2016 Artists

  • Dee Alexander

    Among the premiere vocalists and songwriters in American music today, Dee Alexander has delighted audiences and impressed critics with her flawless intonation, her interpretive brilliance, her intrepid improvising, and the range of genres that she commands. Ms. Alexander’s performances span virtually every music genre related to the African diaspora: gospel, blues, neo-soul, rhythm-and-blues, and world music. But her true heart belongs to jazz, the one idiom that can encompass all her influences. From a sultry ballad to a contemporary funk groove, high-flying swing to a romping scat solo, Ms. Alexander delivers every note with a passion and grace and a style that is truly her own.
  • Jovia Armstrong

    Daringly innovative, percussionist and education JoVia Armstrong is a well-traveled musician and a Sabian-endorsed artist. Detroit-bred, she is the winner of the 2014 Best Black Female Percussionist of the Year award through the Black Women in Jazz Awards. A 3Arts Awardee, JoVia was inducted into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 2016. Her percussion work is well-informed by Motown, Afro-Cuban styles Latin Jazz, Korean drumming, and traditional music of Chile, Peru, Boliva, Venezuela and Argentina. JoVia has performed with great artists including El DeBarge, Omar, Gordon Chambers, Althea Rene, Wendell Harrison.
  • Renee Baker

    Renee' Baker is founding music director and conductor of the internationally acclaimed Chicago Modern Orchestra Project (CMOP), a polystylistic orchestral organization that grew from the plums of classical music as well as jazz. Ms. Baker is a member of the world renown collective (AACM)Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Critical acclaim for her graphic scores novels has come from performances in Berlin, Poland, London, Scotland and as far reaching as Vietnam. Ms. Baker has composed over two thousand works for ensembles ranging from pieces for solo instruments, ballet, opera to large orchestral works that bridge the classical, jazz and creative music genres. As a disruptive force in composition, Ms. Baker’s eclectic visual score compositions led her to create a gestured conducting language she calls CCL/FLOW (Cipher Conduit Linguistics), which she employs when working with numerous cutting edge groups in Cologne, Berlin, Netherlands, London, Chicago, Portland (OR), and other ensembles around the world.
  • Renee Baker's Chicago Modern Orchestra Project

    Chicago Modern Orchestra Project ©® is a polystylistic orchestra tour- de-force, founded and directed by Renèe Baker. The mission of the orchestra is to excite and encourage new audiences with their own brand of “out-of-the-box” programming.

    Founded in 2008, Chicago Modern Orchestra Project primary focus is on contemporary classical and creative literature for orchestral ensembles. It’s sister ensemble PEK’ Contemporary Project Berlin, founded in 2013, also engages some of the most brilliant instrumentalists in Berlin, bringing to life traditional and the non traditional in scoring practices.

    Contact Renèe Baker at: reneebaker@comcast.net for more information.

    PEK’©® and CMOP©® are exclusively represented by RCB Arts Management.

  • Mwata Bowden

    Mwata Bowden is Director of Jazz Ensembles at the University of Chicago. A native of Memphis, he attended Chicago's DuSable High School where he studied music with the legendary Captain Walter Dyett, whose tutelage inspired such young talents as Nat King Cole, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, Fred Hopkins, and Richard Davis. Bowden studied classical music at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, and later toured with the rhythm and blues group, the Chi-Lites. In 1974, he became active in Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), playing with the AACM Big Band with Muhal Richard Abrams and others. He plays the family of clarinets, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as the flute and the didjeridu. He has performed at jazz and blues festivals throughout Chicago and around the world, including the 2004 Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, 2003 Chicago Jazz Festival, the 2001 North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, and in Italy the same year with Edward Wilkerson's Eight Bold Souls. He also performs in Wilkerson's Shadow Vignettes ensemble. Bowden leads the jazz groups Sound Spectrum and Tri-tone, and his Black Classical Music Ensemble.
  • Afrika Brown

