Youngstown native’s ensemble pays tribute to a jazz great

Monday, March 12, 2018


There is almost nothing that all of humanity can agree on, except the importance of music.

Just ask Jeff Lindberg.

After a life filled with music, the Youngstown native decided to share that joy with others by starting the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.

He is bringing the ensemble to Akron for a concert that will pay tribute to the late jazz singer Sarah Vaughan at 7:30 p.m. Saturday March 17 at EJ Thomas Hall in Akron. The show will include vocalists Ann Hampton Callaway, Rene Marie and Dee Alexander.

As someone who was raised to the tune of a piano, he found nothing brought himself and others more joy than music. Lindberg was born in Youngstown, but moved to Chicago at the age of 3, spending his childhood years in both states. During his many visits to Youngstown, his whole family ignited a love for music in him, but none more so than his aunt, Alice Lindberg.

“The whole family was involved in music, but Aunt Alice was a great musician,” said Lindberg. “She played all over town, at Woolworth’s five and dime, and even played for silent films. She was certainly my biggest musical influence growing up.”

Lindberg learned how to play the trombone and piano, beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout college. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in music education. It was there that he discovered his love for jazz after joining the university’s jazz band.

He later became a music professor at the College of Wooster and music director of the Wooster Symphony Orchestra.

After graduating from Urbana-Champaign in 1978, Lindberg and many of his classmates moved to Chicago and performed together.

Lindberg and a friend, Steve Jenson, decided to keep their performances rolling and began the Jazz Members’ Big Band, which was renamed the Chicago Jazz Orchestra 20 years ago.

The group was a success from the start. As the CJO continued to grow, it focused its performances on preserving the music of the great jazz orchestras, including Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

Lindberg is particularly enthusiastic about the CJO’s upcoming tribute to Sarah Vaughan.

“She was one of the greatest jazz singers to ever live,” he said. “She had a great sense of swing and all musicians loved to perform with her. She had a very unique style and sound – when you heard her music, you just knew it was Sarah.”

At Saturday’s tribute concert, audiences will hear Vaughan’s music live, as she intended it, and Lindberg hopes it will inspire a greater interest in all of her music.

“She’s a singer that everyone who aspires to sing should study because she was so remarkable,” he said. “There have been many tributes to great artists over the years. Now it’s her turn.”