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‘The Jazz Soul of Ray Charles’ concert to benefit Academy of the Arts

“The Jazz Soul of Ray Charles” comes to Wentz Hall in Naperville on Friday, June 10.

Performed by Better Together, an assemblage of like-minded, yet diverse, musicians who have performed in the top echelons of the industry, the concert is not just a tribute to Charles but also an homage that presents the select tunes as living, breathing pieces of music.

The concert will benefit Academy of the Arts, a sixth to 12th grade arts and academic nonprofit private school opening to serve students in Chicago’s western suburbs.

Pianist Jo Ann Daugherty, who currently is the music director and keyboardist for Six: The Musical, which is enjoying a national tour following its success on Broadway, said, “We use our best skills to respect Ray Charles’ body of work. You won ‘t hear exactly what’s on a record because we bring our own language. We open the songs up by improvising so they sound entirely different each time.

“As jazz musicians we’re very malleable.”

Better Together features Daugherty together with Bruce A. Henry on vocals, Henry Johnson on guitar and vocals, Joshua Ramoson acoustic bass, and Ryan Bennett on drums. Individually these artists have performed alongside masters of jazz Ramsey Lewis, Stanley Turrentine and Nancy Wilson on national TV and with touring shows like “Motown: The Musical” and “Jersey Boys.”

“Concert-goers should prepare for an evening full of joy,” said Daugherty. “Ray Charles was widely appealing and fluid in terms of genre.”

Recognized mostly for his work in soul and jazz, Charles is known to have loved gospel and even made a country album.

“He didn’t see any boundaries. There’s something for everyone,” Daugherty added.

Daugherty says she’s delighted to support Academy of the Arts’ mission to launch a performing arts and educational academy in Naperville.

“As professional musicians, we owe our success to a combination of inspiring instructors and a network of colleagues who inspire and challenge us, plus the hard work and determination you always hear about,” Daugherty said. “We are so proud to support the Academy of the Arts in its early stages and cannot wait to see this bold dream become a reality.”

The Jazz Soul of Ray Charles begins with cocktails at 6 pm followed by the concert at 8 pm Tickets are $100.

For tickets, visit www.illinoisartsacademy.org/concert.

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