    Daughter of musical, cultural icons Oscar Brown, Jr. & Jean Pace, Africa Brown's name was a political statement, and her birth announcement made the cover of JET Magazine. She won a Joseph Jefferson award at the age of eight for her originating role of Eve in her dad’s musical "In De Beginnin’." She has been a company member of Ayodele Drum & Dance Company for the last six years. With her sister Maggie, the 2Brown Sisters work towards the preservation and presentation of the literary and stage works of Oscar Brown, Jr.
  • Coco Elysses

    Coco Elysses-Hevia is a modern day renaissance woman. She has worked as a musician, composer, arranger, lyricist, actress, voice over artist, teacher, screenwriter, poet, doula, playwright and director. Coco completed her MFA in creative writing and was a published poet before graduation. During their second season she was a featured musician in the critically claimed FOX drama Empire. Coco’s voice can be heard at the Adler Planetarium in the permanent instillation, Skywatchers of Africa. Coco has performed as an actress in several Chicago theaters. A few of her noted recordings were in Chile, South America, with Raiza, on their CD, Latin Soul-EMI and Nicole Mitchell’s Africa Rising.
  • Val Jeanty

    The granddaughter of a Mambo (Vodou priestess), she has created a distinctive style of music called Vodou electronica which she also refers to as Afro Electronica. Her music weaves in electronica and Haitian and African Vodou rhythms. She has performed at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, and internationally at music festivals in Austria and Switzerland. In the documentary film The United States of Hoodoo, she speaks about the relationship between sound and spirituality.Growing up in Fontamara, Haiti, Val Jeanty attended Sacré Cœur which she describes as "a prestigious [C]atholic school, in a ritzy-bourgeois area" with strict rules. On her music, Jeanty says: "I use these electronic tools, but the music is spiritual—something you might hear at church, or in any other religious ceremony. It’s the kind of sound that gives your spirit freedom to roam. The sound is definitely on a frequency people are not used to hearing. But it speaks to them. It takes them to another sphere."
  • Maia (Sonjia Hubert Harper)

    Sonjia Hubert Harper, who is best known as single-named Maia, has been affiliated with the AACM since 1976 through her apprenticeship and performance with the organization's founding member, Kelon Phil Cohran. She is also one of the founding members of SAMANA and formally became member of the AACM in 1992. Self-titled, Multi-Dimensional Expressionist, Maia is a SAG-AFTRA Actor, musical voice teacher for adults with special needs, Vocal Coach and Choir developer (she has given ear training and harmony classes for established choirs around Los Angeles). She is a member of the Horace Tapscott Pan African Peoples Arkestra, Alternate Angles led by Dwight Trible, Annabel (Lee) and The Metropolitan Master Chorale directed by Glenn Carlos, whom Maia collaborated with in arranging her Kwanzaa Song "KUJICHAGULIA" for the 2016 Holiday Concert "Light". Maia presently resides in Los Angeles, California. "This music that lives in me is pragmatic while highly esoteric, making sense while arousing uncharted zones in Spirit. My goal is to share my life journey as a light worker and an advocate of social change for world peace. I expect to effect change through utilizing my God given gift of creating and presenting musical interpretations of stories, dreams and life events by using melodic sounds that stimulate inner-vision. Love is Everything. "Prayer Works" in Jesus name Ahmen, Axé, Selah and it is so.

    Maia P O BOX 7027 VAN NUYS, CA 91409 Facebook: Sonjia Hubert Harper, Twitter: suitesweetz Instagram: Maia aka S. D. H. Harper

  • Amina Claudine Meyers

    Amina Claudine Meyers Vocalist, Composer, Master Improvisationalist, Actress and Educator. Ms. Myers has performed nationally and internationally throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America. She is well known for her work involving voice choirs, voice and instrumental ensembles. Ms. Myers has recorded and/or performed with Archie Shepp, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, James Blood Ulmer, Lester Bowie, Bob Stewart, Joey Baron, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Muhal Richard Abrams, Bill Laswell, Eddie Harris, Von Freeman, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Frank Lowe, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and other well known artists. Myers conducts workshops, seminar and residencies at colleges and universities, nationally and internationally.
  • Nicole Mitchell

