Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Live Review: DJ Spinn/Pitchfork Music Festival

Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Live Reviews No Comments »

Since the sudden passing of DJ Rashad, it’s been unclear how Chicago’s Teklife crew would move on, let alone fill his slot at this year’s festival. The group’s unequivocal response was an impassioned set that featured dozens of dancers and DJs on stage, and non-stop footwork music, save for a pause to honor their fallen comrade. It was an incredibly warming, moving experience, to dance along with the Teklife crew in their hometown at such a crucial moment. The performance was more a celebration than an occasion for mourning, and the crowd picked up on that, spontaneously breaking into dance circles, throwing up their arms and flailing along with carefree love and affection for the big beats and manic pace that left no choice but to move, and move on, with Teklife, even without DJ Rashad. No other moment at the Pitchfork Music Festival seemed as poignant or touching, DJ Spinn and the Teklife crew capturing the power and beauty of music’s possibilities, and redeeming Pitchfork for only choosing two Chicago acts to perform. At least they chose wisely. Rest in peace, DJ Rashad. (Kenneth Preski)

Music 45: Who Keeps Chicago in Tune 2014

Blues, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Folk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, R&B, Rock, Soul No Comments »
Photo: Joe Mazza of BraveLux

Photo: Joe Mazza of BraveLux

Chicago, you are a big, bold, beautiful city of infinite complexity. Your historical heritage, your social and political upheaval, your segregation, violence and corruption have birthed an incredible wealth of musical expression. It’s by virtue of these artists that our community confronts and escapes the mistakes of our metropolis. And so our publication listens intently, offering a nuanced dialogue with the musicians who craft our culture. Yet, once a year, we redirect our approach to the opposing swing of the pendulum. We zoom-out where we would normally zoom-in. This list offers a broad-stroke survey of those Chicago musicians whose current cultural currency is readily represented to the city and to the rest of the world, living artists whose quantifiable influence echoes their effect. Some big names are missing, some rankings seem arbitrary, but it’s toward these acts, firmly Chicagoan, that we look when we seek out the spirit of home. Where our words might fail, the music will not. (Kenneth Preski)

Music 45 was written by Kenneth Preski, Dennis Polkow, John Wilmes, Jessica Burg, Robert Szypko, Eric Lutz, Keidra Chaney, Reilly Gill, Corey Hall and Dave Cantor

All photos taken on location at The Hideout by Joe Mazza of BraveLux. Read the rest of this entry »

The End of Journalism: New Ideas with Steve Albini

Chicago Artists, Interviews, Minimalism, Post-punk, Punk No Comments »
Steve Albini 1

Still from the documentary “Parallax Sounds”

By Kenneth Preski

Every critical outlet must justify its insights. The reasoning should extend beyond a simple citing of sources, should move past the seduction of poetic prose, and burrow down into the very tenets of knowledge that the writing seeks to embody. For a variety of equally abstract and profound reasons, this enterprise is in a badly confused state with respect to music journalism. What’s now required is a nuanced dialogue with musicians to re-appropriate the method, to re-envision the approach in favor of the artist and the audience. To that end, Steve Albini’s thoughts are invaluable. Beyond his work as a prolific sound engineer, Albini is a university-trained journalist and a seasoned musician. His band Shellac is on the eve of releasing “Dude Incredible” at a time when traditional operations for the music and publishing industries have been malformed by the internet. Now is the moment to re-strategize.

In an interview, it’s clear that the sea change has been on Albini’s mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Krom” by Krom

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Record Reviews No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDKROM

On their self-titled second release, the jazz fusion trio led by Chicago-born pianist Adam Kromelow and rounded out by bassist Raviv Markovitz and drummer Jason Burger comes up with a collection of nine original songs penned by Kromelow and arranged by the group. The album kicks off with “Savior Complex,” which begins with a keyboard-pounding, rhythmically strong intro, and then evolves into a mellower mood. Markovitz contributes a fluid solo halfway through the tune, and then the tune picks up again. “The Experiment” is an uptempo tour de force played in double time. The tune’s style is reminiscent of Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara, who also tends to write in quick tempos. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shape of Jazz Today: Jason Adasiewicz’s Creative Emergence

Chicago Artists, Interviews, Jazz 1 Comment »

Jason Adasiewicz
By Kenneth Preski

Stand in a room while Jason Adasiewicz is performing and his artistry is self-evident. The rarest musicians are those who are able to overcome the technical standards of their instrument and in turn breathe life into a new playing style; unquestionably unique, a different way of looking at the world. Sometimes that’s what it takes to capture an audience’s attention. Even frequent collaborator and jazz immortal Peter Brötzmann was not a fan of the vibraphone before he heard Jason Adasiewicz. “He actually hates that instrument,” laughs Adasiewicz, sitting with one on his right, a drumkit to his left. That’s because, until now, no one has ever played the vibraphone like he does. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wax Trax! Records Pop-Up Store/Metro

Chicago Artists, Industrial, Punk No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDWax Trax Pop-Up Metro

