“Many people think that the world should speak the same language...But I don't agree. If that was the way the world was two hundred years ago, we would have no jazz. We would have no folk music to listen to from anywhere else. We would have only one thing. ”
— Keith Jarrett
Donn DeSanto (bass) is currently an instructor at Chicago State University, teaching acoustic and electric bass. He has studied extensively with Larry Gray, Warren Benfield and Steve Lester both members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Eddie deHass as well as further studies with Ray Brown, Rufus Reid, and Niels Henning Orsted Pederson. Donn has served as staff bassist for Holy Angels Church, Divine Providence Church (Westchester, Illinois) and St Theresa of Avila Church (Chicago). He is the owner and operator of Bass Place Recording Studio, having recorded Flippomusic: ‘Ganesh’, ‘Toa Tunes’ and ‘Life on Mars, ‘as well Curtis Robinson (The Doctor): ‘Dancing in the Street” and bass great Larry Gray’s “Gravity.” Donn’s influences include Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Paul McCartney, Christian McBride, Jaco Pastorius and Rufus Reid. Besides being a long time member of Jazz on Planet Flippo, The John Moran Trio, Gold Coast Orchestra, and Brass Tracks Jazz Orchestra; Donn has performed with many greats including Jon Faddis, Thad Jones, Frank Mantooth, Melba Moore, Gary Novak, Patti Page, Akio Sasajima and Paul Wertico.
Jim Kaczmarek (saxophones, flute) wanted to play saxophone from before he could say the word. Born and raised near Milwaukee, Wisconsin he began playing professionally at 16. Jim went on to lead the WAMI nominated eclectic jazz group ‘Kinetic Shower’ in the 80’s and early 90’s; then with WAMI winning vocalist Annie Denison in ‘Annie and the Jazz Orphans’. After his Assistantship at Northern Illinois University, teaching Jazz Theory, Kaczmarek moved to Chicago in 1995. Since then Jim performed with ‘The Buckinghams’ for over 15 years and has been a member of the High Society Orchestra for over 17 years. Throughout his life he has performed with a wide variety of artists including Diahann Carroll and The Milwaukee Symphony, Jerry Bergonzi, Bobby Shew( at the Lima, Peru Jazz Festival), ‘The Grass Roots’, Dennis Tufano, as well Victor DeLorenzo and Brian Ritchie of ‘Violent Femmes’. In educational settings Jim has been fortunate enough to perform with numerous greats including Pepper Adams, Tito Puente, Bob Mintzer, Louis Bellson, and Paquito D’ Rivera. Jim co-directed the Chicago South Shore Youth Jazz Ensemble with the world renowned educator Ronald Carter for 12 years. This group performed with such masters as Wynton Marsalis, Hamiet Bluiett and Clark Terry. He has authored Teacher Resource Guides for Volumes 1 and 2 of GIA publications “Teaching Music through Performance in Jazz,” as well as recording with Annie Denison, ‘The Buckinghams’ and Jack Grassel. Most recently Kaczmarek has performed with ‘The Names’, ‘The New Invaders’, ‘The Chicago Experience’ as well as duos with John Moran, Leandro Lopez Varady and John Behling. Jim has performed with Brass Tracks as well as the Pete Elman Big Band. He has taught music in CPS for over 20 years.
Scott Mertens (piano) is an active performer, arranger, and composer. He studied jazz piano with Willie Pickens at Northern Illinois University, where he was a graduate assistant for Director of Jazz Studies Ron Carter. He has performed in solo and small group settings and with various Chicago area groups that include Event Horizon, the Jim Kanas Quartet, and the Nightshift Orchestra. He has also played with numerous Chicago area big bands. He has performed with many distinguished jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Melton Mustafa, and Louie Bellson.
He was the director of the NIU Community School of the Arts Jazz Band, has worked as a jazz clinician at festivals in several Midwestern states, and has been a regular faculty member at the NIU Jazz Camp since 2007. He is a contributing author to both volumes of Teaching Music through Performance in Jazz (GIA Publications), and he has published jazz compositions through composer Jim Martin’s website, www.pdfjazzmusic.com.
Rick Vitek (drums), a Cleveland native, has been playing in Chicago since 1981, doing club shows in a plethora of styles, as well as recording jingles. He taught percussion at Columbia in the 1990s and appeared twice on Star Search in 1984. Highlights of his career include touring England with the Tom Fuller Band and Japan with Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band. Rick has also performed with many greats- including Richie Cole, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano and Reggie Thomas. He has recorded with many artists.