Avain Hightower's professional musical experience started with the amicable show band The Scott Brothers in the 1970's. The Scott Brothers were the backup band for various reputable recording artists: The Chi-Lites, Otis Clay, Garland Green and Tyrone Davis, to name a few.
From the 1980s through 2005, Avain Hightower toured with The Chi-Lites, Marvin Gaye, The Whispers, The Stylistics, The Manhattans, The Dramatics, The Delphonics, The O'Jays, Harold Melvin Blue Notes and many other groups that were contracted with Universal Entertainment.
Avain Hightower formed the band Full Circle in 2005. The band consists of keyboards, lead guitar, bass guitar and drums as well as female and male vocalists. Avain Hightower and Full Circle had the pleasure in 2010 of opening for Toni Braxton, Al Jarreau and Smokey Robinson at the Country Club Hills Theatre, Country Club Hills, IL; ConFunkShun at the Majestic Star Casino, Gary, IN; and War at the Hyde Park Summer Festival in Chicago, IL; and in 2011, Russell Tompkins and The New Stylistics at the South Shore Summer Festival, Chicago, IL; Roy Ayers and War at the Hyde Park Summer Festival, Chicago, IL; and Charlie Wilson at the Country Club Hills Theatre, Country Club Hills, IL.
Avain Hightower and Full Circle have never failed in mesmerizing a captive audience with his velvet tones and their high-energy performance ranging from jazz, pop and R&B to neo soul.
For a delectable night of entertainment, come experience Avain Hightower and Full Circle.
Dee Alexander is among the premier vocalists and songwriters in American music today, and one of Chicago's most gifted and respected artists. Her 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. Ms. Alexander gravitated toward jazz at an early age and 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, 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 (commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago), at Chicago's Pritzker Pavilion, introduced her to a larger audience and helped her garner world recognition as well, resulting in frequent tours of France, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Poland. Ms. Alexander boasts long and fruitful associations with Chicago's jazz elite (including Ramsey Lewis, Orbert Davis, and Nicole Mitchell), and leads two of her own bands: the Dee Alexander Quartet and the Evolution Ensemble, which emphasizes her original compositions. Her accolades include "Chicagoan of the Year" (Chicago Tribune, 2008) and "Jazz Entertainer of the Year" (Chicago Music Awards), and her 2009 album “Wild Is the Wind” received five stars (highest honor) from Downbeat Magazine, which named it among the Top 10 recordings of the new millennium. Ms. Alexander is also a member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Chicago's internationally known musicians' collective, and has performed frequently in major AACM productions, as well as in other large-scale works on Chicago stages and television; recent projects include re-interpreting the music of rock and soul legends James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.
7/1 Ray Silkman
Ray Silkman has been touted as one of the best sax men in the business. Emerging from humble beginnings, Ray Silkman has persevered through the hardest of times to be recognized as a viable force in the music industry. Silkman began playing the saxophone at the age of 12 in an effort to feel a connection with the father that he never knew.
His love for the craft inspired him to practice daily and achieve first chair ranking in middle school and throughout college. Growing up in a struggling household, he found his greatest inspiration to be his mother, who told him, "You can do anything that you put your mind to." Silkman moved to Chicago shortly after his mother's death only to find himself homeless and alone after being robbed and abandoned by the very people who brought him there.
After spending months on the streets playing in subways and on street corners, he got his first break performing in a fashion show entitled “OGGI”, interpreted "Live for the Day." Other opportunities followed, including a principal role in a recurring Chicago HMO commercial. Since those lonely and cold days performing on street corners, Ray Silkman has gone on to perform at countless clubs, festivals and special events in and around the Chicagoland area. His many performances have taken place in venues such as Chicago's United Center, Donald E. Stevens Convention Center, Poplar Creek and virtually every major jazz club in Chicago over the past 17 years. Ray has independently released five CDs, including his signature work "Sound Check" which features the hit single "So Saxual." "Sound Check" has received national and international acclaim as an epic work, producing multiple hit songs that still receive airplay on public and NIC radio stations across the U.S. Jazz FM in Europe has featured many of Ray's tracks on their evening jazz show, and "So Saxual" still receives major airplay here in the States. Ray Silkman has opened for jazz greats such as David Sanborn, Kenny G, George Benson, Keiko Matsui, Tom Scott and the late great Art Porter.
