Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

The Tip Sheet: Pulitzer Reflections and Some Prize Performances

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Jazz, Orchestral No Comments »

Henry Threadgill

By Seth Boustead

French artist and curator Jean Dubuffet coined a term he called art brut, which he defined as “works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part. These artists derive everything from their own depths and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art.”

In art brut the expressive content was more important than a glossy finished product; practitioners of art brut walked to the beat of their own drum and never gave a thought as to how their artistic vision fit into larger trends. Art brut would later become known as outsider art, a movement to which Chicago has contributed plenty. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Chicago-style Jazz by Twin Talk & Dave Gordon Sextet

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Record Reviews No Comments »

cover copy

By Robert Rodi

Twin Talk is a bit of a smirky name for a trio; fortunately there’s nothing at all coy or adorable about these three very accomplished young jazz musicians. Dustin Laurenzi (sax), Katie Ernst (bass/vocals) and Andrew Green (drums) have achieved the kind of stylistic and tonal integration that usually comes after players have been working together a decade or more; it’s a true collaboration, a real conversation—though in many cases, while listening to their eponymous new album, I found the group’s dynamic to be more visual than verbal.

Take the opening cut, “Colorwheel.” A light but determined sax evokes the title artifact turning in a breeze; the breeze dies—the bass sniffs the air—then it all starts up again, with increased speed and exhilaration. Very effective image-painting here. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: The Evolution of Del the Funky Homosapien

Hip-Hop No Comments »


By Craig Bechtel

Hip-hop fans in Chicago have one responsibility on May 12: see Del the Funky Homosapien. Teren Delvon Jones has been around for a long time; he was born and raised in Oakland and was writing rhymes for his cousin Ice Cube’s crew, Da Lench Mob, at the tender age of seventeen.

In contrast to the extant “gangsta rap” forces at the time, on his first two records, “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” (1991) and “No Need For Alarm” (1993), Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (as it was then spelled) revealed himself to be a philosophical rhyme-sayer who possessed not only his cousin’s forthright strength on the mic, but also questioned and skewered reality and popular culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Music Top 5: May 1-May 15, 2016

Top 5 list No Comments »


(Lincoln Hall)
With his wit, brio and relentlessly infectious hooks, Sean Tillmann is completely rewriting the rules for being a pop star.
May 14 Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: The Season Springs Toward a Close

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »

Ensemble Ursa

By Seth Boustead

May is always a busy month for classical music as we wrap up our concert seasons and prepare to adjourn to our summer homes to drink port, abuse the help and shoot defenseless animals.

Sadly though, this year I’ll be stuck in the city as my beloved manor burned down last fall during a regrettable flare-gun duel with an impudent young oboist who questioned my knowledge of French Baroque performance practices. Which admittedly I know nothing about, but still, what the hell? At any rate, here are my favorite upcoming classical music events, sans impudence. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hocico/Beat Kitchen

EDM, Electronic/Dance, Industrial No Comments »



Formed by creepster cousins Erik Garcia and Oscar Mayorga in Mexico City at the peak of the harsh electronica rise in the oh-so-delightfully abysmal nineties, Hocico (pronounced O-see-ko) has endured and evolved where many other bands of its particular penchant for visceral and ethereal industrial and EBM have faded.
Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Martin Barre Band/Martyrs’

Folk-rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »



“The thing that pleases me is melody,” says Martin Barre, lead guitarist for British folk-progressive rockers Jethro Tull from their 1969 “Stand Up” LP through the group’s dissolution. “If I can come up with some nice chords and a really melodic top line, that gives me great satisfaction.”

Since that band ceased operations, Barre has taken the opportunity to kick-start his long-nascent solo career. “I didn’t get the opportunity to start doing solo material until 1983, when we all decided to take a year off.” Of going solo full time in 2014, Barre says: “I started to learn very late, but maybe that’s a good thing. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is great. I’m really inventing my career as a musician.’ And I’ve been happy—really, really happy—ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: April’s Best Bets

Chicago Artists, Classical, Minimalism, New Music 1 Comment »

Marc Mellits

By Seth Boustead

For nearly twenty years I made my living as a piano teacher and had as many as sixty students at one time. Over the last few years though, as my kale farming business has taken off, I’ve been cutting down on the number of students and these days I’m down to just one.

She’s close to ninety years old and, when she’s not in Paris or Mexico or some other far-flung locale, she drives herself to her lessons and she’s a better driver than you or me or most anyone I know.

Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: A Gangsta and A Scholar

Hip-Hop No Comments »

Afrika Bambaataa

By Craig Bechtel

The night before Kevin Donovan turns fifty-nine, he’ll be in Chicago providing a performance as his better known alter-ego, Afrika Bambaataa. The original soulsonic force from the South Bronx, he introduced “Planet Rock” to the hip-hop community and provided rap with its musical motivation. Drawing equal inspiration from disco and electronic rock, he’s been going full-tilt since 1977. Although Bambaataa is known for “Planet Rock,” his positions as “The Godfather” of hip-hop, the “Amen Ra of Hip Hop Kulture,” a forefather of turntablism and the father of “electro funk” are unassailable.

He started as a gang member and leader in the Black Spades, but his story took an amazing turn when he won an essay contest and a trip to Africa. He came back a new man, changing his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim (inspired by the name of a Zulu chief) and transformed what was a violent gang into the renamed Universal Zulu Nation, with its aim of spreading peace through music. Bambaataa is one of the originators of breakbeat deejaying, harnessing the breaks of his record collection to propel his beats, and was the first to organize a tour of hip-hop artists outside the United States, back in 1982. He recently completed a three-year stint as the Cornell Hip Hop Collection’s first visiting scholar, after which the university announced that it has acquired his archive of 20,000 records. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Two Chicago Jazz Guitarists Strum Their Stuff

Chicago Artists, Jazz No Comments »


By Robert Rodi

Andrew Trim, a Chicago native, spent most of his childhood in Nagano, Japan; so it’s entirely natural that his style as a jazz musician is heavily influenced by Japanese music—as is Hanami, the ensemble he formed in 2011, and which features Trim on guitar, Mai Sugimoto on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Charles Rumback on drums. The title of the group’s new album, “The Only Way to Float Free,” is pretty representative of the record’s tone—declarative American swagger blended and tagged with a wisp of eastern spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »