Momence native Orbert Davis is coming back to his hometown for a bit of music, family-friendly fun and most importantly, unity.
Orbert Davis’ Jazz and Family Festival will take place from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, July 13 at Island Park in Momence, located off of Mill Street.
“Orbert and I have been friends for years and he wanted to do a concert for the grand opening of our storefront in [August] 2018,” said Chris Doud, owner of Cranky Mike’s Popcorn in Momence, one of the event’s sponsors.
After getting in touch with two additional sponsors (Orbark Productions and Van Drunen Farms), the concert turned into something bigger. “Orbert has a message and it needs to be shared with the community, and his message is unity,” said Doud.
“It’s been my experience that American jazz is a reflection of unity. In terms of listeners and musicians, jazz was integrated in the early 1900’s, long before baseball,” said Davis. “The performance of improvised jazz is the greatest example of democracy and leadership that I’m aware of. It requires extreme levels of listening, creative and cooperative skills and personal maturity. I’m always fascinated that jazz was birthed and matured within the African American experience. I could talk for hours about that.”
Davis’ goal for the festival is to have the audience witness unity on and off the stage.
“To experience a reflection of American ideals. Most of the musicians who will be performing are life long friends of mine, and some are former students,” said Davis.
The last time Orbert played in his hometown of Momence was a year and a half ago with his quintet at Momence High School.
Davis is the co-founder of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic that was founded in 2004.
The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic is recognized in Illinois as a nonprofit corporation. Along with co-founder Mark Ingram, Davis created an outreach program, Discover Music: Discover Life. By using a direct instructional approach that connects everyday life to music, the DMDL curriculum helps students improve perceptive listening, critical thinking and creative participation skills.
Together, they serve over 2,500 students in Chicago area schools.
“When he blows that horn it lifts you up out of your chair. If you have one blue bone in your body that day, it’s gone,” said Doud. “He’s the most humble man with extraordinary talent.”
The park will open at noon on Saturday and admission to the festival is free.
Food trucks and concessions will be available from noon until 7 p.m. Among those serving up delicious bites to eat will be Cranky Mike’s Popcorn of Momence, Shonda’z N Daughterz Catering of Kankakee, Bamboo Island Snack Shack of Kankakee and more.
Family-friendly activities (from 1-5 p.m.), will include face painting, a bounce house, photo booth, a balloon artist, a caricature artist and more.
Live music will go from 1-7 p.m., with performances from students from the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Jazz Academy and Griffin Institute of Performing Arts, The Swing Kings, Sones de Mexico Ensemble and the man himself, Orbert Davis & Friends.
After the festival, Orbert has a busy remainder of the summer ahead of him. The two-week Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Jazz Academy starts the Monday after the festival, and they’re expecting over 100 students.
The 60-member CJP orchestra will also perform on July 22 at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago featuring a production called, “Chicago Immigrant Stories, Part 2.”
“I’m probably one of the most blessed musicians in the world,” said Davis. “The Friends and Family Festival is simply a way to reconnect and share what we do with my hometown. I can’t wait!”