A native of Chicago, Milton Suggs began his formal musical training at age 19 under the tutelage of renowned pianist Willie Pickens. His father, bassist Milton Suggs, toured and performed extensively in New York and throughout the world. For the younger Suggs as well, music proved to be both a passion and a calling.
Suggs earned a BA in jazz studies from Columbia College Chicago, followed by a Master of Music from DePaul University in 2008. During his studies, Suggs began to hone his abilities as a vocalist in addition to pianist.
After graduating from DePaul, he began to establish himself as a recording artist and performer, producing three albums to date and touring throughout the country. Forward looking, yet rooted in culture, history, and tradition, Suggs’s music and educational efforts are a reflection of his artistic values. Since relocating to New York in late 2012, Milton Suggs has made strides in establishing himself as one of the premier male jazz vocalists of his generation.
Mr. Cannon recently released his third CD album, “Steppin' Up the Game”. It consists of R&B with smooth urban jazz and soulful vocals. Mr. Cannon’s album has gotten airplay on major radio stations including Chicago's radio V103, 106.3 and Chicago's Smooth Jazz, WLFM 87.7FM radio with Rick O'Dell, who honored Mr. Cannon with, "Chicago's Best Smooth Jazz Artist" award in 2013.
In 2013, Mr. Cannon was called on to perform with The Temptations and open shows for well-known artists as the George Duke & Stanley Clark at the Country Club Hills Theater in Dolton, IL. He also opened for Paul Taylor and Mesa (from Incognito Band) at Governor State University. Other artists include Queen Latifah, Michael Bolton, Angel Bofill, Fred Hammond, Pieces of a Dream, and Marion Meadows.
At the age of 12, Mr. Cannon started playing the bass guitar in neighborhood bands and later in high school. Inspired by the late Grover Washington Jr., Carlos Cannon eagerly picked up the alto saxophone and became the first chair player in the Paul Robeson High School jazz band in Chicago.
Carlos Cannon went on to major in music performance at Illinois State University where he formed his own jazz band and took first place in the state jazz band competition. He later transferred to Roosevelt University and continued his musical studies.
Carlos's musical influences include Boney James, Kenny G, Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright and David Sanborn. Carlos credits these icons that have inspired his musical development journey and make him the great saxophonist, producer and songwriter he is today.
The Chicago Sun-Times says, "The Carlos Cannon Band is one of the best entertaining bands seen in a long time." The Chicago Defender says, "If you want to be entertained, romanced and uplifted, saxophonist Carlos Cannon will do just that." Abyss Jazz magazine says, "Wow, Carlos Cannon incorporates magic in his musical performance; it's awesome!"
Emmy award winner and international vocalist, Joan Collaso was born, raised and is living in Chicago.
Joan’s flowing sensual melodies, colorful improvisations and soulful stylings capture your ear, and her spirit will capture your heart. She blends the textures of jazz, RandB, blues and gospel in a way that gives her a distinct sound.
In 1997, Joan sang in the history-making movie “Soul Food.” Four times, to standing-room-only crowds, she has enlightened audiences at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands. Joan’s other festival appearances include the JazzKaar Festival in Estonia (Russia); the Sister Cities Festival in Osaka, Japan; and touring northern Italy for the Central Jazz Torino School of Jazz. Joan has appeared at least 10 times at the Elkhart Jazz Festival and most recently gave her debut performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival, where she was named one of the top five “must-see” performances. In September 2011, Collaso opened for the R&B artist India Arie at the African Festival of the Arts in Chicago. She has been featured on countless radio and TV commercials. Collaso was a featured vocalist on world-renowned pianist Ramsey Lewis's “Urban Renewal” CD. Three times in 2009 she performed on the Oprah Winfrey show as background vocalist for Susan Boyle, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Sugarland and Tim McGraw.
Joan Collaso went on to major in music performance at Illinois State University where he formed his own jazz band and took first place in the state jazz band competition. He later transferred to Roosevelt University and continued his musical studies.
While Collaso trail blazes her musical talents and performances all over the world, she also weaves her extraordinary skills in her community. As an advocate for social justice, she has written, produced and performed musical plays that teach history and promote education, courage and love for school-age children and their families.
