Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Knowledge Drop: Redefinitions and Second Chances for Kid Cudi, Pell and Pete Rock

Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Rap, Record Reviews No Comments »

Kid Cudi

By Craig Bechtel

Kid Cudi disappointed many of his loyal fans when he pulled the plug at the last minute on his December tour dates, citing “production and personal problems.” He posted a lengthy note via Twitter, saying among other things, that things “weren’t together production wise and I need a bit to make some changes,” and “I got a lot im [sic] dealing with at this time in my personal life too and in order for the shows to be the best experience possible as well as keeping my sanity intact, I need to regroup.” The disappointment from his audience most likely began when he released “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven,” a rock album brimming over with distorted guitars and grunge-era angst. Kid Cudi may be a talented rapper and have come by his hip-hop bona fides honestly, but this record was not hip-hop. While Hot New Hip Hop gave it a balanced and nuanced review, they couldn’t award it more than a sixty-eight percent, whereas the website’s Fan Rating merited a lackluster twenty-one percent. (Then again, the fans on a heavy metal website would probably have savaged the latest outing from Jurassic 5.) Taken on its own merits, and disregarding genre, “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven” is an extraordinary record, and it’s not like Cudi doesn’t recognize the rules he’s breaking. He even enlists MTV icons Beavis and Butt-Head to provide occasional commentary throughout the double album. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Blues, Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »
Orbert one

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 »

Raw Material: Getting to Know Tomorrow Never Knows

Festivals, Garage Rock, Hardcore, Live Reviews, R&B, Rock, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »
jmsn-cameron-mccool

JMSN/Photo: Cameron McCool

By Keidra Chaney

It’s that time of year again: the annual winter celebration of indie rock (and occasionally other genres) Tomorrow Never Knows, which takes place at Schubas, Lincoln Hall, Hideout and Metro on January 13-17. If you’re into indie, this is the event to tide you over into the summer festival season, and it’s a great opportunity to check out bands that are on the rise before they hit bigger stages. Here are my picks for bands to check out at TNK 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan/The Green Mill

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »

maxresdefault

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Raw Material: Horn of Not-Quite-Plenty

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Indie Rock, Jazz, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »
Mark_Farina-

Mark Farina

It’s always a bit of a challenge scoping out shows around Thanksgiving because it’s a time period that seems to be overlooked for live music. The presumption is that everyone is out of town and/or spending time with family for the weekend. For those “Thanksgiving orphans” that stick around, or plan to head home early, there’s some good live music to look forward to in the coming weeks, as well as a few unusual and non-performance-based music events that are worth checking out.

Metro offshoot Smart Bar (3730 North Clark), early home of Frankie Knuckles and launching pad for Ministry, is approaching middle age. To celebrate, on Friday, November 20, Smart Bar cleverly celebrates its “33 1/3 Anniversary” with an A-list lineup of DJs and taking up both the Smart Bar and Metro spaces. The show includes Mark Farina, Colette, DJ Heather, Justin Long, Michael Serafini and Garrett David. Tickets are $24 in advance, $30 at the door. The 21+ show starts at 10pm at Smart Bar, 11pm at Metro. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Strayhorn Fringe Festival/Old Town School of Folk Music

Bluegrass, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Live Reviews, World Music No Comments »

Strayhorn-finalRECOMMENDED

This is Billy Strayhorn’s centenary, and it’s been heartening to see so much attention paid to a songwriter whose gifts are almost in inverse proportion to his fame—i.e. the former stratospheric, the latter microscopic. Part of the problem is that Strayhorn is so closely associated with Duke Ellington, who was one of the more flamboyantly extrovert of the past century’s geniuses. Another part is that Strayhorn himself was quite happy to reside in Ellington’s shadow. The result is that today people are surprised to learn that tunes indelibly associated with Ellington—such as “Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge” and “Take the ‘A’ Train”—are in fact Strayhorn’s compositions. It’s hard for us to think of them in a new way; they’re so bonded to our DNA. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Somi/The Promontory

Jazz, Live Reviews, Soul, World Music No Comments »

somi-last-song-video

RECOMMENDED

Jazz has always been a meritocracy, in the sense that hooks matter more than looks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate a concentrated dose of oomph when it’s right there in front of us. Peggy Lee worked it. So did Nina Simone. And the New York singer-songwriter Somi (born in Illinois to Ugandan and Rwandan parents) has the same kind of high-voltage charisma. She also has an absolutely exquisite instrument—graceful, gorgeous and under her complete control. In the fifties, she’d have knocked ‘em dead in supper clubs; today, she’s slaughtering digitally, in ravishing videos like her simmering R&B ballad, “Ginger Me Slowly.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Here We Go Magic/The Empty Bottle

Alt-Rock, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Pop, Psychedelic No Comments »

here-we-go-magic

RECOMMENDED

I call it “needle-drop bliss”—that moment when you lower the tone arm onto an LP, and after the first few burps of vinyl, you hear something that induces immediate euphoria. That isn’t quite the case with Here We Go Magic’s new album, “Be Small”—the first cut is a thirty-second squall of feedback that sounds like a jet engine with a head cold—but when it snaps into “Stella,” you might as well sit down, wherever you are, because you’re not going anywhere soon. This is pure pop magic: a breezy, bouncing groove that churns happily away beneath a languorous melody line. And what lovely, evocative lyrics: “But if you trip on every fashion / Fall into every pile of bull / You’ll only smell of empty mansions / Once, maybe once you were full.” It’s a rare thing, to find a band that’s both lyrically and harmonically adventurous; and HWGM manages to sustain it throughout the length of the album. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Kurt Vile/Thalia Hall

Alt-Rock, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »

11752037_925311820851534_2059222847935108433_n

RECOMMENDED

Kurt Vile takes his time. His last two Chicago concerts were Pitchfork’s rain-shortened fifteen-minute endeavor, and Riot Fest’s insane thirty-minute time slot. But KV still locked into his lazy, shimmery, stoner groove for seven minutes; if it was going to be a three- or four-song set, at least each song would have the chance to fully inhale, hold and exhale. Kurt Vile also likes to repeat himself, lyrically, harmonically and thematically. For his new album “b’lieve i’m Goin’ down,” Kurt turns on his own language; phrases like, “I woke up this morning (and) didn’t recognize the man in the mirror,” “give it some time” and (on the pre-release single) “believe I’m going down” are drawled repetitively, but—like stories told by disoriented people—as if being communicated for the first time. Each repetition is altered, as if the words or riffs are being played entirely anew, or for a new purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Oddisee & Good Company/1st Ward at Chop Shop

Hip-Hop, Live Reviews No Comments »

music_Oddisee

RECOMMENDED

We all know hip-hop has a deeper, softer, more meaningful and altruistic side. East Coast, Maryland-born emcee-producer Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, otherwise known as Oddisee, embodies that nurturing and uplifting spirit—what we used to mean by hip-hop. In a past life Oddisee might have been a lesser-known jazz musician, an accompanist to someone great; now in this reincarnated life he’s an appreciative and positive rapper, content with an authentic and kind approach to music-making and lyricism. He’s a steady producer and lyricist who for years has settled into the music industry without overcompensations or flamboyant, ego-driven, meaningless gestures. Read the rest of this entry »