It was an exceptionally rainy night, with up to six inches of precipitation in some parts of our villages. The local storm occurred on a day when Hurricane Ike battered the Texas/Gulf area-a point not lost on some of the attendees of the sixth annual gala for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, which featured (after one too many long-winded speakers) the Orbert Davis Quintet.

Davis is an award-winning composer, arranger, conductor, and trumpet player who I happen to know through family members. His band included Ryan Cohan on piano, Stewart Miller on bass, Ernie Adams on drums, and Ari Brown on sax.

The event, to help raise much-needed funds to restore a 99-year-old masterpiece of modern architecture, began at
amid the UIC Jazz Combo band’s smooth sounds floating down from a second-floor perch above the elegantly-dressed Unity Temple first floor. Tasty catered food from Hemmingway’s Bistro, Winberie’s, Philander’s, and Cucina Paradiso as well as beer, wine and whiskey helped eased the pain of the rain and its humidity, which organizers said prevented an outside/inside reception. The cozy, crowded atmosphere made it seem as if more people were in attendance.

As the hard-bop band prepared to play “Invitation” and a few Duke Ellington tunes, the nearly 400-seat sanctuary appeared to be only 60-percent full. Spirits were as high as the
Des Plaines River just a mile west on

Lake Street
(and Chicago and
North Avenue
, too), which was nearing record levels.

I was impressed that the well-heeled crowd here at the benefit spent quality time in between sipping and nipping to commiserate with Gulf victims. One
Unity Temple board member told me of her worries for her Texas relatives. She also mentioned that the lovely jazz music in the background was familiar because her dad, a trumpet player (whom she later introduced to me) and her uncle, a saxophonist, played these avant-garde tunes here at Unity Temple a decade or so ago.

My uncle, Marshall Allen, who now leads the Sun Ra Archestra, sat in at Philander’s with his old buddy, John Wright, Jr., last January, playing some of the same music. All of our gala reflections on family, crisis, charity, and jazz made for a delightful evening.

Stan West

Oak Park

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