Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

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 »

Preview: Taylor Ho Bynum & Tomas Fujiwara/Hungry Brain

Jazz No Comments »


If ever there were an embodiment of contemporary East Coast jazz, Taylor Ho Bynum might be it. A highly educated performer and deeply articulate critic, Bynum’s impact can be felt everywhere from the legacy of the late Bill Dixon, to the words of the New Yorker. Perhaps his most prestigious post is as executive director of the Tri-Centric Foundation, an organization guided by Anthony Braxton’s prodigious approach to composition. Therein lies the irony. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “From Brazil to New Orleans” by Charlie Dennard

Forró, Funk, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »


“The music, history, food and culture of Brazil and New Orleans have so much in common that it just seems logical to put them together,” writes keyboardist Charlie Dennard on the liner notes for the independently released “From Brazil to New Orleans.” The same has been said by various Crescent City musicians I have interviewed over the years, because the liveliness and musicality of cities like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador makes them feel right at home. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns 2014/Ravinia

Festivals, Jazz No Comments »


Accompanying Dave Koz will be saxophonist Mindi Abair, who recently showcased her versatility on her solo release “Wild Heart.” Though she is considered a jazz musician, she also has a strong pop background, having worked with the likes of Josh Groban, Duran Duran and Aerosmith. She mixes things up nicely, opening with the New Orleans-themed “Amazing Game,” in which she duets with featured guest Trombone Shorty, and then rocks out on the title track on vocals. “Haute Sauce” is a boogie-themed jazz tune with a strong backbeat, and “Kick Ass” is a bona fide hard rock song with a killer guitar solo from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. “Addicted to You” pays homage to Booker T & the MGs with Booker T. Jones himself on the B3. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Krom” by Krom

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Record Reviews No Comments »


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 »

Record Review: “Jobim Tribute” by Les Sabler

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, Samba, World Music No Comments »


Among Brazilian composers recognized internationally, you could certainly say that Antônio Carlos Jobim compares to none other so far—he is one of the few whose body of work is just as respected as that of Gershwin or Harold Arlen. However, few contemporary fans know his work beyond “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars),” “Desafinado” or maybe “Waters of March” simply because his other songs have been absent from jazz songbooks of late. 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 »

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 »

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 »

Record Review: “Billy’s Back on Broadway” by Billy Porter

Big Band, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Record Reviews, Soul, Vocal Music No Comments »


There was a time when it was natural for show tunes to make their way to the pop realmsingers like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra all borrowed songs written for the stage and turned them into standardsincluding “On the Street Where You Live” (from “My Fair Lady”) recorded by Nat King Cole; “Luck Be a Lady” (from “Guys and Dolls”), a hit for Sinatra; ‘Till There Was You” (from “The Music Man”) famously covered by  The Beatles; and of course  “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” (from “Evita”), a tune overplayed even before Madonna got her hands on it.

Nowadays it is unlikely for such songs to contribute to the Hot 100 even with the help of heavyweights like Bono or Elton John—the business has just changed too dramatically for that to happen (do you really hear anyone belting out “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” at your local karaoke bar?). That doesn’t mean that some tunes don’t deserve to be heard by non-musical theater fans, and that is where Billy Porter comes in. Read the rest of this entry »