Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Raw Material: Every Day Is Not Halloween

News and Dish No Comments »
Chicago's Creepy Band

Creepy Band

By Keidra Chaney

The summer concert season in Chicago is a distant memory and the idea of heading out in the pre-Polar Vortex cold to see live music is less than appealing. Still, it’s fall in Chicago and our last gasp before we collectively nest until winter comes in the form of Halloween: more specifically Halloween parties and concerts. Other cities do Halloween, of course, but Chicago’s brutal winters and love of live music means that we tend to take Halloween a bit more seriously. (I would say only Seattle does it better.)

With Halloween falling on a Friday this year, there’s even more choices for the evening, which could be great or potentially a hot mess depending on one’s love for tribute/cover bands and tolerance for sharing the evening with costumed binge drinkers in “sexy” costumes. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: The Lightness of Lyric and the Density of ICE

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Indian Classical, Jazz, New Music, News and Dish, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »
Claire Chase/Photo: Stephanie Berger

Claire Chase/Photo: Stephanie Berger

By Dennis Polkow

Since 2013, flutist and International Contemporary Ensemble founder and artistic director Claire Chase has been on active search of a new “Density,” a reference to Edgard Varèse’s 1936 seminal flute piece “Density 21.5” (the title referred to the density of platinum, a premium flute material) a revolutionary piece of music that “forever changed the definition of the flute, humankind’s oldest instrument.”

Chase is looking to have commissioned and premiered the twenty-first-century equivalent of “Density” before the work’s centennial in 2036, at which time Chase will be fifty-eight. Chase’s search thus far has led her to offer world premieres of more then one-hundred new works for flute, many written specifically for her.

“Density 2036: part ii” presents a seventy-minute program of new works for flute and electronics (Levy Lorenzo, engineer) by George Lewis, Matthias Pintscher, Felipe Lara, Mario Diaz de León and Du Yun as Chase offers her first solo performance as Northwestern University’s Bienen School’s Institute for New Music’s 2014-15 resident artist. At $8 a ticket ($5 for students with ID) and with Varèse’s “Density” included as a finale along with a post-concert Q&A with Chase, that is a density deal. November 5, 7:30pm, Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, Evanston, (847)467-4000.

Lyric Laughs at Its Age
November 1, 1954 was the date that Lyric Theatre of Chicago, later Lyric Opera of Chicago, came into being and the company is celebrating with a one-night-only all-star 60th Anniversary Concert and Diamond Ball on the actual anniversary date. The tone looks to be light and celebratory rather than the more formal affair that commemorated the company’s fiftieth anniversary a decade ago, since which some key company figures and artists associated with Lyric’s early years have passed away.

Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, who plays coach Sue Sylvester on the television series “Glee,” will serve as master of ceremonies and Second City will present a series of skits across the evening. Renée Fleming will traverse “Over the Rainbow” with jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis as accompanist and Eric Owens will sing “Ol’ Man River.”

Sir Andrew Davis will lead the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and members and alumni of the Ryan Opera Center as well as a roster that includes Stephanie Blythe, Johan Botha, Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, Quinn Kelsey, Mariusz Kwiecien, Ana María Martínez, Marina Rebeka and Amber Wagner. (Previously announced Sondra Radvanovsky and Samuel Ramey will not be appearing.) Tickets for the concert only start at $75 and all concert-goers receive a hardbound copy of the commemorative book, “60 Lyric Moments.” 6:30pm, November 1, Civic Opera House, 20 North Wacker, (312)332-2244.

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Beyond the Aria: J’nai Bridges with Craig Terry/Photo: Marcin Cymmer.

Journeys of the Voice
Harris Theater Presents, in conjunction with Lyric Opera’s Lyric Unlimited, has inaugurated an innovative new season-long vocal concert series called “Beyond the Aria.” The series is an outgrowth of Harris’ Tenth Anniversary Gala last fall when Harris president and managing director Michael Tiknis asked Ryan Opera Center director Craig Terry how Harris might collaborate with Lyric or the Ryan Center.

“What we ended up with was something that combined both,” says Terry, the curator, artistic advisor and accompanist of the series. Each concert spotlights two internationally known opera singers concurrently performing in Lyric Opera productions, appearing alongside of a current member of the Ryan Center.

The debut of the series featured soprano Ana María Martínez, baritone Bo Skovhus and Ryan Center mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges singing a wide range of genres including zarzuela, opera, lieder, operetta, chansons, jazz, Broadway and songs from the American songbook and featured cabaret-style seating with table service on the enclosed stage of Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.

“I asked that everyone love the songs that they sing,” says Terry, “and we wanted the experience to be more relaxed than a regular concert hall. I had played on the Pritzker stage and it really is the perfect space: the idea is the rare pleasure to hear really great singers up close and personal in an intimate space.”

