By Corey Hall
For fifteen consecutive years, Englewood resident Ernest Dawkins has coordinated a free, six-hour outdoor celebration of sound as a contribution to his community. This celebration, officially called the Englewood Jazz Festival, is sponsored by the Live the Spirit Residency, a nonprofit organization Dawkins founded in 2006. He presented the first three Englewood Jazz Festivals through a grant from nonprofit Meet the Composer (now called New Music USA) and, when this grant ended, Dawkins supported the next three festivals with his own funds before establishing Live the Spirit.
“This community has multiple economic difficulties and has been ignored by the arts community for too long,” Dawkins said in a recent conversation. “I did this festival to try and institutionalize the music and arts in this underserved community and, in the future, I plan to branch out to Roseland or the West Side. I want this to get bigger.” Read the rest of this entry »
On her live tribute to Sarah Vaughan recorded at New York’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Chicago-born singer, composer and arranger (known by the general public for the theme of the popular sitcom “The Nanny”) assembled a topnotch band formed by Ted Rosenthal (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), Tim Horner (drums), Randy Sandke (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Dick Oatts (saxes and flute). The repertoire included tunes that Vaughan recorded throughout her long career.
The disc opens after a brief introduction with a lively rendition of Al Hoffman’s “I’m Gonna Live ‘Till I Die,” which features a lengthy, highly inspired solo from Sandke (incidentally, Hoffman was the composer of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”). Steven Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” is played with great dramatic flair, a little reminiscent of Barbra Streisand’s version. Also notable are Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave” performed in a downtempo bossa style and Adler/Rose “Whatever Lola Wants,” a sexy blues-tinged number that showcases the vocalist’s improvisations, while George Gershwin’s classic ballad “Someone To Watch Over Me” features its often-ignored introduction. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dennis Polkow
On the final day of his summer residency, a sunglasses-clad, informally dressed Riccardo Muti is standing in his hotel lobby texting on what he calls a “prehistoric” cell phone. “This is very old: Neanderthal man used this,” he says. “I received a smart phone from my children, but every time I touch it, it does different things and whatever I am doing, disappears. It was a disaster.”
As it turned out—but not revealed at the time—Muti had just met with Jeff Alexander, the man who would be named the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra president, and was in a very upbeat mood.
That Muti, who turned seventy-three in July and who is beginning his fifth season as music director—the last of his original contract—has signed a second five-year contract that will take his music directorship through 2020 is, of course, a huge coup for Chicago. “I have changed [the orchestra], but they have also changed me! We still have a lot to do. They have changed their spirit. It is so wonderful to go to a rehearsal so relaxed and happy.” Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Dawson’s main band is Dolly Varden, which has been making smart and soulful folk-rock for twenty years, but he has a second group now. His new album, due for release on September 30, is the self-titled debut of Steve Dawson’s Funeral Bonsai Wedding, a collaboration with three local jazz musicians who are noted for their inventiveness: vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Jason Roebke. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago punk stalwarts Rise Against are in celebratory mode, commemorating both the tenth anniversary of Riot Fest (they’re multi-year veterans) and their fifteenth year as a band. They’ve returned from a fairly lengthy break only to achieve an unlikely coup for a contemporary rock band. More than three years after the release of their last album, “Endgame,” the band’s most recent album “The Black Market” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. It’s little wonder after hearing the album’s first single “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” a catchy and melodic hard-driver that definitely leans more heavily in the direction of the band’s poppier releases. “The Black Market” certainly doesn’t lack in the political screeds that Rise Against are well-known for, but it’s clear that the band’s more personal and introspective focus is in the forefront here. Read the rest of this entry »
The Handsome Family/Photo: Jason Creps
Between Pitchfork, Lolla, North Coast, and Riot Fest— not to mention all of the neighborhood festivals in between them all—Chicago has become Music Fest Central. As a result, the AV Fest/Hideout Block Party has gotten somewhat lost in the crowd in the past few years, despite a consistently solid lineup. These days the now-unified festival (Hideout and Onion’s A.V. Club joined festival forces back in 2012) has assumed more of a local fest identity, rather than a festival with national or international aspirations. Its local feel is far from a demotion, however, with national acts like Death Cab For Cutie, The War on Drugs, and Dismemberment Plan headlining. Read the rest of this entry »
By Keidra Chaney
Everyone loves a good rock ‘n’ roll success story. You know the one: the scrappy band of musicians, armed with nothing more than raw talent and dreams, hustle their way to nationwide, major-label success. But these days such stories are few and far between, and for every rock-star success story that’s told, there are always several, lesser-known stories of industry mainstays that get short shrift.
