NCC faculty jazz pianist Frank Caruso performs
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media April 20, 2012 10:18AM
NCC jazz faculty member Frank Caruso performs April 20. | Courtesy of NCC
An Evening with Jazz Pianist Frank Caruso
♦ April 20
♦ Madden Theatre at North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
♦ Tickets, $12-$15
♦ (630) 637-7469
Updated: April 20, 2012 10:18AM
Once again, North Central College provides an evening of top-notch jazz at a bargain basement price.
“An Evening with Jazz Pianist Frank Caruso” spotlights the acclaimed jazz keyboards instructor at 8 p.m. April 20 in the College’s Madden Theatre.
Caruso has played piano professionally since age 12. He attended Notre Dame High School in Niles and later DePaul University. Later, he was a member of the prestigious Commodores, the United States Navy jazz band.
“While I was stationed in Washington, D.C., I played at Duke Ellington’s birthday party at the White House,” he said.
He’s also played with giants such as the Count Basie Orchestra, Maynard Ferguson, Henry Mancini, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and in 1998, performed an accordion solo with Luciano Pavarotti at the United Center.
“I’ve got a lot of mileage,” he laughed. “I’ve been fortunate. God gave me the talent and other people gave me the opportunities.”
He will be playing with North Central colleagues Jack Mouse on drums, Eric Hochberg on bass and Brad Stirtz on vibraphones. Janice Borla will sing, as well. He enjoys playing these faculty concerts very much, he said.
“I like the fact that we’re bringing music out to Naperville that generally you have to go downtown to hear at a jazz showcase or something like that,” he said. “And the new venue is better for us acoustically.”
At the last concert, they got a standing ovation, he said.
“The people are thrilled by what we’re doing,” he said. “The comments are really good.”
It’s also just plain fun to jam with his friends and co-workers, who are all renowned musicians, he said.
“It’s also really good for the students too, because the students actually see us performing what we’re teaching them to do,” he said. “To me, that’s the biggest plus. We’re telling this and we’re telling them that, and then they actually see it happening. For them, that’s very beneficial.”
His set list will consist of tunes by artists like Ralph Towner, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Bill Evens, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubeck.
When he’s not teaching, he’s an in-demand musician, who recently recorded a CD called “Analea” with former Bill Evans bassist Eddie Gomez.
“He’s a legendary bass player who’s played with virtually every name in jazz,” Caruso said.
Frank Petricca produced the album, and it’s his adopted daughter the album is named after.
“We’re really good buddies from high school,” he said.
Caruso also plays accordion on the soundtrack of a newly released film “The Trouble with Bliss,” and will perform at the Jazz/Pops concerts at Ravinia Festival this summer.
He has recently co-written with Karl Mollison a jazz piano method book, “Piano Improvisation — A Powerful Practical System.”
Audiences can expect to hear a night of good jazz at the Madden Theatre, he said.
“Most of it will have the influences of Oscar Petersen, Bill Evans or Chick Corea,” he said. “They’ll be reminiscent of those styles, along with my own style. Janice will be featured, and I’ll do a couple numbers with just me and Brad Stirtz on vibes. It should be an interesting evening.”