The next “Beyond the Aria” program features mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (Azucena in the company’s current “II Trovatore”), baritone Quinn Kelsey (Count di Luna in “II Trovatore”) and Ryan Center soprano Laura Wilde. November 10, 7:30pm Harris Theater, 205 East Randolph, (312)334-7777, from $35.

Soumik Datta

Soumik Datta

East and West
East meets West in Fulcrum Point New Music Project’s eclectic evening of classical and contemporary Indian music and dance called “Mirror of Enlightenment” that includes “Mara,” an enlightenment tale that depicts the life of the Buddha performed by Chicago-based Indian classical dance company Kalapriya Dance.

Twenty-five Fulcrum Point musicians will merge Messiaen and Mingus with Indian composer Param Vir to present the U.S. premiere of Vir’s “Raga Fields, Concerto for Sarod and Ensemble” featuring British-Bengali sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta as soloist.

Tabla master and Indian percussionist Kalyan Pathak will collaborate with sarod player Datta and Fulcrum Point founder/conductor/trumpeter Stephen Burns for the improvisational work “Rageshri” and will perform his own work  joined by his own ensemble, the Jazz Mata Trio. The program will conclude with Shirish Korde’s “Lalit,” a duet for flute and tabla featuring Pathak and Fulcrum Point flutist Mary Stolper. November 1, 7:30pm, Millennium Park’s Harris Theater, 205 East Randolph, (312)334-7777. $20 ($10 for students).

Notable Excursions
Guitarist extraordinaire John Abercrombie will perform with his revised quartet, which includes pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron, the same personnel on Abercrombie’s latest album, “39 Steps.” Abercrombie and Copland were both members of the Chico Hamilton Quartet and the fusion jazz-rock group Dreams back in the 1970s, but both have returned to more straight-ahead jazz as this group reflects. October 30-November 2, Jazz Showcase, 806 South Plymouth, (312)360-0234, from $20.

Attempting to fuse arts, science and culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is the object of “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” with the Canadian period instrument ensemble Tafelmusik. Narration, choreography and music by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel will be performed to a backdrop of high-definition images from the Hubble telescope. November 7, 7:30pm, University of Chicago’s Logan Center, 915 East 60th, (773)702-2787, $35 ($5 students with ID).

Newberry Consort’s “Música Barocca Mexicana” features eighteenth-century music of the New World for voices, violins, guitar, theorbo, harpsichord and cello reconstructed as performed at the cathedral in Durango, one of Mexico’s important music centers. Newly discovered masterpieces are included with many U.S. premieres of works by Ignacio Jerusalem, Santiago Billoni, Manuel de Sumaya and others. November 7-9, various locales, (773)669-7335, from $35.

Following up on its traversal of a complete Beethoven string quartet cycle two years ago and a complete Bartók string quartet cycle last season, this year the gifted and energetic Avalon Quartet is performing a complete Brahms string quartet cycle at the Art Institute. This exquisite Sunday afternoon series includes other pieces that influenced—or have been influenced by—Brahms, followed by illuminating gallery walks that tie together revolutions in music, painting and sculpture. Brahms Quartet No. 3, Op. 67 in B-flat Major and the Debussy Quartet are the pairings in this second of a four-concert season-long series. November 9, 2pm, Fullerton Hall, 111 South Michigan, (312)443-3600, free with museum admission.

Preview: Burger Records Caravan of Stars Tour/Logan Square Auditorium

Garage Rock, Punk No Comments »

burgerecords

RECOMMENDED

Burger Records has shaped the face of today’s growing garage and punk scenes while not overcapitalizing the bands it represents or cheapening the image it has largely created. The label was founded in Orange County in 2007 by Sean Bohrman and Lee Rickard of Thee Makeout Party. The label has had an insane seven years as a huge contributor of the increased popularity of cassette tapes and the epicenter of the garage sound that uses these tapes. At this point, though, they seem to be more of a driving force for the bands they represent to keep doing what they want than a controlling, stifling authority. “We’re just trying to nurture them [the bands], cater to all of them, and bring them together in one collective cooperative world where we can live happily and funnily,” Rickard told Vice magazine. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Method Man, Redman, and B-Real/Concord Music Hall

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

smokers-club-tour

RECOMMENDED

1999 called, it wants its concert back because this show is going to be THE BOMB.

