TOM VAITSAS—ACOUSTIC PIANO AND FENDER RHODES
KATIE ERNST—ACOUSTIC BASS AND VOCALS
DAVID HILLIKER BIO
Born into a musical family in upstate New York and having two older brothers who toured and recorded with Brother Jack McDuff, drummer David Hilliker had music all around him. Early studies with David Chitambar back in New York led to studies later in life with the legendary Ed Thigpen and John Von Ohlen. Having performed all around the Midwest, he has also had opportunity to play with jazz artists such as Melvin Rhyne, Joey DeFrancesco, Bill Heid, Pat Bianchi, Dave Stryker, John Clayton, Benny Green, Joe Beck, Ali Ryerson, and legendary tenor saxophonists George Coleman and Von Freeman. His attitude toward the music and the role of the drum chair is to “lay down the groove, swing hard, stay out of the way and make the rest of the band sound better”.
TOM VAITSAS BIO
The Chicago Reader refers to pianist Tom Vaitsas as a “local great” who is “massively resourceful.” Tom is one of the most – if not the most – in demand pianists and keyboardists in Chicago, performing every night and most days. He is a frequent collaborator and arranger, being an essential part of many projects.
He has performed with an extensive amount of notable musicians, a small sampling including: Von Freeman, Victor Goines, Buddy Guy, Chuck Webb Band, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Hubert Sumlin, Paul Marinaro, Frank D’Rone, The New Standard Quintet, Abigail Riccards, Bobbi Wilsyn, Tammy McCann, Duke Payne, Jimmy Owens, Willie Kent, Pinetop Perkins, Red Holt, Richie Cole, Doc Severinsen and toured Europe multiple times with the great blues artists Carrie and Lurie Bell. Tom also plays extensively in Chicago’s Greek music scene.
KATIE ERNST BIO
Katie Ernst is a bassist, vocalist, composer, and improviser in Chicago. In addition to performing with David Hilliker at this year’s Elkhart Jazz Festival, Katie’s recent creative projects include collaborative trio Twin Talk, chamber duo Wayfaring, and “Little Words,” an original song cycle based on poetry of Dorothy Parker. She has been profiled in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Reader, and Jazziz Magazine, among others, and has performed nationally at festivals and performing arts centers, including the Chicago Jazz Festival, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Chicago Symphony Center, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
TIM FITZGERALD BIO
Bandleader, guitarist and arranger Tim is also the author of the book 625 Alive: the Wes Montgomery BBC Concert Transcribed, which has been hailed as the “Ultimate Study of Wes Montgomery’s music” (Just Jazz Guitar Magazine) and “One of the 50 greatest guitar books of all time” (The 50 Greatest Guitar Books).
Tim also leads a quartet and has performed at venues from Chicago’s Green Mill to the Luxor in Las Vegas. TV and film musical appearances include PBS’s Art Beat, the Sony film “The Myth of Fingerprints” and the animated film “Hoodwinked, Too.” The many luminaries he has performed with include Von Freeman, Wycliffe Gordon, Ron Perrillo, and Dennis Carroll.