Today the Metropolitan Jazz Octet is the reawakening of a group that was originally started in the 1950’s by saxophonist & arranger Tom Hilliard.
From the late 50’s through 80’s Hilliard wrote many of the group’s 150 (+) charts. He also worked with Chicago’s top arrangers to expand the library.
In 1959, the MJO recorded an album on the Argo label called “The Legend of Bix,” a tribute to 1920’s cornetist and composer Bix Beiderbecke.
As a professor at De Paul University School of Music, Hilliard taught three members of the current MJO to whom he bequeathed his musical library, passing the torch to the next generation. Now led by Jim Gailloreto, John Kornegay and Bob Sutter. MJO is made up of eight talented musicians who are active in jazz and music education in the Chicago area.
This current group started exploring Tom Hilliard’s library in 2014, and has since expanded to include new works from MJO members.
These eight musicians join to create a unique and fresh contribution to the spirit of jazz.
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 traditional ballad, to a contemporary Jazz-Funk groove; from a high flying swing, to a scat-filled romp, Dee Alexander delivers each style with a passion and love of music that comes across in each and every note, and with a style and grace that is truly her own. Besides being a phenomenal headliner in her own right, Dee has shared the stage with Ahmad Jamal, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Gerald Albright, Roy Ayers, Joshua Redman, and the O’Jays. Not being one to ever feel that the spotlight has to belong exclusively to her, Ms. Alexander has lent her considerable talents as a backup vocalist to the live performances of an array of many other well known artists i.e., Michael Bolton, Phil Perry, Willie Clayton, and Zora Young. Dee has also formed the Evolution Ensemble which is an acoustic group that consists of string instruments and percussion with a strong emphasis on original compositions.