The Fifth Element is an exciting new ensemble that features the compositions of ragtime composer Reginald R. Robinson in lively, modern arrangements. The 6-piece group is a mix of Chicago jazz veterans and young lions that blend together the flavors of Latin, Caribbean, blues, and funk with traditional and modern jazz, while staying true to Reginald’s unique compositional style. The Fifth Element joyously brings ragtime music into the 21st Century.
Robinson first collaborated with arranger Stu Greenspan in a performance with the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater. The group has grown to take on its own identity, bringing down the house at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the J.I.C. “Jazz City” concert series, and the Chicago City Winery.
Reginald R. Robinson (composer, piano)
20 years after Reginald Robinson’s emergence as a young, self-taught, against-the-grain pianist and composer, he has become an internationally recognized performer, recording artist and educator.
Reginald’s love for music started in 1984 when his brother Marlando played Big band jazz records at home. He was first exposed to ragtime in 7th grade at a school assembly presented by Urban Gateways. In the middle of the show, the jazz ensemble played a sample of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. Reginald decided this was the kind of music he wanted to play.
Reginald’s professional music career began in 1992 with the recording of his Delmark debut release, The Strongman. In 2004, he was awarded the rare and distinguished John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Award for his innovation in ragtime.
Reginald has performed as a soloist internationally and as a guest artist with Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and The Chicago Sinfonietta. He has performed with various smaller ensembles including Accessible Contemporary Music, Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, Fulcrum Point, and the College of DuPage Arts Center Jazz Ensemble.
Reginald has composed scores for acclaimed theatrical productions such as “Each One As She May” by Frank Galati and (nominated for best original music, Joseph Jefferson awards,1995) and “Intimate Apparel” by Lynn Nottage (nominated for best music director at the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Theatre Awards, 2003). Film scores include “Compensation” by Zeinabu Irene Davis (2000), as well “Paper Trail” (2005), “Morning Due” (2007) and “Chicago’s Black Metropolis” (2010), all produced by Barbara Allen. In 2011 Reginald joined the Grammy-winning string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops in the theatrical production Keep a Song in Your Soul.
Stu Greenspan (arranger, electric bass)
Stu performs with many different jazz and pop music groups including the Jamaican ensemble Waterhouse, the Midway Ramblers Cajun Band, Linda Solotaire, and his own jazz trio. He is currently the musical director of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater, an ensemble that features a 10-12 piece band onstage with a full dance company. As a studio musician and engineer, Stu has contributed to sound designs for all of Chicago’s major theater companies and many others throughout the country. He is on the music faculty of Columbia College Chicago and the Francis W. Parker School.