Asian Improv aRts Midwest, the region's leading presenter of the Asian American cultural arts, is proud to present the 18th season of the critically acclaimed Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival.  The festival highlights the diversity of musicians that explore the Asian American experience though music, combining influences that include jazz, blues, rock, hip hop, improv/new music, and traditional Asian musical forms and instrumentation.  AIRMW celebrates and documents the historic contribution Asian American musicians and their collaborators make to the Chicago music scene. 


Saturday, October 26, 2013
1pm | Free Admission!

The Claudia Cassidy Theater/Chicago Cultural Center | 78 E. Washington | Chicago, IL 60602

San featuring Donna Lee Kwon

The Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival proudly presents San, featuring Donna Lee Kwon. Donna Lee Kwon is a noted musician and scholar who has collaborated with the leading figures in Asian American music across the country.  She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky.  Joining her are saxophonist/composer Jeff Chan and Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival co-founder Tatsu Aoki.  San performs contemporary arrangements of traditional music from Korea, Japan and China as well as new compositions informed by the Asian American experience.  San will be joined by special guest percussionist Jason Finkelman.

Donna Lee Kwon - vocals, Korean percussion | Tatsu Aoki - shamisen, bass | Jeff Chan - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet | Special Guest Jason Finkelman - percussion

Saturday, November 2, 2013
9pm | $10

Elastic Arts | 2830 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor | Chicago, IL 60618

Tim O'Dell

The Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival is pleased to present former Chicagoan Tim O’Dell, performing with longtime collaborators Tatsu Aoki and Avreeayl Ra. Composer/Saxophonist/Educator Tim O'Dell has been called "The composer of Chicago" (Beyond Coltrane) and "A fine, new voice on alto - loose and swinging and broadly expressive" (Cadence). Born in Oregon in 1966 and raised in the Midwest, Tim relocated to the East Coast in 2001 from the Chicago scene. In Chicago, O’Dell records for Southport Records and has performed at the Jazz Showcase, the Hot House, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Velvet Lounge with many of the city’s finest musicians. Joining Tim for this performance will be Chicago saxophonist/composer Jeff Chan.

Tim O’Dell - saxophone | Tatsu Aoki - bass | Avreeayl Ra – drums | Special Guest Jeff Chan – woodwinds

Chicago Taiko Legacy featuring Tsukasa Taiko

Save the date!  Asian Improv aRts Midwest is proud to present the 10th Anniversary Chicago Taiko Legacy featuring Tsukasa Taiko.  December 21-22, 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  For more info, click here.


Donna Lee Kwon earned a double-degree (BA/BM) in piano performance and women’s studies from Oberlin College and Conservatory, an MA in world music/ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and a PhD in musicology/ ethnomusicology from the University of California, Berkeley. Dedicated to service and community engagement, Dr. Kwon has worked extensively with community arts organizations such as the Korean Youth Cultural Center and served first as Artistic director and later as Executive director. She has performed in various venues including the Asian American Jazz, Other Minds and San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festivals. Dr. Kwon taught previously at Lawrence University and Grinnell College, and was the William Randolph Hearst Fellow at Rhodes College, offering courses on Asian music, global and American popular musics, world music, Korean percussion and musical places, spaces and scenes.

She is the recipient of a Fulbright IIE fellowship, two grants from the Korea Foundation, the Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award, and the Marnie Dilling Prize. Dr. Kwon presents papers regularly at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference and her research interests include Korean music, East Asian and Asian American popular and creative musics, musical transmission and embodiment, and issues of music, space, place and the environment. She is the author of the book, Music in Korea: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, published as part of the Global Music Series on Oxford University Press (2011). She was also a member of the Bosnian band, Zabe i Babe, and is featured on their recording, Drumovi with Bison publishing as well as in the educational PBS video series Exploring Worlds of Music, Sound and Environment (Pacific Street films).

Composer/Saxophonist/Educator Tim O'Dell has been called "The composer of Chicago" (Beyond Coltrane) and "A fine, new voice on alto - loose and swinging and broadly expressive" (Cadence). Born in Oregon in 1966 and raised in the Midwest, Tim relocated to the East Coast in 2001 from the Chicago scene. In Chicago, O’Dell records for Southport Records and has performed at the Jazz Showcase, the Hot House, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Velvet Lounge with many of the city’s finest musicians.
O’Dell’s three Southport albums as a leader - Dreams of Pangaea (for jazz orchestra, 2009), Ancient Pines (duets with bassist Tatsu Aoki, 2005) and Before My Life (for jazz sextet, 2001) - feature all original music by Tim and have received glowing, national acclaim. "Unexpectedly grand" (Chicago Sun Times) and "A perfect album" (Beyond Coltrane). A new, live Chicago album is forthcoming featuring the legendary, late tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson joined by O'Dell and Chicago stalwarts Tatsu Aoki and drummer Avreeayl Ra.

