Musicians in Claudia's cabaret

With accordion, piano, jazz quartet or chamber orchestra, Claudia Hommel is accompanied by some of Chicago's finest players.

FRANK CARUSO, accordionist and pianist, was Luciano Pavarotti's accordionist for his 1998 Chicago United Center concert. In 2004, Frank played accordion with the "Lord of the Rings Orchestra" in their Chicago appearance. He has also appeared as pianist with music legends Maynard Ferguson, Henri Mancini, Louie Bellson, Herbie Hancock and the Count Basie Orchestra, just to name a few. While serving in the US Navy Band in Washington DC, he became a featured performer at the White House Birthday Party for Duke Ellington. He played with the Chicago Symphony for two summer jazz/pops concerts and has appeared at the keyboard with show-biz greats Bob Hope, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Red Skelton, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers, Rich Little and Rosemary Clooney. He teaches piano jazz at the college and high school levels and leads the Frank Caruso Orchestra in cool jazz, Dixieland, Rock and New Age. He has written a book on piano improvisation. Find it at

JIM COX, bassist, grew up in Champaign, Illinois where he received his BA in music from the University of Illinois. Between 1979-82 he toured with Earl "Fatha" Hines and settled in Chicago where he is playing live music of all types, teaching and recording. He works regularly with Marian McPartland, Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein and Judy Roberts in the Midwest. He has also played with Phil Woods, Red Rodney, Ben Vereen, Cheri Lewis, and Harry Belafonte. He has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival three times. He has taught at Illinois Benedictine College, North Central College, College of DuPage, and is currently adjunct faculty at DePaul University.

JO ANN DAUGHERTY, pianist, began performing professionally at age 15. Her formal training includes a piano performance degree from Truman State University, as well as graduate coursework in jazz at DePaul University. After playing with various jazz groups and forming her own trio in the Kansas City area, Jo Ann moved to Chicago in 1998 to continue her career as a pianist and bandleader. In addition to appearing at numerous Chicago venues such as the Green Mill and Green Dolphin Street, her recent work includes traveling nationally and abroad with various theater and musical acts. She currently performs and teaches in the Chicago

Singer/pianist, ELIZABETH DOYLE was the magnet for many years to Chicago's famed Pump Room, the Metropole at the Fairmont, Catch 35, and the Drake Hotel. In 2007, she made her New York debut at the Metropolitan Room with her cabaret show "Hollywood Blondes". A 2007 After Dark Award recipient, Doyle was a guest of Marian McPartland on the NPR radio show Piano Jazz. As a composer, she is an award winning ASCAP member. Her musicals Fat Tuesday, Alice In Analysis, The Virginian and Sleepy Hollow have been produced in California and the Midwest. She's currently working on a commission for a one-act musical for Milliken University. She has recorded two solo CDs, Elizabeth Doyle and Time Flies. Elizabeth is a founding member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and along with Claudia, is part of Espresso—4 Chicago Voices. Visit

PATRICK HOLLAND, pianist, has a varied career: as music director, pianist and/or conductor on Broadway ("Hello, Dolly!," "A Chorus Line," "Sugar Babies," "Raisin," "La Cage aux folles," "The King and I," "Guys and Dolls," "Man of LaMancha," "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well…" and with the New York Shakespeare Festival's "Pirates of Penzance"); for television (including the New York Philharmonic's "Young People's Concerts," the soap opera "One Life to Live;" and "Kukla, Fran and Ollie"); and on campus as educator at New York University, and universities in Chicago: Loyola, National-Louis, Northwestern, and Roosevelt . He serves on the boards of the Grace Welsh International Prize for Piano and the World Old-Time Piano-Playing Competition.