    Nicole Mitchell is the recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award, the Herb Alpert Award, and the 3Arts Award, among others, and has been highlighted at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Having spent over two decades in Chicago music, Mitchell is a former president of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Mitchell has been repeatedly named by DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association as “Top Flutist of the Year” from 2010–2015. Now based in California, Mitchell is a Professor of Music at UC Irvine.
  • Mankwe Ndosi

    Mankwe Ndosi has been working in the Twin Cities and Chicago for more than 20 years as a musicmaker, performer, educator and culture weaver focused on sound, story, and expanding the vocabulary of singing. She seeks to infuse creative practice back into the worlds of healing, sustainable economic development, education, and new village community building.
  • Shanta Nurullah

    Shanta Nurullah was born into a musical family and studied piano and tap dancing throughout her formative years. While in college, she was able to travel to India and study Indian Classical music and the sitar. Shanta has been performing professionally as a musician since 1972, and as a storyteller since 1978. After college, Shanta immersed herself in the Black Arts Movement as a member of the Kuumba Workshop, Kelan Phil Cohran’s Black Music Workshop, and associating with writers, visual artists, dancers, and members of the AACM. Shanta formed her first band in 1978, and went on to co-found the all-women’s ensembles Sojourner and Samana, the first female band in the AACM. With these groups, and others, Shanta has performed in venues across the country, distinguishing herself as a sitarist and bassist exploring African-American improvisational music. Her current projects include the bands Sitarsys and Classic Black, the duo ShaZah, and Freedom Song Leaders, a vocal ensemble. Shanta has received an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship and, in 2014, was given the Zora Neale Hurston Award from the National Association of Black Storytellers. She has received grants from the Nevada Arts Council, the American Association of University Women and, most recently, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Shanta has an original story on permanent display at Brookfield Zoo (IL) and has been a storytelling teacher and mentor for many years. Currently Shanta teaches at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, serving there also as a Teaching Artist Fellow.
  • Carlos Pride

    While attending the Conservatory, Carlos Pride met Midawo Gideon Foli Alorwoyie, a master drummer from Accra Ghana. Gideon introduced him to the Talking Drum, and also joined his group "The African American Unity Ensemble"; from this association he met and studied with Abubakari Lunna, a master drummer from Dagbon Ghana and a direct descendant of the creators of the "Luna" or Talking Drum. Pride's ensemble "Rhythm Testament," explores West African Rhythms and incorporates them with African American Soul. In 1994 he opened "440" recording studio in New York City. "440" was a breeding ground of creativity where innovative World Music and Hip Hop recordings were made. Over the years Pride has produced, performed, and toured worldwide with a variety of musical artists including: Guitarist Jean-Paul Bourelly, Organist Reuben Wilson, Ethiopian Vocalist Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw, Buddy Guy, Billy Branch, Mark Batson, The late Screaming Jay Hawkins, N' Dea Davenport of the "Brand New Heavies", Nona Hendricks, Will Downing, Gerald Albright, George Clinton, Me' Shell Ndege'ocello, The Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, Sinead O'Connor, Natalie Merchant , Talib Kweli and Amel Larrieux. These are samples of my musical collaboration credits to date.
  • Samana

    With wonderful sounds that resonate with love and light ringing in the halls of saints SAMANA played. At caged cells in prisons and down by the riverside, on mountain tops that embraced valleys, at Chataqua where bears roam to meet the US /Canadian boarder, INSIDE doors and hallways and stairways and stages at Universities and churches, at the HotHouse at Equinox Afro Blue hues and Troot rhythms Steppenwolf Theatre eta Sapphire and Silver Chicago Jazzed and Juneteenth across the Midwest...We played and prayed and played as they/ we cried.....Hearts filled to the brim with pride Stories Her-stories Light and Love Strings and things Cleansing Spiritual hallelujah...We buried one daughter Birthed two Daughter three Grandchildren...Eulogized a father before she She who is SAMANA had no more to give....We were earth Women, Colorfully clad Sassy Innovative Light baring Torch carrying Feet stomping Breath remembering Healers...Light Workers Medicine Women sharing With hands and washcloths Midwives Standing in the doorway on this plane...Maids of Cerberus who prepped folks for welcome into gates of heaven Ritual Food Fun, joy and laughter...We played We prayed We stood strong as the FIRST ALL WOMAN VOCAL INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE OF THE AACM....SAMANA Sah MAH Nah A Woman Song ....and so it is.....
  • Tomeka Reid