For example, Greg Fulton: active in the Chicago music scene since his days as a Columbia College student in the 1980s, Fulton is currently the founder, guitarist, and vocalist of Sweet Diezel Jenkins, a Chicago-based “party band” that does mashup-style covers of R & B and pop hits. Can you imagine a funk-infused mashup of Sisqo’s “Thong Song” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? Sweet Diezel Jenkins manages to pull it off with aplomb. SDJ has a regular gig at Red Line Tap in Rogers Park on most Wednesday nights, and the band regularly plays out at bars and festivals across the midwest, from Ohio to Michigan.
But little known to many, Fulton also represents a slice of Chicago heavy metal history, as the founding member of several metal bands: Znowhite, Cyclone Temple, and Rebels Without Applause. Znowhite, founded in 1982, was featured in a volume of the iconic “Metal Massacre” song compilation alongside a then-unknown Slayer. (Fulton is listed on Znowhite albums under his stage name, “Ian Tafoya.” He managed the band under his own name.) Read the rest of this entry »
Forty years ago this month on August 9, 1974, legendary trumpeter Bill Chase and three other band members of the pioneering jazz-rock fusion group Chase were killed in a plane crash on the way to perform at the Jackson County Fair in Minnesota.
“In retrospect, it seemed inevitable,” admits original Chase bassist Dennis Keith Johnson, who recalls a number of “close calls” in the days he was with the band. “One winter, our concert ended early, so we thought, ‘Let’s fly to the next gig tonight.’ It had snowed, but our pilot wasn’t concerned and said he would just run the plane down the runway and blow the snow off. He cranked it and you could feel the tail going down and could hear both engines shutting down. The next thing you know, we’re all asked to get out and ‘push the plane.’ We got out and the nose of the plane was sticking out over a seventy-five-foot drop over a four-lane highway and we all had to push an 18,000 pound DC3 back on to the runway!”
Johnson, who is best-known in the years since Chase for having been a founding member and original bassist of the group Survivor and for leading the Dennis Keith Experience, is organizing what he describes as “the last call” performances of “Chase Revisited” to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of that fatal plane crash and to coincide with the band’s induction into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame on August 31 in Arnolds Park, Iowa, as well as with the Chicago Jazz Festival. Read the rest of this entry »
If there is anyone whose musical direction should be trusted, it’s Mike Reed. As the director of the Pitchfork Music Festival and an important part of the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Umbrella Music Festival, Reed is well versed on Chicago jazz and beyond. His group, Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things, is a conglomerate of Chicago jazz and where it’s going. Free jazz can be difficult to follow for the casual listener, but Mike Reed’s People, Places, & Things is an approachable place to start. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: John Broughton
By Corey Hall
Are y’all hip to “Sweet Georgia Brown”? According to the grapevine, “It’s been said/she knocks ‘em dead/when she lands in town/Since she came/why it’s a shame/how she cools them down!” Satchmo sang about her, as did Ella, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis. And now jazz guitarist Bobby Broom and his trio have made a play for the gray gal on “My Shining Hour,” his new album that will be released on August 19.
When talking to Newcity about this song, written in 1925, and recording—which he describes as a tribute to Americana—Broom notes that its ten songs have stayed relevant through many decades. “They’re classics, and they are cultural pieces, cultural history in music, at least from my perspective,” he says, in reference to the collection’s songs, which also includes “The Jitterbug Waltz,” “Tennessee Waltz,” and “Oh! Lady Be Good.”
When discussing “Sweet Georgia Brown,” Broom recalls a special moment 4:15 in from bassist Dennis Carroll. Read the rest of this entry »