In case you’ve never listened to rap music, Method Man and Redman have been making head-nodding, gangsta-leaning jams together since 1994 and are still two of the best rappers out there. If you don’t believe in soulmates, at least in a creative sense, these two could change your mind. B-Real is the front man of Cypress Hill and sold more than eighteen million albums. His nasally vocals are legendary, and while he has released countless hits, no one can resist or avoid “Insane in the Membrane.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tune-Yards/The Vic

Indie Pop No Comments »

tuneyards_2

RECOMMENDED

Tune-Yards gets a bad rap at times because multi-instrumentalist/mastermind Merrill Garbus has such an off-the-wall stage presence and technicolor style that discussion of the music sometimes gets lost in favor of Garbus’ performance and bold persona. Tune-Yards’ latest release, “Nikki-Nack,” was a level up for Garbus and Tune-Yards, taking what could have easily been a garbled musical mess—a combination of afro-beat drums, R & B, and nonsense children’s rhymes all topped off with a glossy pop sheen—and making it not only a cohesive whole, but a compelling musical statement and a confidently realized signature sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dope Body/Township

Hardcore, Punk No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

The first time I saw Dope Body was when they opened for Future Islands at Lincoln Hall in 2012 and I’ve been enamored with the band ever since. I’ll forget about them for a while, then one of their songs will come up when my iPod is on shuffle, and I am immediately transported back to the pure anarchistic joy I experienced listening to Rage Against the Machine for the first time in my older brother’s purple Mitsubishi Galant. Turn your nose up at Rage Against the Machine all you want, but I pity any reader that doesn’t know this feeling. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: King Tuff/Subterranean

Punk No Comments »

kingtuff

RECOMMENDED

King Tuff is touring to promote his new release “Black Moon Spell” on Sub Pop Records. This album is the ideal last fist-in-the-air for summer releases. It’s chock full of pump-up jams about LPs, sex, drugs, and embracing one’s own misfit status. This is the soundtrack to pre-gaming for a crazy night out in the kitchen with your best friends. Produced by Bobby Harlow, also known as the “Burger Guru,” a reference to the current Burger Records sound, and a huge player in the garage rock revival, “Black Moon Spell” is slightly lowbrow, but is such a fun listen and a solid release from beginning to end. Read the rest of this entry »

You Ought to Know: The Unrepentant Humanity of Montreal’s Ought

Emo, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Victoria Davis

Photo: Victoria Davis

Ought’s debut LP, “More Than Any Other Day,” begins with a track called “Pleasant Heart” that’s led by an instrumental which inspires anything but its title. Its shaggy, stabby guitar and mathematically puzzling drumming take us to singer/guitarist Tim Beeler’s Kinsella-esque howling as the track unravels into a dissonant string-led soundscape.

But Ought manages to feel warm and familiar—endearing; cute, even—in their angst. A clarion of believable hope always emerges from its darkness. The band’s plainly existential lyrics and daring style have drawn easy comparisons to The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, but it’s their charm which makes these similes most possible. Their character is big enough to mention them as carriers of a long, great, lively pop lineage.

It’s Ought’s humanity that stands tallest at the Empty Bottle on a Saturday night in September. As Beeler somehow balances the dual personalities of his voice and guitar, the crowd shuffles closer to the stage with air-hugs and smiles, like they’d just really like to have a beer with these fellows who anthemically shout about being “excited for the milk of human kindness.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Eternal Summers/Lincoln Hall

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eternalsummers

RECOMMENDED

This Roanoke, Virginia trio provides a powerful combination of alternative, indie and jagged punky hooks—everything you could ever want to dance, drive or listen to. There is lush guitar foundations reminiscent sometimes of Radiohead, but the pulse of early Cure and the bounce of Pylon comes through in many of their songs. The Eternal Summers provide a great recipe of one chiming guitar, ironic, high-powered but not screaming, firm female vocals, and a tight pummeling backbeat duo that never lets things get out of control.

Their new album, “The Drop Beneath”—produced by Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices and Nada Surf—on Kanine records is excellent, but live, they let it all hang out and some of their earlier work, such as “Wonder” from “Correct Behavior,” are some of the best pop anthems of the last couple of years. They open for We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood at Lincoln Hall—but don’t be late or you might miss the best band on the bill. (Bart Lazar)

October 8 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2508, 8pm, $20, 18+

Preview: Ana Tijoux/Subterranean

Latin, Rap, World Music No Comments »

AnaTijoux

RECOMMENDED

Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has been quite busy of late—just in 2014 she collaborated with the likes of Julieta Venegas, Oscar-winner Jorge Drexler and many others while embarking on a massive tour that included stops at Millennium Park and the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. Her sound blends North and Latin American influences—she has a solid band that includes guitars, percussion, keys and drums. In addition, her backup singers are also skilled MCs who have the chops to share many of the tunes, freestyling whenever there is space to do so. Read the rest of this entry »