Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Jazz for Women/Southport & Irving

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Elaine Dame

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Elaine Dame, the captivating Chicago vocalist who last year produced a jazz benefit for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is once again twining the tuneful with the entrepreneurial for a cause. “I have a goal to host a musical benefit yearly,” she confesses; and this year’s beneficiary is the Chicago Foundation for Women, an advocacy organization that focuses on work and economic security, freedom from violence and access to health. Read the rest of this entry »

Con Brio: Veteran Jazzer Wayne Shorter Finds the Eternal in the Everyday

Experimental, Interviews, Jazz, New Music, News and Dish, Rock No Comments »
Wayne Shorter Photo: Robert Ascroft

Photo: Robert Ascroft

By Dennis Polkow

“There’s something emerging about the unexpected,” says veteran jazz composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. “I think the whole world is in kind of a situation where no one can put their finger on what’s going to transpire tomorrow, even to the next moment.

“We were invited to the research lab at Stanford University by some astrophysicists when we played in San Francisco; they wanted to talk about improvisation and what happens when you do something without a so-called plan. They don’t want to separate science from art now. Not only that, but they were talking about that collider in Switzerland, the Big Bang thing, they call it the unfolding.

“I think they’re getting closer to this no-beginning, no-end perception. No real beginning. Like the word beginning might be a temporary crutch until we find out that there’s no word for that, it’s more of a continuance. They’re seeing also another kind of multiverse where it seems like there are no laws that resemble the laws here in this universe. They’re finding that there are multiverses and the possibility that there is another kind of multiverse where what we call time is backwards.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: Pulitzer Reflections and Some Prize Performances

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Jazz, Orchestral No Comments »
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Henry Threadgill

By Seth Boustead

French artist and curator Jean Dubuffet coined a term he called art brut, which he defined as “works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part. These artists derive everything from their own depths and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art.”

In art brut the expressive content was more important than a glossy finished product; practitioners of art brut walked to the beat of their own drum and never gave a thought as to how their artistic vision fit into larger trends. Art brut would later become known as outsider art, a movement to which Chicago has contributed plenty. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Chicago-style Jazz by Twin Talk & Dave Gordon Sextet

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By Robert Rodi

Twin Talk is a bit of a smirky name for a trio; fortunately there’s nothing at all coy or adorable about these three very accomplished young jazz musicians. Dustin Laurenzi (sax), Katie Ernst (bass/vocals) and Andrew Green (drums) have achieved the kind of stylistic and tonal integration that usually comes after players have been working together a decade or more; it’s a true collaboration, a real conversation—though in many cases, while listening to their eponymous new album, I found the group’s dynamic to be more visual than verbal.

Take the opening cut, “Colorwheel.” A light but determined sax evokes the title artifact turning in a breeze; the breeze dies—the bass sniffs the air—then it all starts up again, with increased speed and exhilaration. Very effective image-painting here. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Two Chicago Jazz Guitarists Strum Their Stuff

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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: 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 »

Spins: Goran Ivanovic Trio

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Record Reviews No Comments »

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Goran Ivanovic is a multiculti wunderkind. A Croatian-born Chicagoan, he plays nylon-string classical guitar, with which he not only unleashes great stampeding Balkan rhythms, but intricate Middle Eastern and Asian-inspired cadences as well. On his trio’s newly released eponymous disc, he’s accompanied by Matt Ulery on electric bass and Pete Tashjian on drums and percussion, with a special guest appearance by Ian Maksin on cello. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: A Double Shot of Chicago Jazz (and a Chaser)

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By Robert Rodi

There isn’t much you can say definitively about The 3.5.7 Ensemble. Depending on the material it’s tackling, it ranges from a trio to a quintet to a septet (hence the name). And though it’s based in Chicago, it’s not entirely a Chicago band; a number of its members hail from farther afield. One thing you can say with reasonable confidence is that these guys are hella ambitious ambitious. This isn’t just a comment on their material, which covers a dizzying spectrum of styles and voices; it’s also a reflection of the fact that some years into the era of downloads and streaming, they’ve gone all 1990s and released not just a CD, but a double CD. When was the last time you set eyes on that brand o’ critter?

Fortunately, the program well supports the extra disc. All the pieces on “Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples” are original (with the exception of the opener, “Dangurangu,” a Zimbabwean folk tune). Most are written by bassist Chris Dammann and tenor sax man Nick Anaya, but there are credits as well for guitarist Tim Stine and pianist Jim Baker, with improvised works credited to the entire ensemble (rounded out by James Davis on trumpet, Richard Zili on clarinet, and Dylan Andrews on drums). There’s also a credit for Fred Anderson, whose Velvet Lounge was the setting at which at least some of these pieces evolved into their current form. Read the rest of this entry »

South Side Jazz Coalition: From DuSable to Obama—by Way of Orbert Davis

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Orbert Davis/Photo: Darron Jones

By Corey Hall

Chicago’s origins and present, along with a festival’s rebirth, are celebrated by the South Side Jazz Coalition on January 16. That’s when Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP) performs the score to “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis,” a documentary that first aired on WTTW in 2010 and won an Emmy Award. The Coalition’s second fundraising event is designed to raise funds for revitalizing the annual South Shore Jazz Festival, a thirty-one-year ritual that ended in 2012.

Now that the Coalition’s nonprofit status has been secured, it is attracting sponsors, determining a date, securing a lakefront location and selecting musicians for the revived festival, according to Coalition board member Margaret Murphy-Webb. This effort, she added, has been endorsed by Geraldine de Haas—the festival’s founder who, in 2013, relocated to the East Coast with her husband for health reasons—and surrounding communities.

“We expected 150 people at our first fundraiser, held last summer at the Quarry [in South Shore],” Murphy-Webb says. “We seated 180, and a total of 240 people showed up. This event on the sixteenth will seat 500, and we are urging people to get tickets early, because we don’t want to turn anybody away.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan/The Green Mill

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »

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If I could understand why certain music genres come into vogue, I’d be a very rich man. As it is, all I can do is marvel at the regularity with which the postmillennium throws us a cultural curve ball, like making a cult sensation of gypsy jazz—a style that hasn’t been much in vogue since Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli were hard at it, way back in the first half of the last century. But if you have any doubt that it’s returned with a vengeance, just insert yourself into the SRO crowd at The Green Mill on any given Wednesday night, when Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan hold court. Being shy of hyperbole, I balk at citing Ponticelli as Reinhardt’s and Grappelli’s heir, but goddammit, if he isn’t, who is? Read the rest of this entry »