Grazz Events
Event Calendar
6/17 Avain Hightower
6/24 Dee Alexander
7/1 Ray Silkman
7/8 Milton Suggs
8/12 Marqueal Jordan
9/2 Terisa Griffin

Jazz in the Grazz

Avain Hightower 
Avain High TowerAvain 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
Dee AlexanderDee 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.

Ray Silkman
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. 

Milton Suggs
Milton Suggs 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.

Marqueal Jordan
Taylor Moore 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.

Terisa Griffin 
Teresa GriffinWhen 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 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.