Dee Alexander Presents: What Color is Love? The music of Terry Callier

Sunday, September 30, 6:00-7:00PM

Wagner Stage

 Photo by Jasmine Kwong

Photo by Jasmine Kwong

While in high school, vocalist/songwriter DEE ALEXANDER was exposed to the beauty and complexity of musician and composer TERRY CALLIER. She grew deeper in love with his music and sound while performing African Violet with Regina Brown in Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago's production of Egyptian Suite.

Alexander’s reinterpretation of that piece at Hyde Park Jazz Festival will breathe different colors and textures into an already beautiful tapestry, while also introducing new listeners to the genius of Terry Callier who, like so many other Chicago musicians, is loved and revered in Europe but unsung at home. Alexander would like to change that.

Born on Chicago’s west side, DEE ALEXANDER is one of Chicago’s most gifted and respected female vocalist/songwriters. Her talents traverse genre—from Gospel to R&B and Blues to Neo-Soul—but her heart and soul are experienced in their purest form through her performance of Jazz.

Alexander leads the Dee Alexander Quartet as well as the Evolution Ensemble, whose music ranges from original compositions to renditions of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Both her Jazz Institute of Chicago-commissioned tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington, Sirens of Song, and her Millennium Park performance on the Pritzker Pavilion were breakthrough moments for Alexander, marking the beginning of worldwide recognition and international touring.

Meanwhile, she 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 has received the Chicagoan of the Year in Jazz award and the 3Arts Award for Music. Her CD, Wild Is the Wind, received five stars in Downbeat, earned top votes in both Readers’ and Critics’ Polls; and was chosen as one of the magazine’s top ten recordings in the first decade of the new millennium.

Alexander's project, Songs My Mother Loves, received rave reviews and pays homage not only to her mother, for her inspiration and influence, but also to the music that has become such a significant part of her life.

TERRY CALLIER was born on the North Side and raised in the Cabrini–Green Homes, where he studied piano. He was childhood friends with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance, and Jerry Butler, and began singing in doo-wop groups in his teens. In 1962, he auditioned at Chess Records, where he recorded his debut single, Look at Me Now. While attending college, he performed in folk clubs and coffee houses in Chicago, becoming strongly influenced by the music of John Coltrane. He met Samuel Charters of Prestige Records in 1964 and the following year, they recorded his debut album.

Callier continued to perform and tour until 1983, when he gained custody of his daughter, retired from music, and began taking classes in computer programming. He worked at the University of Chicago and pursued a degree in sociology in the evenings. During the Acid Jazz movement of the 1990s, there was a resurgence of interest in his music when British DJs began playing his recordings in clubs. 

A sample of his music on British hip-hop band Urban Species’ debut album sparked a collaboration with the group on their 1997 EP Religion and Politics and Terry Callier was back to recording music. He contributed to Beth Orton's Best Bit  EP in 1997 before releasing his own album Timepeace in 1998, which won the United Nations' Time For Peace award for outstanding artistic achievement contributing to world peace.

After Timepiece, Terry Callier continued recording and authored several additional releases. In 2012, he died from cancer at the age of 67. His legacy lives on, and the Evolution Ensemble will continue to spread the word and music of Terry Callier.

The Evolution Ensemble consists of: DEE ALEXANDER (vocals); ERNIE ADAMS (drums); SCOTT HESSE (guitar); JUNIUS PAUL (bass); TOMEKA REID (cello).