STEVE HOMMEL plays all the wind instruments heard on Claudia's recording of Paris/Paree. These include alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet and flute. He maintains a busy schedule as composer, performer and teacher, primarily in the Los Angeles area where he directs jazz ensembles (including for the University of Southern California) and is in much demand as a clinician in woodwind performance and jazz improvisation. He has taught for ten years in the music program for Fountain Valley schools, where he pioneered a unique approach to elementary music education called Rubber Band Arrangements. He has performed and/or recorded with such diverse musicians as Anita O'Day, Wynton Marsalis, Don Menza, Bill Wautraus and Eric Marienthal. His compositions can also be heard on numerous CDs, videos and television shows including the NBC soap opera, Another World. Claudia is proud to be his cousin.

ISHAM "RUSTY" JONES, drums, got his start in Chicago with Judy Roberts, then played six years with George Shearing and off and on with Marian McPartland. His biggest life inspirations have been pianist Bill Evans, the writer Ayn Rand and comedian Jonathan Winters. He likes foreign languages and karate (2nd degree black belt). He comes from a musical family that includes great-uncle Isham Jones, the famous band-leader and songwriter from the 20s and 30s.

BOB MOREEN, pianist and singer, has been featured in virtually every type of entertainment venue as soloist, accompanist and ensemble member. He has worked with name entertainers such as Greta Keller, the Incomparable Hildegarde, Peter Palmer, and Shirley Jones, and is sought after as music director, accompanist and coach by Chicago's favorite cabaret singers. The Chicago Sun-Times calls him, "A special, eclectic piano player." Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune describes him as "an impressive singer in his own right…the complete entertainer". Bob's theatrical credits include work at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and the former Body Politic. He is the 2009 recipient of Chicago Cabaret Professionals' Lifetime Achievement Award, is Claudia's principal partner at the piano, and with her, is part of Espresso—4 Chicago Voices

CAROL RAND, bassist, has been playing the bass since she was ten. She attended Ohio State and Indiana University on music scholarships. She came to Chicago to teach music in the Evanston schools, while playing with local jazz groups on the weekends. Six years ago, she turned to full time performing and creating a music studio to teach bass, piano and violin. To this, she has added teaching orchestra at schools in Northlake and Melrose Park. Carol's favorite second instrument is the violin, which she has been studying since 1996. She performs on the bass with jazz vocalist/trumpeter Jeannie Tanner and on Jeannie's latest CD, "Tanner Time." The group performed songs from the CD on the Channel 7 morning news in July 2007.Carol loves the French language and was "très enchantée" to perform for the first time with Claudia and violinist Johnny Frigo for the Parisian Salon Concerts in Northbrook in 2000. Carol especially enjoys the small cabaret setting and expressive nature of Claudia's ensembles.

JOHNNY RODGERS, pianist, vocalist, and songwriter, hails from Miami and is a graduate of Western Michigan University in jazz studies, piano and voice. From 1999 to 2001 he appeared regularly as singer and pianist at Davenport's Piano Bar and other Chicago cabaret venues. His songwriting talents moved him to New York City in 2001 where he has garnered several key awards and concert dates. He is in much demand with cabaret and pop singers, both as pianist and songwriter. His album Box of Photographs was released in 2005, along with music directing Lee Lessack's newest album In Good Company. Johnny has toured with Claudia from New Orleans to Long Island.

BOBBY SCHIFF, pianist and arranger, is one of Chicago's premiere jazz pianists. Signature jazz pianists like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Gene Harris have greatly influenced Bobby's playing, especially in his soaring improvisations with his own Jazz Trio or accompanying jazz and cabaret vocalists. On the Chicago and Los Angeles music scenes for over 35 years, Bobby Schiff has led orchestras and bands, performed on piano and keyboards, directed, composed and arranged for and with the best. Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Bobby Rydell and Ruth Pointer, are just a few of the premiere entertainers and musicians he's worked with in the U.S. and internationally.

