Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Carlos Núñez/Old Town School of Folk Music

Celtic, Jazz, Latin, World Music No Comments »


When you think about Celtic music, you probably think of someone from the Scottish Highlands, Ireland or maybe France, but you will definitely change your mind when you hear the sounds of this talented musician from Galicia, Spain who has collaborated with the likes of The Chieftains (he was considered their “seventh member” when he worked with them), Sinéad O’Connor, Mexican-American band Los Lobos and Ry Cooder, to name a few.

Carlos Núñez is a virtuoso of the gaita, which is the Galician version of the bagpipes (another take on the instrument is also widely used by folk musicians in Italy). His style could be described as a blend of flamenco, Spanish folk, jazz and Celtic music with a contemporary, almost pop-like feel. His band’s arrangements are highly percussive and include instruments not commonly associated with Celtic music, such as Spanish guitars, electric bass, horns and Latin drums.

In a live format Núñez has fantastic energy and creativity with his improvised licks. He plays his gaita with the demeanor of a rock guitarist–which is probably why some of his fans have nicknamed him “the Hendrix of the bagpipes.” His band, which is rounded out by Stephanie Cadman (fiddle, step-dancing, vocals), Pancho Alvarez (medieval guitar) and Xurxo Nuñez (percussion), has great chemistry together. This is definitely something to discover if you haven’t yet done so. (Ernest Barteldes)

February 12 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000. 8pm, $10 suggested donation.

Preview: Maria Rita/City Winery

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Pop, Samba, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »


Brazilian singer Maria Rita built her career doing her best to be outside the shadow of her late mother Elis Regina, a legendary performer in her own right whose career was cut short by a cocaine overdose. It was not an easy task, since Rita’s voice is incredibly similar to her mother’s. Over the years, she stayed away from Regina’s material while making inventive, jazz-inspired albums accompanied by a simple trio of piano, acoustic bass and drums (the exception was 2007’s “Samba Meu,” which was recorded with various percussive instruments added to the band.)

It was not until 2012 that she finally agreed to work on a project with Regina’s music in commemoration of the thirty year anniversary of her passing. “Viva Elis” was originally planned to be a limited five-performance engagement, but due to public demand it later evolved into a national tour and a CD and DVD entitled “Redescobrir.” The album covers her mother’s greatest hits played in arrangements close to the original recordings (the audience is heard cheering at the opening chords of tunes like “Como Nossos Pais” and “Águas de Março”) while some of the lesser-known songs were given a completely different treatment under the musical direction of her brother, arranger and producer João Marcelo Bôscoli. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Roberto Fonseca/Symphony Center

Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Latin No Comments »


Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca is one of those talents you cannot put in a specific corner. Sure, his groove has a lot of his Latin roots (especially in the percussive manner in which he plays the keyboards), but he surprises you at every turn, as heard on his 2013 album “Yo” (Concord), where he showcases influences from American jazz and Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, to African music and samba.

For instance, the gentle ballad “Así Es La Vida” is reminiscent of the work of Herbie Hancock, but “Rachel” has elements of electronic music taken up a notch. “Quien Soy Yo” blends a lot of sounds, and even features a cavaquinho (a Brazilian instrument that could be considered a cousin of the ukulele), while elements of African music (with the participation of singer Fatoumata Diawara, Baba Sissoko on n’goni and Sekou Kouyate on kora) are peppered throughout. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “AfroHORN Rare Metal” by Francisco Mora Catlett

Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews No Comments »


Sun Ra Orchestra alum Francisco Mora Catlett is a highly talented drummer and composer, and his AfroHorn project is where he explores his creativity, painting a musical canvas that turns listeners into thinkers. Every track brings a surprise, and even after repeated listens sounds still pop up at you unexpectedly. The tunes on “Rare Metal” are permeated with Yoruba chants which not only frame the music but seem to be a source of inspiration for each composition. This should not be considered a simple contemporary jazz disc, as the music is too adventurous to be cleanly labeled. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quest for Brown-Eyed Soul: Bringing San Antonio’s Westside Sound to the Midwest

Regional Mexican, Soul No Comments »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf Indiana Jones were a vinyl junkie he’d carry a portable turntable instead of a whip and stop at nothing in his quest for that single-most-desired glossy black platter with its circling grooves. Imagine him, if you will, standing between a wilting ceiling and a floor littered with records, dark and stinking with the decay of years sitting abandoned in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Or at the back of an unmarked bodega in a New York borough, having nobly solved the mystery to its secret whereabouts. Truth is, these adventures do belong to someone, only he goes by the name Rambo.

Thirty-two-year-old Minneapolis-based DJ Rambo Salinas has been building his record collection for the last third of his life. While other vinyl enthusiasts base their compendium on quantity, bragging rights or market value, Rambo is in pursuit of a greater mission. His quest began with the decision to focus on collecting Chicano Soul and Sweet Soul Lowrider rolas—genres from San Antonio and Los Angeles, unknown to most, aside from the generation of Mexican-American baby boomers. His own South Texas-Chicano background is just half the motivation. The other is simply to share the music and provide the rest of us with a sense of the time, place and culture from which Brown-Eyed Soul was conceived by way of his guerrilla compilation titled “Lone Star Soul Vol. 1.” Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “New Samba Jazz Directions” by Duduka Da Fonseca Trio

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

Duduka, New Samba Jazz DirectionsRECOMMENDED

Drummer extraordinaire Duduka Da Fonseca’s new release, “New Samba Jazz Directions” (Zoho), recorded in Rio de Janeiro with a trio of young Brazilian musicians rounded out by David Feldman (piano, previously with Scott Feiner’s Pandeiro Jazz) and Guto Wirtti (bass), contains mostly original songs penned by Da Fonseca and the group plus two covers: “Sonho de Maria” (Marcos Valle/Paulo Sergio Valle) and :Zelão: (Sergio Ricardo). With these musicians, the bandleader brings further a refreshed sound that takes him in a new direction as a drummer and a songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Buika/Old Town School of Folk Music

Flamenco, Folk, Latin No Comments »
Photo: Javi Rojo

Photo: Javi Rojo


Though best known for her work as a flamenco singer, Palma de Mallorca-born Concha Buika has broadened the genre through her very personal interpretation and also by taking the music in unusual directions. In 2011, she collaborated with Anoushka Shankar on the sitarist’s genre-bending “Traveller” (Deutsche Grammophon), an album that mixed influences both from Indian and Flamenco into one package.

On her new release, “La Noche Mas Larga” (Warner Latina), Buika offers a collection of self-penned songs and a handful of covers—including a great update of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” that features a rollicking electric bass line by Alain Pérez that serves as a backdrop for the percussion and piano. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: Rough Guide to Psychedelic Brazil

Forró, Prog-rock, Psych pop, Psychedelic, Record Reviews, Rock, World Music No Comments »


When the Beatles, the Stones and The Beach Boys started to spread the seeds of drug-addled psychedelics in the music scene in the late sixties, their influence reached musicians in South America, who reshaped and repurposed the music they heard to make it their own. One of the best-known examples of this is “Tropicalia,” a 1968 album that featured Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Tom Ze and Nara Leao. That disc launched a groundbreaking multimedia movement that resonates to this day. Sadly, there are no tracks from that album on this interesting compilation that brings together both well-known and obscure Brazilian musicians who took on the genre and mixed it with various other sounds. Many of the tracks are rare, like “Sorriso Selvagem,” a 1966 track from The Gentlemen, a northeastern Brazilian band that disappeared without a trace but that included Ze Ramalho, a highly respected artist from that country. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “I Thought About You: Tribute to Chet Baker” by Eliane Elias

Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Record Reviews, World Music No Comments »
Photo: Bob Wolfenson

Photo: Bob Wolfenson


Late trumpeter Chet Baker may have lived a troubled life all the way to his tragic death in 1988, but he left a legacy of great recordings that influenced countless musicians and fans throughout the years—his approach to singing and playing clearly informed the Bossa Nova movement in Brazil, and many standards today are immediately identified with him.

In recognition to Baker’s talent, Brazilian-born pianist Eliane Elias looks back at his storied career by giving a fresh interpretation to many tunes identified with him, mixing “cool” West Coast jazz grooves, with Brazilian-flavored tunes and some straight-ahead jazz. The album opens with the title track played in a bare-bones arrangement featuring Elias on piano and vocals, bassist (and husband) Marc Johnson and guitarist Steve Cardenas. She is joined by legendary bossa-era guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves on “There Will Never Be Another You,” which appears here as an acoustic samba.  Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Putumayo Presents: Women of Brazil”

Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Jazz, Latin, Pop, Record Reviews, Rock, Samba, Singer-Songwriter, World Music No Comments »


Those who expected this compilation to feature the likes of Marisa Monte, Gal Costa or even newer names like Bebel Gilberto or Cibelle will be disappointed at first—this release contains none of their songs. Instead, we are presented with few names ever heard Stateside save for Luisa Maita or Mart’nalia, who have regularly toured in the US. The disc opens with Italy-based Nossa Alma Canta’s “Bossanova,” a tune that remembers the Brazilian movement that swept the world with the help of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.  The tune name recalls many familiar hits like “Wave,” “Desafinado” while playing snippets of familiar tunes via instrumental interludes. Read the rest of this entry »