Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

The Tip Sheet: The Season Springs Toward a Close

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »
Ursa

Ensemble Ursa

By Seth Boustead

May is always a busy month for classical music as we wrap up our concert seasons and prepare to adjourn to our summer homes to drink port, abuse the help and shoot defenseless animals.

Sadly though, this year I’ll be stuck in the city as my beloved manor burned down last fall during a regrettable flare-gun duel with an impudent young oboist who questioned my knowledge of French Baroque performance practices. Which admittedly I know nothing about, but still, what the hell? At any rate, here are my favorite upcoming classical music events, sans impudence. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: April’s Best Bets

Chicago Artists, Classical, Minimalism, New Music 1 Comment »
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Marc Mellits

By Seth Boustead

For nearly twenty years I made my living as a piano teacher and had as many as sixty students at one time. Over the last few years though, as my kale farming business has taken off, I’ve been cutting down on the number of students and these days I’m down to just one.

She’s close to ninety years old and, when she’s not in Paris or Mexico or some other far-flung locale, she drives herself to her lessons and she’s a better driver than you or me or most anyone I know.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Two Chicago Jazz Guitarists Strum Their Stuff

Chicago Artists, Jazz No Comments »

hanami_layout

By Robert Rodi

Andrew Trim, a Chicago native, spent most of his childhood in Nagano, Japan; so it’s entirely natural that his style as a jazz musician is heavily influenced by Japanese music—as is Hanami, the ensemble he formed in 2011, and which features Trim on guitar, Mai Sugimoto on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Charles Rumback on drums. The title of the group’s new album, “The Only Way to Float Free,” is pretty representative of the record’s tone—declarative American swagger blended and tagged with a wisp of eastern spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Muti on the Mend and on “Falstaff”

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »

Muti, Riccardo -- 2016 Japanese stamp

By Dennis Polkow

When Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti cancelled two weeks of concerts in February, the only details that were released at the time were that he was recovering from a “hip operation” after a “minor accident.”

The timing was odd, as Muti had just completed a tour of the Far East with the CSO. Given the lack of details, international speculation ran rampant that he had injured himself while on tour or even last fall, but had waited to go home for surgery. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: Magix King Conjures Up a “Sick Summer”

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

MagixKing

By Craig Bechtel

The calendar has just turned to April, but Magix King is promising that “it’s gonna be a hell of a sick summer.” That’s how the hip-hop artist born Myron Ford Jr. on Chicago’s South Side kicks off his next project, “Sick Summer,” due to drop on May 28.

Magix (he says the ‘x’ is pronounced like a ‘c’ both to protect his brand and it makes him easier to find on the Internet) has already released the first single. “Hi There” is a great entrée into his positive message, rapid-fire raps and heavily layered (but never too busy) production. Toward the end he inserts an aside that “I entertain and empower through the sounds of music,” before he raps that while “they sleep, we grind.” Read the rest of this entry »

Liz Phair, Steve Albini & Me: The True Story of 1993, the Greatest Goddamn Year in Chicago Rock History

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Funk, Garage Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Industrial, New Wave, Post-punk, Prog-rock, Rock 6 Comments »
Liz Phair 1993/Photo: Lloyd DeGrane

Liz Phair 1993/Photo: Lloyd DeGrane

By Bill Wyman

Every few years, it comes back.

Back in 1994, I had a weekly music column called “Hitsville” in The Chicago Reader. In early January of that year, I put together a top-ten list of albums from 1993 with an accompanying essay. It was all maybe 700 words. Strikingly, two entries by Chicago acts—Liz Phair’s debut, “Exile in Guyville,” and Urge Overkill’s first record for Geffen, “Saturation”—topped my list.

Steve Albini, then as now, was an iconoclastic music producer on the underground rock scene. He was pissed off by the piece; and in full dyspeptic mode he sent a letter to the paper. It was printed under the headline, “Three Pandering Sluts and their Music Press Stooge.”

The pandering sluts—his words—were the two acts I just mentioned and another Chicago outfit, the Smashing Pumpkins.

I was the stooge!

The letter was long and vituperative and hilarious: “You only think they are noteworthy now because some paid publicist has told you they are, and you, fulfilling your obligation as part of the publicity engine that drives the music industry, spurt about them on cue.”