Wax Trax! Records was the center of the universe for a generation of punk and industrial kids in Chicago and beyond, so this is pretty thrilling news: on June 15, Chicago will have an opportunity to relive the glory days of the early 1980s to mid-nineties at the Wax Trax! Records pop-up retail shop at the Metro. For one day only, Wax Trax! will open up its archive of original releases, posters, t-shirts and other rare treats, with a roster of DJs and a full-service bar. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rabble Rabble/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Punk, Rock No Comments »

Rabble RabbleRECOMMENDED

Maybe you saw Rabble Rabble open for Death at Reggies on New Year’s Eve, or maybe you’ve seen them at a DIY space, but they are a big enough band in sound and in presence to tear any venue apart. This local act is formally releasing their new album, “Brain Hole,” on Logan Hardware Records, at the venue they’ve come to know the best, with some acts that are sure to make this quite the celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake & William Parker Trio/Constellation

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »

Brotzmann Parker DrakeThis trio’s 2003 effort “Never Too Late But Always Too Early” has to be considered one of the finest jazz recordings released since the turn of the century, but bandleader Brötzmann is not contented by success. Even that record, clocking in at nearly two hours of finely tuned free-swinging dynamism, couldn’t convince the German maestro to contain the combustible energy that marks the collaboration. Together, Brötzmann, Drake and Parker sound less like collaborating artists, and more like brothers from the same womb—their synergy is that awesome. Just about any sound can be layered above the rhythmic pulse of Drake and Parker to great effect, but with Brötzmann blowing, the audience is promised something special from the onset. Read the rest of this entry »

Sabers Unsheathed: Life after The M’s with Josh Chicoine

Alt-Rock, Chamber Pop, Chicago Artists, Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Interviews, Pop, Psych pop, Rock No Comments »

By Kenneth Preskisabers hi res

The album opens with its own thing, like if Britpop could boogie. Coming from Josh Chicoine, current artistic director and co-founder of CIMMfest, the music is a natural extension of all his previous work. Sabers play pop-rock with an adventurous edge. Sure, it’s pretty and pop-tinged, but so were The M’s, Chicoine’s previous outlet, a group with harmonies so sweet that they won over a whole new audience via an appearance on the big-budget video game MLB2K7, right alongside The Stooges, Nirvana and 311. But “Sic Semper Sabers” is its own thing. The track “Money Eddie” cloaks its charming verses in a sinister swirl of synth and bombastic beats, somewhere between The Beta Band and The Flaming Lips. On “Remedy,” all the flourishes of orchestral instrumentation shine bright courtesy of Max Crawford’s wonderful horn section lifting a wilting refrain to a summer simmer. “Ever Eyeing” has a beautiful build-up where Chicoine’s falsetto meets a handclap crescendo; while “Puppet” has the type of mocking melody that a taunting toddler would issue. Take your pick, Sabers’ debut is full of playful, impactful, well… hits! Okay, maybe not if measured by units sold, but in some alternate version of America (maybe even the one in your own backyard) Josh Chicoine is making compelling music to widespread acclaim. Read the rest of this entry »

Bass Exploration: Groove Weaving with Chuck Webb

Chicago Artists, Interviews, Jazz No Comments »

By Corey HallIMG_1039

Forty years later, the song’s groove and message still inspire him: “Said the long-haired hippies and the afro blacks / They all get together across the tracks /And they party!”

As a teenager growing up in the seventies at 85th and Stony Island, Chuck Webb saved his allowance to purchase that record, James Brown’s “Get on the Good Foot.” As a bassist whose first band, Quiet Fire, had opened up for Ramsey Lewis at the Ivanhoe Theater while still in the eighth grade, Webb absolutely dug this tune’s tasty bass break.

“I always thought it was really cool. And maybe in the back of my mind, I said, ‘If I ever get a chance to record this song, I’m going to play it longer, because it’s only about three or four bars,” Webb says. “And those lines about the long-haired hippies and the afro blacks always seemed so profound,” he continues. “It was like a message of unity hidden within the groove.”

Well, Webb—whose acoustic and electric bass playing has been heard with artists ranging from Ramsey Lewis to Al Di Meola, Charley Pride to Lalah Hathaway—has recorded and stretched out that bass break at will on “No Smoke, No Mirrors,” his debut album that will be released on May 23. This nine-song program features his five-piece band: tenor saxophonist/flautist Steve Eisen, pianist/keyboardist Tom Vaitsas; electric/acoustic guitarist Buddy Fambro, drummer Ben Jammin Johnson, and vocalist Michael Scott, who appears twice.

Recorded live and filmed for DVD release before family and friends at Soundmine Studios, 8043 South Stony Island, “No Smoke, No Mirrors” is Webb’s attempt to combine acoustic jazz, electric funk and R&B/soul into one complete statement. “I need to present myself to the world, and this is what I do,” Webb says, who also serves as Director of Bass Studies at Columbia College. Everything the listener will hear, he added, is live, with his bass serving as the engine propelling the vehicle. No sequences; no studio tricks; no overdubs. Read the rest of this entry »