Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Offbeat: “Halo” Composers Collaborate with Paul McCartney

Ambient, Blues, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Folk, Interviews, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Vocal Music No Comments »
Paul McCartney, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori

Paul McCartney, Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori

By Dennis Polkow

Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori have been friends back to their college days in the 1970s when they were in rival bands in the western suburbs. “We’ve always been very competitive with one another,” Salvatori recalls. “Marty came in to record five songs with his band, so of course, I had to write better songs and record those as well.”

While Salvatori was working for his father’s printing company, O’Donnell was painting houses to put himself through music school. “They were shooting a television commercial and Marty was painting the set. The director found out that he was a composer and offered him five hundred dollars if he would write some music for it. I had just taken out a loan for a basement recording studio setup and Marty called up and said, ‘If you let me record there, I’ll split everything with you fifty-fifty.’ We put ourselves out there on a handshake and collaborated on the commercial as O’Donnell-Salvatori, like Lennon-McCartney. It has been that way ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: South Side Jazz Coalition/Quarry Event Center

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »
Margaret three

Margaret Murphy-Webb

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To honor the late tenor saxophonist Von Freeman and his Tuesday night, jam-till-the-early-moanin’ blowing sessions, vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb and instrumentalist Anderson Edwards started the Jazz Jam Revival at the 50 Yard Line on East 75th, about half a mile west of where Vonski hosted his séances of sound. Now, some three years later, with the Revival still going strong, Murphy and the newly formed South Side Jazz Coalition (SSJC) are determined to reestablish another local tradition: the South Shore Jazz Festival, originally presented by Geraldine de Haas’ Jazz Unites from 1981 to 2012, and held at the South Shore Cultural Center. (De Haas and her husband relocated to New Jersey in 2013 to be with their children.) “The South Shore Jazz Festival was a tradition for Southeast Chicago and the southern suburbs,” says Murphy-Webb. “Everybody came out for this festival. It was just a wonderful time with all the cookouts, vendors and great music.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: James Conlon Bids Farewell to Ravinia, Says “Si” to Italy

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Festivals, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Vocal Music No Comments »
James Conlon / Photo Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

James Conlon/Photo: Ravinia Festival

By Dennis Polkow

“After I became music director eleven years ago,” says Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon, “it was so interesting how many people I would meet around the country, or Americans I would meet in Europe, that would say, ‘You know? I heard my first concerts at Ravinia.’ I started to think that everybody grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and somehow or another moved to another place in the world. It is astounding how many people of all ages were formed there, from twenty-year-olds to eighty-year-olds, and how many people Ravinia has been able to reach in its way and introduce classical music to them. Of course, the trump card of the Chicago Symphony is the best way you can do that. It was very striking to me and I am very proud to be a part of that tradition and process and hope it will continue on forever.”

Nonetheless, Conlon announced last August that the 2015 season would be his last as Ravinia music director, and that 2016 would also end his music directorship of the Cincinnati May Festival after thirty-six years. Instead, he will become the first American to ever become principal conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai in Turin, Italy. Read the rest of this entry »

Songs About Gentrification and Euthanasia: Dance Early and Often with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork

Alt-Rock, Disco, Electro, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »

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By Bart Lazar

Music can be fun, danceable and meaningful; this is what The Julie Ruin teaches us. Originally formed as a solo project by Kathleen Hanna, the founder of the riot grrrl movement, The Julie Ruin combines pulsing disco, electro-clash and punk to provide the most danceable band you may find at Pitchfork, or anywhere else, this year—and the only one singing songs about gentrification and euthanasia.

Ken Mellman—keyboardist, vocalist and former member of the Obie-award winning drag cabaret duo Kiki and Herb—took time from recording The Julie Ruin’s second album to let us know a little bit about this veteran, artistic and activistic band, and why you should get to Pitchfork early on Sunday.

Tell me about The Julie Ruin.
Kathleen wanted to start a new band, so she systematically tricked each of us into joining her. She snagged her old bandmate from Bikini Kill, Kathi [Wilcox, bassist], who was just moving to New York from D.C., Sara Landeau [guitarist and proprietor of the Brooklyn Music Studio for Women and Girls], who she met when they both were volunteering for Girls Rock Camp, and Carmine Covelli [drummer], who had been Le Tigre’s tour tech guy. Kathleen had been a fan of my old act and we had been friends for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: A Varied (and Vicarious) Pitchfork Itinerary

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Jam Band, Metal, Prog-rock, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »
chvrches_2013-650

Chvrches

By Keidra Chaney

Pitchfork Music Fest Weekend is upon us once again. It’s traditionally been the “tastemaker’s festival” of the summer, where this year’s Pitchfork buzz acts become next year’s Lolla lineup. This year’s crop offers a decidedly local flavor, in a way hearkening back to the festival’s roots in Chicago, starting with the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival back in 2005. The city’s own Wilco and Chance The Rapper bookend as headliners on Friday and Sunday (with a reunited Sleater-Kinney closing Saturday), but there’s a whole lot to check out in between, from the fest itself to a whole slew of aftershows all weekend long. I had every intention of going to P4K this year, but I’m ninety percent sure I’ll be out of town, so I’ll share with you the schedule I have planned. If any of you take my suggestions, let me know how it all worked out.

