album of the summer in France in 2009 and earned her top votes in Downbeat’s readers and Critics polls; received 5 stars in Downbeat and was chosen as one of its top ten recordings on the first decade of the new Millennium. She was the recipient of the 3Arts Award for Music in 2012. Her performance at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival was selected by the NY Times as one of the best concerts with staying power. She has garnered accolades in African, Australian, European and North American press.

Dee’s current project, “Songs My Mother Loves” has received rave reviews and is intended not only to express thanks and pay tribute to Dee's mother for her inspiration and influence, but also to pay homage to the music that has become such a significant part of her life.

Miguel de la Cerna is a first-call music director and arranger, a prolific performer, and an influential educator, he is recognized as one of the most versatile pianists working today. A Chicago native, de la Cerna is the third generation in a distinguished lineage of Chicago piano jazz greats: his grandfather, pianist General Morgan, accompanied and recorded with both Billie Holliday and Henry “Red” Allen, and recording artist Gloria Morgan was de la Cerna’s aunt. After studies at the American Conservatory of Music and Oberlin Conservatory, de la Cerna toured the US, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia for more than a decade as pianist and conductor for various ensembles and theatrical productions before resettling in Chicago.

Theater and conducting highlights include musical direction and arrangements for international tours and productions of Bubblin’ Brown Sugar, Blackbirds of Broadway, and From My Hometown.

Known especially for his sensitive work with singers, de la Cerna tours frequently and has recorded extensively in his role as music director and arranger for vocalists Dee Alexander, Bobbi Wilsyn, and Maggie Brown, among many others. A frequent collaborator with some of the world’s most celebrated jazz masters, including Oscar Brown, Jr., Jon

Hendricks, and Jimmy Heath, de la Cerna’s breadth also spans classical and world music. An accomplished composer, he has twice been commissioned by Chicago’s innovative contemporary classical quintet, the Orion Ensemble.

Miguel de la Cerna shapes a new generation of young musicians as a faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, and serves as music director for the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s eclectic JazzCity concert series, bringing jazz and world music to concert venues and neighborhoods throughout Chicagoland.

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