The Chicago-based octet Sidewalk Chalk is far from your ordinary hip-hop group. The band fuses soul and jazz with contemporary beats and insightful lyrics to create original songs and live performances that get even the most conservative of concert-goers on their feet. Their arrangements highlight what each of the band’s members bring to the table. Maggie Vagle (vocals) and Rico Sisney (MC) complement each other on stage as well as they do on tracks, matching energy and emotion note for note. Likewise, while Tyler Berg uses a drum set to keep time, Jumaane Taylor tap dances to add in rhythms and provide a unique flair to the band’s sound. Read the rest of this entry »
Every great pop star is at once completely of their time, and completely not. Shorthands for their eras, great pop stars are able to exude something ageless and universal that transcends the cultural moment they were birthed from. There are a million artists that do one or the other well. Miley is very of her time. Robin Thicke is timeless, in that there’ll be douchebags throughout time. But great pop stars are everything all at once. Great pop stars are both our windows and our mirrors—we see our culture through them, but we also see a little of us.
“The 20/20 Experience,” Justin Timberlake’s good if uneven double album, cemented him as our generation’s great pop star. Dressed to the nines, showing us a few things about lo-o-ove, Timberlake’s is a multivalent talent, spanning the mediums of film, TV and music. Read the rest of this entry »
While Portugal’s Moonspell has had the usual shifts in style that are characteristic of a band with a lengthy history, in a black-metal-dominated contemporary scene that clings to “no clean vocals” like a religion, the band’s gothic influences are an acquired taste for certain fans. That being said, “Alpha Noir,” part of the band’s most recent two-part release, is their thrashiest in years. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
By Dave Cantor
It isn’t easy to pinpoint the heart of hip-hop.
With as many perspectives on the movement as there are practitioners, each point of view becomes a way to propel the music forward. And for about a decade, Chicago’s Psalm One has been combining the culture and a desire to better community.
“To some people, it’s really important that I’m college educated,” the MC says. “To some people it’s important that I’m a black woman. And some people don’t think I’m important at all.”
Taking her passion for knowledge to the recording booth and transitioning into the classroom is a move too few performers attempt. Psalm’s worked with America SCORES, a mentoring program, that’s taken her on a nine-city tour and resulted in the 2012 “Child Support” album—a clever play on words and stereotypes. Her newest release doesn’t include contributions from students, but the release party for “Hug Life” is doubling as a way to raise funds for the MC to visit Haiti and introduce the tutoring program to a new place. Read the rest of this entry »
Amon Amarth has been churning out face-melting, Nordic-lore-inspired epic metal for the past twenty years. Much like the delicious casserole at your grandma’s house, you’ll never see much change in the recipe, but the experience will be consistent and satisfying. The band’s latest opus, “Deceiver of the Gods,” finds the group in their proven form, with vocalist Johan Hegg’s usual demonic growl matched with the majestic, dual guitar riffage from guitarists Johan Söderberg and Olavi Mikkonen that would be right at home on a Maiden release. Read the rest of this entry »
2 Chainz, known for his ever-ubiquitous guest spots (he even made an appearance in Adidas’ latest Derrick Rose commercial), is not your typical hip-hop star. His uncanny knack for caricature work within the genre evokes the early-2000s surge of brief-speaking hype man Lil Jon, but the reality of one Tauheed Epps is something quite different from what he projects. A 4.0 GPA college graduate, Mr. Chainz’s outrageous public persona is likely more of an industry calculation—and performative satire—than the sort of legitimate homegrown silly-riling that most are buying. Paired with Pusha T, a fellow expert in the parafiction of rap—perhaps the American cultural prism in which authenticity is more scrutinized than any other—with his ceaseless did-he-or-didn’t-he braggadocio regarding a former life selling industrial amounts of cocaine, this Chicago Theatre performance should make for a top-shelf dose of opiate lying on lines between the synthesized and the truly moxie-rich. Read the rest of this entry »
It is a subzero late Tuesday afternoon and Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have just completed the first day’s rehearsal of Sollima’s Double Cello Concerto. (The piece would receive its world premiere later in the week.) The composer, also a soloist in the piece, is backstage, as is cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As are members of the rock group Chicago, about to complete their first-ever two-concert run with the CSO, conducted by Richard Kaufman.
Despite this odd musical assemblage, inside Muti’s office, the discussion is on his decision to place a CSO spotlight on Schubert for the 2014 season. With so much Verdi and some Wagner having been done by the Chicago Symphony for both composers’ bicentennial years in 2013, it may seem a bit odd that 2014 brings a CSO focus on Schubert despite there being no round-number anniversary.
“You know, generally I don’t like anniversaries,” says Muti, pouring a bottle of sparkling coffee, which he also offers to his quizzical guest. “If it’s a very famous composer, such as Verdi or Wagner, they are performed anyway. The problem with the lesser-known composers is that you have an anniversary and then forget about them the rest of the time. Anniversaries can be important when the performances add something to the comprehension of the composer or when musicologists write something interesting about them.” Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Chamber music carries its history wherever it goes. It’s right there in the genre tag—the chamber in question belonging to medieval palaces affluent enough to afford commissioned musicians, yet preferring their entertainers in a slimmed-down setting, showcases held in the more private confines of the castle’s smaller quadrant in lieu of a performance in the great hall. The modern audience can sympathize: no doubt many a listener has been subjected to the strenuous demands of great hall upkeep. Forsaking flippantry, the foremost task for contemporary classical musicians is to bridge the gap between their rich musical tradition and the working-man’s modesty. Read the rest of this entry »