    Recently described as a “New Jazz Power Source” by the New York Times, Chicago cellist and composer Tomeka Reid has emerged as one of the most original, versatile, and curious musicians in the Chicago’s bustling jazz and improvised music community over the last decade. Her distinctive melodic sensibility, usually braided to a strong sense of groove, has been featured in many distinguished ensembles over the years. Reid has been a key member of ensembles led by legendary reedists like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, as well as a younger generation of visionaries including flutist Nicole Mitchell, singer Dee Alexander, and drummer Mike Reed. She is also a co-leader of the adventurous string trio called Hear in Now, with violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Silvia Bolognesi. Recently Reid released her debut recording as a bandleader, with the eponymous recording by the Tomeka Reid Quartet, a lively yet charged debut album that is a vibrant showcase not only for the cellist’s improvisational acumen, but also her knack for dynamic arrangements and her compositional ability.

    Reid, grew up outside of Washington D.C., but her musical career largely kicked into gear after moving to Chicago in 2000 to attend DePaul University for graduate school. Her work with Nicole Mitchell and various Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians-related groups have proved influential to the young musician. By focusing on developing her craft primarily as a side person and working in countless improvisational contexts, Reid has achieved a stunning musical maturity. Reid is a 2016 recipient of a 3Arts award in music.

  • Thaddeus Tukes

    Few artists support that notion in the Windy City as well as vibraphonist Thaddeus Tukes. At the age of 22, this product of Northwestern University (both its music and journalism programs) has established himself as one of the freshest voices on the vibraphone in years. As attuned to hip-hop and pop as he is, Tukes is most devoted to the great recorded standards of the past. “I try and connect not only with the solos, but also the words,” he said. “It’s great to get involved in modern harmonies and meters and so on, but there’s so much you can learn from the classics. I’m a student of jazz, and you never run out of great things to discover in them.” Named the top student jazz vibraphonist in Illinois while attending Whitney Young Magnet High School, and winner of the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Kiewit-Wang Mentorship Award, Tukes is classically trained and plays other instruments, including piano. But for the moment, he is concentrating on the instrument made famous by heroes of his including Lionel Hampton, Bobby Hutcherson and Roy Ayers. “I want to establish my proficiency on the vibes before featuring myself on any other instrument,” he said.
  • Ugochi

    Ugochi's sound has been described as "lively, energetic music that makes your feet move and heart think. Ugochi has written poems that have been honored by internationally renowned organizations like Apples and Snakes in the UK . She has also shared the stage with established artists such as Common, Eric Benet, John Legend, Femi Kuti, Edwin McCain, Maxi Priest, Malik Yusef, Umphrey's McGee, J. Ivy, Vieux Farka Toure, Luciano, Shaggy, Wayne Wonder and Stephen Marley and Toots and the Maytals. Chicago Music Awards classified her as "Best African Entertainer 2005." She was also the GAMA's (Global African Music Award), "Best African Female Entertainer of 2012" and Best African Pop Artist for her hit single, "Don't Mind Them." Her musical reverberation, part Afrobeat and part Chi-town soul has been cleverly coined Afro-Soul. Generally Ugochi's choreo-poetic style of spoken word has been fused with her unique singing ability in order to generate a more powerful word sound attraction. A child of Nigeria, West Africa, Ugochi has grown into a full-fledged singer and songwriter comfortable enough with her talent for sound and the absence of it. A former rapper, turned poet, gone singer, Ugochi has become extremely versatile and creative with the range of music she is able to perform.
  • Rita Warford

    Rita Warford, a longtime member of the AACM with an earthy timbre and airy ideas, emerged in the 70s as one of the few vocalists who met the fiery demands of the new jazz; over the years she's borrowed elements from new-music composition to develop works incorporating spoken word.