On this summer-themed release, saxophonist Dave Koz teams up fellow reed players Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair to revisit songs that marked their youths, giving them a contemporary flavor. The record kicks off with a funky take on Ronnie Laws’ “Always There” that features individual moments from all four players and sets the tone for the disc. A soul-tinged take on the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” follows, one of the few songs ever recorded by the Fab Four to actually feature a horn section. The arrangement here is a bit closer to Earth Wind & Fire’s 1978 single, and the players seem to have a ball with it, swapping solos around the basic melody. Read the rest of this entry »
A sad sack of stereotypes plagues jazz from popular listening. Rumor dictates that one must know the history of the genre to enjoy it. That one must have a knack for abstraction to understand it. That modern players are just phonies putting us on in the name of pseudo-art too high for anyone to reach. Chicago may be a proud city, but 2013’s best local album is import-only from France, and took nearly three years to be released at all.
On “Unknown Known” (out on RogueArt), The Joshua Abrams Quartet offers a counterproposal to popular myth. In six streamlined tracks, the group thwarts the blather with tune after tune of graceful improvisation. Showcasing the city’s most underrated bandleader, Abrams anchors the set on double bass, generous with his guidance, giving David Boykin, Jason Adasiewicz and Frank Rosaly ample room to maneuver. The tracks breathe. The effect is visceral. The listener is lulled into leaving behind abstractions in favor of distilled beauty. Read the rest of this entry »
It has been twenty-three years since drummer Danny Seraphine has been part of the group Chicago, which he co-founded in 1967 with the late Terry Kath and Walt Parazaider as the Big Thing. (The three had also previously worked together in Jimmy Ford and the Executives and the Missing Links.)
By the time of the group’s first album, a double LP, the band became Chicago Transit Authority, shortened to Chicago by the second album when the real CTA threatened to sue. Ironically, Chicago Transit Authority had moved to Los Angeles before becoming a success and Seraphine’s new band is called California Transit Authority. Read the rest of this entry »
When the volcanotornadohurricaneearthquakeasteroidzombieinvasion finally hits, what will all the punks, metal-heads and DJs do without electricity? They will listen to jazz. It’ll take the apocalypse before the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) will finally be recognized by the general populace for their seminal contributions to expression beyond electricity. The Chicago-based organization has been fostering exploratory talents since 1965, with big names and bold artists still challenging the reigning ideologies of contemporary music as steadfast as ever.
Much to her credit, Nicole Mitchell has spent a fair amount of time presiding over the organization. A fearless female instrumentalist in the midst of the modern jazz boys club, Mitchell’s first recording of 2013 finds the flautist revitalizing the form that put the AACM on the map. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
If you’re ever tired of hearing standards, coax guitarist Marc Ribot into playing them. Reconciling the Dave Brubeck original and what’s called “Take 5” on Ribot’s latest work with his trio, Ceramic Dog, is almost too difficult to do. A phrase kicks up every once in a while harkening back to the ur-recording, but the punky rhythm section allows Ribot to lose it and wander back into the fold. The tact Ribot takes here is roughly how he approaches whatever can be considered jazz today. Having worked with gutbusters like Tom Waits and chord chompers like McCoy Tyner allows for a ridiculous range of music to hue Ribot’s guitar playing. Dude’s confident and adventurous enough to take Mary Halvorson, another guitarist, on tour—something folks more concerned with the spotlight than the end product just wouldn’t do. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
The excursion boat Theodore Roosevelt heads east under the State Street bridge in 1910/Photo: The Lost Panoramas (CityFilesPress.com)
By Dennis Polkow
City on a river. Chicago is many things, but whatever qualities that make Chicago Chicago exist in no small part because it is a city on a river, albeit a river by and large taken for granted.
For many of us, our own placement as a city on a river is something we forget about until we are inconvenienced by having to go over a bridge or have to wait for a bridge that a boat is passing through or that is undergoing construction.
“The Chicago River is the city’s defining characteristic because it is what built the city,” says Martha Gilmer, vice president for artistic planning and audience development at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as the curator of the CSO’s month-long Rivers Festival which runs May 9-June 9. “The river has taken a second place to our lakefront, but Mayor Daley—and now Rahm Emanuel—is very interested in the development of the Chicago River.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Benedict Smith
The perception of Lonnie Smith as an organ deviant stems from a variety of career choices. Being plucked up outta Buffalo by guitarist George Benson and incorporated into his funky quartet, Smith came to prominence amid the bandleader’s combination of swing and grace. Of course, the sporadic covers worked up by the quartet, including “All of Me” from 1966’s “The George Benson Cookbook,” made for some shoddy territory. And while Smith hasn’t taken to the mic to regale listeners with favored lyrical numbers, he has laid into “Sunshine Superman.” Wading into popular music didn’t relegate “Boogaloo” Joe Jones or “Groove” Holmes to lesser-known status, but the industry’s constraints weighed on Smith, stifling his ability to move beyond genre limitations his early career helped define. From the mid-1960s through the following decade, Smith released visually and aurally singular works—his “Think!” remaining one of the strikingly designed Blue Note albums of the era. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade after her smash hit “Thank You” put this English singer on the pop map and five years after 2008’s “Safe Trip Home,” Dido reemerges with this concise album that brings together all the nuances of her style, blending folk-rock, electronica and straight-ahead pop. The album opens with the acoustic ballad “No Freedom,” whose lyrics reflect on the necessity of allowing people to have freedom within the confines of a relationship. The title track makes a playful allusion to the lover “who got away,” the sort of utopian dream-like person who many of us were unable to keep by our sides. Read the rest of this entry »