PATRICIA SPAETH, pianist, accordionist and more, comes to Chicago via Seattle and points between. She plays an encyclopedic array of styles—from Contradance to Klezmer, Finnish to French, Broadway to Swing, Tango to Ragtime. Dance students at the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Chicago, Lou Conte Studios and Northwestern University get a few non-classical surprises when Pat plays class. Or you might see her strolling with accordion at Chicago's French Market, Cyrano's Farm House and other venues.
More about Pat.

DON STILLE, accordion and piano, "is an artist to be reckoned with," says Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. Hailing from St. Louis, Don has performed throughout the country with a long list of acclaimed jazz artists including Clark Terry, Red Holloway, Roy Hargrove, and Doc Severinsen. He was proclaimed Mainstream Jazz Pianist of the Year by the Twin Cities Jazz Society, was house pianist on NPR's "First House on the Right", and finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition at Jacksonville, Florida. Don's other instrument of choice is the accordion, with which he performed for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for example. When performing at venues and festivals, it's usually there right next to the piano. His first CD Aurora's Dance is out of print, but the new one Keys to My Heart is hot off the press.

Other past and present collaborators

  • Christopher Berg, pianist and composer
  • Steven Blier, pianist, coach and music director (New York Festival of Song)
  • David DiGiuseppe, accordionist, banjo and more
  • John Eskola, singer and member of Espresso--4 Voices, along with Elizabeth Doyle, Bob Moreen
  • Julien Labro, jazz accordionist, composer and arranger
  • Djula Milosavljevic (Juliano Milo), accordionist.
  • Sue Keller, singer-pianist, composer.
  • Don White, accordionist. Claudia appears on his Don White Quartet album of "Surtout Français/Mostly French".

Musicians of the Jazz Fauré Project ensemble, in addition to Jim Cox and Bobby Schiff (above)

  • pianist/arranger Dennis Luxion
  • singer Sean Harris
  • saxophone, flute and clarinet Tim McNamara
  • saxophone, flute and clarinet Jerry DiMuzio
  • bassist Hyosub Kim
  • drummer Tim Davis
  • drummer Phil Gratteau

In Memoriam:

More than "players", these are friends and mentors for whom the best I can do is keep singing their songs.

JOHNNY FRIGO (1916-2007), violinist. After more than 40 years as a studio musician playing primarily bass, Johnny emerged from the shadows at the age of 70 to become one of the world's greatest jazz violinists. Honored with several awards, among them a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Federation of Musicians and Downbeat's International Critics honor roll for Best Violin, he is often featured at the Chicago and North Sea Jazz Festivals and other international venues. His partner at the piano for many years has been Joe Vito.

CHUCK KOPP (1940-2003), accordion, born and bred in Chicago, grew up listening to all the great accordionists (Art Van Damme, Ernie Felice, Frank Marocco among others). Chuck was an avid jazz fan and attributes much of his interest in music to a greatly under-rated local accordion teacher Ed Grisko. Chuck worked both singly and as part of other groups for over 30 years. His retirement from a successful career in the valuation field had left him time to pursue travel and model railroading.

WES McAFEE (--2003), pianist, worked as music director and accompanist for many of New York's finest cabaret and jazz singers. He was a winner of Backstage's Bistro award for musical direction and the Wes McAfee Duo (with John Loehrke) are the winners of four Manhattan Association of Cabarets' MAC awards for outstanding instrumental jazz group. Howard Kissel of the New York Daily News says of Wes McAfee, "A wise arranger and a glistening pianist." Wes performed with Claudia on the East Coast.

JOE VITO (1930-2010), pianist, accordionist, band leader, mentor to many. A native Chicagoan, Joe worked as a musician since his school days at DePaul University. His multifaceted career as pianist, accordionist and music director included a several-year stint as studio musician and band leader with CBS/WBBM Radio, performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Opera Theatre and playing for many luminaries from Pavarotti to Frank Sinatra, Steve Martin and David Byrne. For more than twenty-five years, he and Johnny Frigo performed internationally as a jazz duo.