In 2010 Collaso started a new organization, Timeless Gifts, a mentoring and performance program for youth in the arts (ages 8-18). Joan and some of her most accomplished colleagues are currently mentoring 25 young performers. Her ultimate vision for this organization is the “Timeless Gifts Center for the Arts.”
Margaret has been performing in the Chicagoland area for over twenty-five years. She developed her unique vocal style and showmanship under the tutelage of world renowned tenor saxophonist, Von Freeman. Margaret has been featured at Chicago's legendary Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel and was also the lead vocalist for the Grammy nominated Mississippi Heat Blues Band. She performed at the famous Navy Pier Beer Garden and on Chicago Lake Michigan cruise ships for the 2004-2009 summer seasons, as well as being featured at many Chicago Park District sponsored festivals. Having performed for both Presidents Obama and Clinton, she has also performed for ambassadors from Russia and Poland.
A Los Angeles native now based in Chicago, Marqueal Jordan is one of the rare musicians blessed with the gift of being equally proficient as an instrumentalist and a vocalist. His distinctive saxophone tone and style, combined with his soulful vocals, place him in the tradition of legendary dual talents Donny Hathaway and George Benson.
Described by fellow saxophonist Mike Phillips as “one of the most versatile saxophonists in the game today,” Jordan earned his reputation as an electrifying live performer after moving to Chicago in 1995. He was the front man for the Chicago-based funk unit Fat Time, and became an integral member in numerous jazz, R&B, and blues bands in the city.
In 2008, smooth jazz star Brian Culbertson asked Jordan to join his touring band, and he has since continued to captivate audiences around the world with his talents. As a sideman, he’s performed live with major artists including Gerald Albright, Patti Austin, the Average White Band, Rick Braun, Jonathan Butler, Nick Collione, Eric Darius, George Duke, Aretha Franklin, Larry Graham, Earl Klugh, Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber, Najee, Phil Perry, David Sanborn, Gerald Veasley, and Kirk Whalum. Jordan’s solo debut CD, Catalyst, was released in 2013.
When you think of the true essence of timeless soul, jazz and other forms of adult music, music icons come to mind such as the beautiful velvet voices of Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sarah Vaughn and Luther Vandross. Rarely does one talent capture the epitome of various influences in their style and grace. Terisa Griffin has re-designed an authentic blueprint of musical blends of modern soul, jazz, house and inspirational music into her repertoire.
A native of Monroe, Louisiana, she has called Chicago, Illinois, her adopted home for the past 18 years. Establishing a loyal fan base, the Louisiana-born singer hails from a family entrenched deeply in music, with lasting roots within the church. Her singing siblings were never far from the influence of their dad, who happened to be a prominent pastor in the community. Terisa reminisces, “Dad had perfect pitch and an ear for music; he taught us how to listen to each other's voices and harmonize. He could keep the audience captivated and I learned how if you could control an audience's emotions...you could keep them captivated with drama and honesty.”
On a music scholarship as a student at Northeastern Louisiana University, she packed up her belongings and relocated to Chicago. “I started checking out the night club scene in Chicago and hounding the club owners to allow me to sing on one of their off nights. They took a chance on me where I sang with some of the known bands in the city, so their audience would get to know me and become a Terisa Griffin fan. I sang background vocals for music legend Jerry Butler and in time, his large audience became my fans as well. This became my way of working in the music business.” As Terisa's popularity grew on the musician and nightlife scene, so did her ability to land work for various advertising agencies recording jingles for popular commercials. Her strong and distinctive voice was quickly in demand as she gathered consistent commercial work. Along with paid gigs, this helped her financially fund and build her own independent music company, My Naked Soul Productions.
In 1998 she released her first EP, Songbird as an introduction of original and cover works showcasing her amazing vocal skills. Having captured the attention of media and entertainment icons such as Oprah Winfrey, Diana Ross and the late comedian/actor, Bernie Mac; Songbird became a hit indie seller with local independent music retailers. Her first full length release didn't arrive until seven years later, My Naked Soul, showcasing the singer's talents as both a songwriter and producer. I remember when people first heard My Naked Soul and they would stand back with reservations and say 'Oh, I wonder if this will work'. I didn't care because it was my music in a very "naked" form and extremely pure. It was a reminder of what just pure Soul was about.