A piano powerhouse, WILLIE PICKENS began his career on Eddie Harris’s 1961 national hit record, Exodus, since then playing with James Moody, Roy Eldridge, Max Roach, Clark Terry, Ira Sullivan, and going on the road with Elvin Jones for five years. But instead of staying on the national and international jazz scene, Willie chose to make a home in Hyde Park, become a Chicago Public School (CPS) teacher, an active member of the Hyde Park Union Church, and a mentor to scores of upcoming musicians. Following his retirement from CPS, Willie increased his performance schedule. By the time he passed his 80th birthday, Willie was busier, more in demand, and playing better than ever. Although recently retired from decades of teaching at Northern Illinois University, he maintains a vigorous schedule, mentoring in Ravinia’s Jazz Scholar program and performing frequently at the Jazz Showcase, among other venues. Earlier this year as part of Jazz at Symphony Center series, Willie gave an electrifying performance with his trio, receiving a thundering standing ovation. The Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich has written that Willie’s intense dramatic performances result from his “large and complex chords, his great splashes of color and dissonance in the right hand and his barrelhouse octaves in the left.” He also has commented that it “takes a lifetime to learn to construct such an essay in sound, and we're fortunate that Pickens is here to show us how it's done.” Joining Willie are PHAREZ WHITTED, trumpet; KURT SCHWEITZ, bass; and ROBERT SHY, drums.