Friday

I’d get out of work early and ease into my weekend with Chicago’s own guitar wunderkind Ryley Walker on the Blue Stage at 3:20pm, then run over to check out Drake acolyte/rival ILoveMakonnen on the Green Stage at 4:35pm. Friday at Pitchfork Fest tends to not be hugely eventful because the heavier rock bands that I prefer tend to show up on Saturday and Sunday, so I’d take a long break and check out the vendor booths to kill time before seeing a bit of Panda Bear on the Green Stage at 6:25pm, then leave early to jet over to the Red Stage for Chvrches at 7:20pm. This is a group that took time to win me over, because I found a lot of their synth covers of classic rock and R&B hits nearly intolerable, but their latest album has grown on me; it’s dance music that sounds BIG, like a rock band, and it’s likely to sound pretty good on the Red Stage. Wilco plays on the Green Stage at 8:30pm, and while I probably wouldn’t stick around, I am sure everyone else will. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Jessy Bulbo/Ruido Fest

Festivals, Hip-Hop, Latin, Rockabilly No Comments »

vive-latino-2011-domingo-jessy-bulbo1

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Since the launch of her first acting role in the very visceral 2011 Mexican independent film, “El lenguaje de los machetes” (Machete Language), which also featured one of her poppier—though still altogether subversive— tracks, “Mi Muñequita Sintética” (My Synthetic Doll), we haven’t heard too much from the reigning queen of Mexican indie, Jessy Bulbo. If you know anything about Mexican indie punk music then you’re quite familiar with her often quaint vocals and more furious Riot Grrrl leanings. Her albums range from bassy rockabilly and roaring noise to her more recent experiments with electronic and hip-hop, and in fact her versatility and importance in the Mexican indie world are unmatched by any other artist. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Silverio/Ruido Fest

Electro, Festivals, Latin No Comments »

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There’s no concise way to describe the electro antics of Julian Lede, better known as the madcap Mexican artist Silverio. His self-proclaimed simple samples and often cajoling approach to electro dance might seem light years ahead to some fans, just plain odd and off-putting to other, more austere and prissy electro goers. Known for his rampant energy, notorious red bikini, glistening beer belly and sweat-drenched performances, Silverio mixes humor, dissonance and the crassest elements of Mexican popular culture into his music, as well as his persona. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Chieftains/Petrillo Music Shell

Celtic, Festivals No Comments »

The_Chieftains_Web

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It’s a bit of a bold choice for Taste of Chicago to host The Chieftains, leading proponents of traditional Irish music for the past fifty years. They’re not pop, rock or hip-hop. But don’t be fooled; while they’re well known for making their audiences feel like old friends sitting in an Irish pub, Paddy Moloney, Matt Molloy and Kevin Conneff have continuously stretched the boundaries of Celtic through collaborations with musicians from all over the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chosen Few Picnic/Jackson Park

Chicago Artists, Disco, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, House, Live Reviews No Comments »
Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams

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In the late seventies and eighties, a group of local DJs—Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Alan King, Tony Hatchett and Andre Hatchett—helped turn Chicago-style house music into an international phenomenon. In 1990, the by-now-self-christened Chosen Few Disco Corp. (self-esteem obviously not being a problem area for them) held a reunion picnic at Jackson Park, and rather than being a wistful, weren’t-the-old-days-great-please-pass-the-potato-salad affair, the party generated enough high-energy mojo to launch an entirely new phenomenon: an annual house-music festival that grew to incorporate live performances as well as epic-scale spinning. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Kenji Bunch Makes Music From the Inside Out

Chicago Artists, Classical, Festivals, Interviews, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »
Kenji Bunch / Photo: Erica Lyn

Kenji Bunch/Photo: Erica Lyn

By Dennis Polkow

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many composers have been attracted to the viola,” says violist and composer Kenji Bunch. Like Bach, who noted that he enjoyed playing viola because he was always “in the middle of the harmony,” Bunch observes that “it lets you experience music from the inside out and you really get a unique perspective on how things are put together.

“If you sing alto or tenor in a choir rather than soprano or bass, those are the hard parts to hear and be able to pick out the right notes for those funky inner lines rather than the more obvious top or bottom lines. I think the viola really finds you. It’s suited for a certain kind of personality that is interested in more offbeat things, literally offbeat things.”

Since the viola is a darker-colored instrument with less brilliance than its more popular cousin the violin, “we don’t have a lot of traditional repertoire written for our instrument, which means we violists usually gain exposure to twentieth century music a lot sooner than violinists or cellists do. Read the rest of this entry »