Back then, the Reader was a huge institution. The paper came out on Thursday, stacked like bricks in walls three-feet high in stores and cafes. “Hitsville” was on the front page of Section Three. Albini’s little missive set off a letters war of seemingly unending scorn and heat that played out week after week in the paper, with rafts of responses, insults, counter-responses and counter-counter-responses.

In later years, after the Internet took hold, the letter was endlessly cited in adoring profiles of Albini, or histories of the Chicago music scene of the time. Ten years later, Ana Marie Cox wrote a hefty piece about it for the Reader itself, and just a few weeks ago—twenty-two years later!—the Reader’s music editor, Philip Montoro, brought it all up again amid news that the Pumpkins and Phair were going out on the road together. (They’re playing the Civic Opera House April 14.). Albini’s letter, he said, had torn me a new orifice. And he concurred with Albini’s judgment that I was there to promote popular bands: “Like many music writers, Wyman clearly considered the size of his potential audience when deciding which artists to cover.”

On examination, I was grateful to se that I had the requisite number of orifices, but even so, Montoro’s column got me feeling all misty. I started to remember what the scene was like back then. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: HIDE/The Empty Bottle

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Glam, Hardcore, Rock No Comments »

HIDE

RECOMMENDED

If you haven’t already heard, Heather Gabel of HIDE is the dark demoness dominating the stages of Chicago’s underground. In a very short time, HIDE has become the best goth-tinged, industrial-inspired act around, winning the heavy hearts of all the doom-and-gloom-loving noise freaks of this fine city. Gabel, an accomplished visual artist and vocalist, is also sort of a big name on the local art scene. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Earth, Wind & Fire Comes Home to “Celebrate” Life of Founder

Afrobeat, Blues, Calypso, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Funk, In Memoriam, Interviews, Jazz, News and Dish, Pop, R&B, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, Space Pop, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »
Verdine White (left) and Maurice White in 2005.

Verdine White (left) and Maurice White in 2005

By Dennis Polkow

When Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died in his sleep on February 3 at the age of seventy-four after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, the accolades for the former Chicagoan were universal.

“We had talked the day before and I had seen him a few days before,” says Maurice’s brother, Chicago native and EWF bassist Verdine White, “so this was a huge surprise.” Verdine describes Maurice’s passing as a “transition” and says that he still “guides me, as he always has.” Although Maurice gave up performing with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994, he remained a mentor to the band until his death.

It was Maurice who came up with the idea of a multi-genre band that would be an amalgam of styles at a time when, as Verdine puts it, “there was a revolution going on in music.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Avery R. Young/The California Clipper

Blues, Chicago Artists, Live Reviews, Neo-soul No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

Renowned R&B and neo-soul performer, singer, poet and local celebrity Avery R. Young is notorious for blowing the roof of venues throughout Chicago, where he offers up his entire being through verse, sharing his intense and spirited approach to life, music and politics. Young fuses the past and present through his body on the stage and throughout his lengthy creative career. As he unabashedly delves into the rich traditions of “blk folk,” the African-American experience erupts from Young’s lyrics, bubbling with humor and history. His life practice as an essayist, educator and vocalist culminates in his recent full-length album, “Booker T. Soltreyne: A Race Rekkid.” He calls his work “sunday mornin jook joint,” balancing tragedy and triumph, poetic forms and melodrama with scholarly precision.  Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Michael Tiknis to Depart After Making Harris More User Friendly

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »
Michael Tiknis

Michael Tiknis

By Dennis Polkow

How does a downtown performing arts theater that is less than a dozen years old come to need nearly ten million dollars in renovations?

“When the Harris Theater was designed and built,” Harris Theater president and general managing director Michael Tiknis explains, “Millennium Park was still an idea that was developing organically along with the Harris. Twelve or thirteen years ago, the idea was you could park your car and never go outside into the cold and walk right into the theater.

“It was all designed for you to come into the garage and come in through the lowest level. And when you do that, for the most part, it works very well. But all of the restaurants and Millennium Park being built around it gave rise to a lot more people coming in on upper Randolph than those tiny little elevators were ever designed to hold. And all of those new, surrounding neighborhoods made us realize that what had been designed virtually before Millennium Park and in a vacuum, needed to be rethought as it became a living organic thing with this neighborhood developing. So, it’s not a theater renovation because of age, it’s a theater renovation because of change of use. Read the rest of this entry »