Willie and Bethany Pickens plus Friends
Saturday, September 23
A piano powerhouse, WILLIE PICKENS began his career on Eddie Harris’s 1961 national hit record, Exodus, since then playing with the likes of James Moody, Roy Eldridge, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Ira Sullivan, and Elvin Jones. But instead of staying on the touring jazz scene, Willie chose to make a home in Hyde Park, become a Chicago Public School (CPS) teacher, an active member of the Hyde Park Union Church, and a mentor to scores of upcoming musicians. Following his retirement from CPS, Willie increased his performance schedule. By the time he passed his 80th birthday, Willie was busier, more in demand, and playing better than ever. He maintains a vigorous schedule, mentoring in Ravinia’s Jazz Scholar program, teaching at Northern Illinois University, and performing frequently at the Jazz Showcase, among other venues. The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich has written that Willie’s intense dramatic performances result from his “large and complex chords, his great splashes of color and dissonance in the right hand, and his barrelhouse octaves in the left.” He also has commented that it “takes a lifetime to learn to construct such an essay in sound, and we're fortunate that Pickens is here to show us how it's done.”
BETHANY PICKENS, Willie’s daughter and also a talented pianist, began her keyboard training under the tutelage of her father, followed by more classical training at the American Conservatory of Music. Since graduating from the American Conservatory of Music she has performed at various festivals including the Chicago Jazz Festival, Jacksonville Jazz Festival, and Ibiza Jazz Festival in Spain. Bethany has performed duo concerts with her father at Symphony Center, Ravinia, the Steinway Society, and the International Association of Jazz Educators, and has conducted clinics, performed, and recorded with such artists as Ray Brown, Branford Marsalis, Von Freeman, Clark Terry, Terance Blanchard, Oscar Brown Jr., Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Louis Bellson, and DeeDee Bridgewater. She has worked as an artist in residence at the Jazz Institute of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools All-City Elementary Jazz Ensemble, and as an occasional instructor for the Ravinia Jazz Scholars Program. She is currently a piano lab teacher at Kenwood Academy, her alma mater.
Willie and Bethany Pickens will be joined by JUNIUS PAUL on acoustic bass and CHARLES HEATH on drums.