Thinking of Chicago, jazz and blues probably come to mind almost as readily as improv comedy and the Bears. Between famous venues and even more famous performers, the city’s connection with jazz runs deep. One of these famous establishments is the historic Jazz Showcase, which since 1947 has played host to many of the genre’s great artists, many of whose portraits line the walls. It was here on Wednesday, February 11, that Chicago singer/songwriter Dee Alexander continued that tradition, taking the stage at her album release show to excited applause from a crowd of familiar faces.
A born-and bred-Chicagoan, Alexander is more than proud of her roots: “When I fly over that skyline, I know that there is no place like home. Chicago is a beautiful city with a plethora of talent.” She had put out three self-produced albums before the release of “Wild is the Wind,” on the independent label BluJazz Productions, so it’s clear that both her talent and her determination are considerable. From R&B smoothness to bebop scatting, she demonstrates vocal versatility. A veteran performer who’s sung with soul legends Roy Ayers and the O’Jays, Alexander has the commanding stage presence that only comes with experience, a fact apparent at the “Wild is the Wind” release show, where the audience went wild as she strutted around onstage.
Asked what’s inspired her over the years, Alexander replies, “Listening to everything around me. There is always something I hear that can be incorporated into my musical style. Car horns, a bird’s call, or laughter, every sound is essential in my musical journey.” For Alexander, the act of taking chances is another big part of the process of musical development: “I love an artist who takes one song and applies different treatments to that same song each time they perform. Being creative and thinking outside the box is what makes jazz so special. Jazz music has always been a platform for self-expression, but it ministers to the audience as well as the musicians.” Furthermore, she says, “There is reciprocation between the artist and the listener: Artists express themselves from the heart and soul, and once the audience absorbs that energy, a beautiful journey begins.”
And where does that journey end? “A place of peace, anger, joy and freedom.” For Alexander and most other jazz fans, the pure emotional experience of the music can be almost ineffable. But what truly great things can ever be expressed in mere words?
Upcoming performance: Velvet Lounge. 67 E. Cermak Rd. March 21. Sunday, 7pm. (773)791-9050. velvetlounge.net