Metropolitan Jazz Octet

Metropolitan Jazz Octet

Musicians | Instrument: Band / ensemble / orchestra | Location: Chicago

The octet veers between intimiate chamber group sounds and bold little-big-band statements.


Updated: October 6, 2023

Active since: 2014

The Metropolitan Jazz Octet (MJO) is the reawakening of a group that started in the 1950’s by Chicago saxophonist and arranger Tom Hilliard. 

From 1950 through mid-'80s Hilliard wrote many of the octets compositions. He worked with Chicago’s top arrangers and studio musicians expanding the library to 150-plus charts. In 1959 MJO recorded an album on the Argo label called “The Legend of Bix,” a tribute to 1920's great cornetist and composer Bix Beiderbecke. 

As a professor at De Paul University School of Music, Hilliard taught three current members of MJO to whom he bequeathed his complete library, passing the torch to the next generation. 

This new octet started exploring Tom Hilliard’s library in 2014, and with the support from the Non-profit Jazz Artist Resource, and has since composed and recorded three albums.

Now lead by Jim Gailloreto, John Kornegay, Peter Brusen and John McCortney, MJO is made up of talented musicians active in jazz and music education in Chicago. Together they create a unique and fresh contribution to the on going spirit of jazz.


All About Jazz Articles

Album Review

Metropolitan Jazz Octet: The Bowie Project

Read "The Bowie Project" reviewed by Paul Reynolds

A tribute to a pop artist by jazz musicians--as with the new David Bowie album by Chicago's Metropolitan Jazz Octet--has to tread a careful line. It obviously won't--can't--be a rote reproduction of the originals, a flaw that sinks many pop-to-pop tributes. Yet it needs to translate the songs into jazz--its harmonic sophistication, especially--in a way that retains the essence of the artist being celebrated. The MJO effort deftly rises to that challenge. This 11-song project should intrigue Bowieists ...

Liner Notes

Metropolitan Jazz Octet featuring Paul Marinaro: The Bowie Project

Read "Metropolitan Jazz Octet featuring Paul Marinaro: The Bowie Project
" reviewed by Neil Tesser

In the words of David Bowie: “Changes." The Metropolitan Jazz Octet's two previous albums teem with unadulterated jazz. Paul Marinaro is a hard-swinging, expressive baritone steeped in the Great American Songbook and the jazz tradition. So what in the galaxy are they doing with the music of pop legend--and onetime glam rocker, dancehall king, visual visionary, music man of multiple personae, and cultural icon--David Bowie? Historians might note that Bowie started playing jazz saxophone in his ...

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Articles Across the Web

...or were mentioned in an All About Jazz article.



For Your Grammy Consideration: The Metropolitan Jazz Octet and vocalist Paul Marinaro presents: 'The Bowie Project'

For Your Grammy Consideration: The Metropolitan Jazz Octet and vocalist Paul Marinaro presents: 'The Bowie Project'

Source: Michael Ricci

In the vast landscape of musical reinventions, few dare to juxtapose the realm of rock royalty with the intricate artistry of jazz. But the Metropolitan Jazz Octet (MJO), known for its innovative 'chamber jazz' brilliance, has undertaken such an endeavor with their album, The Bowie Project, released on January 16, 2023, on the Origin Records imprint. The MJO's legacy, rooted in the golden age of the 1950s, is no stranger to ambitious projects. Their exquisite blend of big band resonance ...

Dee Alexander: “It’s Too Hot for Words” (Delmark Records). Pair Chicagoan Alexander’s stylistically versatile vocals with glistening arrangements for the Metropolitan Jazz Octet, and you have new ways of appreciating Alexander’s art. All the more because she takes on music associated with Billie Holiday, but not the most obvious songs (with the exception of “Strange Fruit,” delivered here on a nearly operatic scale). Alexander’s voice produces fascinating colors and textures throughout. --Chicago Tribune

Kurt Elling
Gil Evans
composer / conductor
Rod Levitt
Gil Evans Orchestra
band / ensemble / orchestra


Slow Burn

From: The Bowie Project
By Metropolitan Jazz Octet