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 »
Though a longtime resident of the East Coast, saxophonist, professor and bandleader Miguel Zenón never quite let go of the rhythms of his native Puerto Rico, and often incorporates their sounds from a contemporary jazz point of view. Over a decade working as a bandleader (he has done side work with the likes of Edsel Gomez, Brian Lynch and Edmar Castañeda) with his quartet, he has explored and experimented with various rhythms and grooves and developed them as a fodder for free improvisation. Read the rest of this entry »
If you cannot be in Crescent City, listening to veteran trumpeter and singer Kermit Ruffins definitely takes you there. With his sharp and lively tone, he plays songs that celebrate his homeland. Examples include “Drop Me Off in New Orleans” and “When I Die, You Better Second Line.” He is clearly not one to do any contemporary-style material—his sound embodies the early traditions of jazz laid out by Louis Armstrong, who is revered and celebrated today from the park that takes his name to the streets where marching bands that play year-round to the delights of locals and visitors alike. 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 »
“Metal” is a very broad term, roping together a sweeping mass of bands that do not necessarily belong in the same genre. Sleep falls into this category, stoner metal specifically, but denies the stereotypes that make metal as a whole sound shallow. Their songs are essentially full albums with well thought-out compositions. Sleep knows how to find a hook and blow it up tenfold into long, massive songs that fade into each other and make longer, more narrative pieces. It’s difficult to find parallels between Sleep and certain godfathers of metal because they have moved beyond the blueprints set up for them. Sleep is evidence that metal has almost untraceably evolved since its beginnings. 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 »
When Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant formed She Keeps Bees in 2006, LaPlant was banging a borrowed drum kit perched atop a stepladder to back Larrabee’s vocals. In those bedroom recording sessions, LaPlant also served as sound engineer on the pair’s sparse but powerful blues-tinted rock. So when they chose to work with a producer on their most recent record, “Eight Houses,” She Keeps Bees found themselves with a lot more input. Producer Nicolas Vernhes’ outside opinion “allowed us to really break down songs,” said Larrabee. “I think it stretched us.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Clean has been a highly influential band since the beginning.
They more or less personified the Dunedin Sound, a jangly, loose, lo-fi rock genre specific to their native New Zealand, on Flying Nun Records in the early eighties. This sound, propelled by university radio stations, eventually spread all over the world. Alt-indie staples like Sonic Youth, Pavement and Guided by Voices all cite The Clean in their influences. Moving forward, these bands that draw from The Clean serve as sources for countless other musicians. If you were to make a “Law and Order: SVU”-style string-web of where Pitchfork-centric bands come from, The Clean would be at or very near the middle. Read the rest of this entry »
“Dad Rock” doesn’t feel like a compliment until the label’s slapped onto Steely Dan. When your adolescent flame flickers off as you get a real job, pay real rent and all, your brain becomes more rational. And it tells you this, in its new wisdom: you’ve been taking Steely Dan for granted, all along. Pops in his gaudy sweatpants shimmying along to their borderline-muzaky tones gave them a bad look, but only until you were smart enough to know what’s really cool. Read the rest of this entry »