Bassist Tatsu Aoki is a prolific and accomplished musician, composer and educator.  He works in a wide array of musical styles, ranging from traditional Asian music to jazz to experimental music and is a much in-demand artist performing on both contrabass and the shamisen (Japanese 3-stringed lute).  He has recorded over 100 albums featuring many of the musical legends of Chicago, including Fred Anderson, Von Freeman, Malachi Favors Maghostut, Don Moye and John Watson Sr.  2006 saw Aoki present his most ambitious work to date, “re: Rooted,” a continuation of his “Rooted” composition cycle featuring the MIYUMI Project Big Band at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.  His honors include being named a “Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune and receiving a Milestone Award from the Asian American Institute for his contributions to the community.

Chicago saxophonist/composer Jeff Chan is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the Asian American experience through music.  He has worked with many of the leaders of the Asian American creative music movement, including saxophonist Francis Wong and bassist Tatsu Aoki as well as some of the top figures in the Chicago music scene such as saxophonists Jimmy Ellis, Ari Brown, Mwata Bowden and Edward Wilkerson Jr., trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, drummer Avreeayl Ra and pianist/vocalist/bandleader Yoko Noge.  As a composer, Chan has created works for varied and diverse ensembles, from solo instruments to large ensembles, including a musical score for modern dance company Facing East Dance & Music.  He has compiled a discography of over 10 recordings documenting his work as a leader, guest artists/sideman and producer.

Chan has received awards from Meet The Composer, the Zellerbach Family Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Illinois Arts Council and has performed across the country and in Europe as a leader and guest artist.  A native of the California Bay Area, Chan made the move to Chicago in 2002 in order to be a part of the city’s rich musical culture.  Critics have said that Chan is “… a voice to be reckoned with… (Brian Gilmore, JazzTimes, April 15, 2010)” and that his work is “music of uncommon majesty, spirituality and emotional depth (Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2005).”

Jason Finkelman's artistic concerns focus primarily on the performance of improvised music, cross-cultural collaborative projects, and composition for dance, theater, and film.  A Philadelphia-born percussionist, Jason specializes in the berimbau, an Afro-Brazilian musical bow, and performs on a wide variety of African and Brazilian instruments, many handcrafted by Adimu Kuumba.  Jason’s interest in exploring improvised music with unusual instrumentation led to the Urbana-Champaign-based projects Ferrocene3 and Nu Orbit Ensemble, as well as the New York-based ambient, avant world trio Straylight.  He has worked extensively with choreographer Cynthia Oliver on noted works including BOOM! (2012-13), Rigidigidim de Bamba de: Ruptured Calypso (2009-10), the dance film AfroSocialiteLifeDiva (2004), and the “Bessie” award winning performances SHEMAD (2000) and Death’s Door (1996).

Chicago drummer/percussionist Avreeayl Ra is a phenomenally energetic and internationally renowned musician, always in demand by leading musicians around the world.  He is a long-term member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, his relationship with the seminal music organization having begun with early studies with AACM co-founder Kelan Philip Cohran.  Ra has performed and /or recorded with Fred Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Fontella Bass, Lester Bowie, Ari Brown, Oscar Brown, Jr., Henry Butler, Henry Byrd (”Professor Longhair”), Hamid Drake, Malachi Favors, Donald Raphael Garrett, Charles Gayle, Henry Grimes, Billy Harper, Joseph Jarman, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Nicole Mitchell, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Malachi Thompson, and many more.  Chicago Tribune” music critic Howard Reich wrote about Ra, “An indispensable Chicago innovator, Avreeayl Ra shapes the music-making swirling around him with remarkable precision and poise... extraordinarily sensitive percussion.”  John Litweiler of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote “He supplies ingenious sound colors and textures.”  Ra considers himself greatly blessed to have come up in the richly progressive Chicago “avant-garde” jazz community.  Though he has lived briefly in New Orleans and New York and has toured widely in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, he has always returned home to live in Chicago.

If you would like to find out more about the 18th Anniversary Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, AIRMW, share an idea or make a donation, here is how to contact us:

Asian Improv aRts Midwest
c/o JASC
4427 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640

T: (708) 386 9349
F: (708) 575 1869

The 18th Annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival is a program of Asian Improv aRts Midwest and is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Alphawood Foundation and The Joyce Foundation.