Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Vieux Farka Toure/Chicago World Music Festival

Afrobeat, Blues, Festivals, Genre, World Music No Comments »



This Malian guitarist, singer and songwriter has long crept out of the shadow of his father, the late, great Ali Farka Toure, kicking off his international career shortly before his father’s passing with the release of his self-titled album (World Village) in 2007. The album was recorded with his father’s participation and blessings, even though at first he wasn’t too happy about his son embarking onto the uncertainties of a musical career.

From there, the recognition was almost immediate—that same year, he appeared in key stages in North America that gave him wide exposure, and that culminated in his participation in the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg alongside the likes of Shakira and Alicia Keys. He has since released two solo records. 2008’s excellent “The Secret” featured contributions from Derek Trucks and Dave Matthews. He is currently working on his side project Toure-Reichel Collective, a collaboration with Israeli musician Idan Reichel while also working on his own solo material. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Bomba Estereo/Millennium Park

Electronic/Dance, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Renata Baluk


One of the greatest discoveries from the 2009 edition of the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York, Colombia’s Bomba Estereo expands on the sonic mix presented by fellow Colombians Aterciopelados (the Latin American country—second only to Brazil and Mexico in exporting musical talent—also gave us names like Shakira and Juanes) by blending their native Cumbia with electronic sounds, rap, rock and other genres.

The group sounds better on stage than they do in the studio. Lead vocalist Li Saumet (a petite woman who looks barely out of her teens) has immediate rapport with the audience in spite of the fact that their tunes are sung in Spanish. Bassist/bandleader Simon Mejia has strong chops, and the rest of the group provides a solid backdrop for Saumet’s musical ideas. (Ernest Barteldes)

July 26, Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, (312)742-5222. 6:30pm. Free.

Review: Grant Park Orchestra: Take a Friend to the Orchestra

Classical No Comments »


 The premise of this concert is to stack up a concert with orchestral “goodies” that would be familiar and irresistible chestnuts to folks who had never heard a live orchestra concert. Wagner’s bombastic “Ride of the Valkyries” used to be most associated with Hitler and Nazi rallies but today is best remembered in popular culture from its use in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1976 “Apocalypse Now” where fighter pilot Robert Duvall, declaring that he “loves the smell of napalm in the morning” uses it as the soundtrack for his bomb raids in Vietnam. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” Overture and Debussy’s “Claire de lune” will both be recognized for their use in constant commercials while Rossini’s “William Tell” Overture will have Baby Boomers and their parents shouting “Hi ho Silver, away!” and “Who was that masked man?” Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was heard endlessly after 9/11 and began its use as inspiring memorial music in the JFK era and was prominently featured on the “Platoon” soundtrack while Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” became a cult classic when it was used as majestic dance music for animated whales in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” Carlos Kalmar conducts. (Dennis Polkow) Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion, (312)742-7638. 7:30pm. Free.

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Preview: Orchestra Infinity/Pritzker Pavilion

Jazz, World Music No Comments »


Combining elements of Big Band and symphonic music into its eclectic world-music mix, Orchestra Infinity is aptly named in that it stretches the boundaries of all of these forms. This special World Music Festival appearance includes the American premiere of “Nu Art Claiming Earth,” an orchestral suite composed by the ensemble’s conductor, Kahil El’Zabar and a co-commission with Bordeaux, France that attempts to integrate East and West, including the legacy of the “Chicago sound” style of jazz as well as African, Middle Eastern and Indian elements. Ten French musicians of various cultures from across the Bordeaux region will be guest artists, along with twenty Chicago jazzers and twenty Chicago students. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar/Daley Center, Millennium Park

World Music No Comments »


East Africa’s fifteen-piece Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar makes its North American debut as the most important event in the city’s eight-day World Music Festival 2006. Founded in 1958 and made up of violins, ganun, oud, accordions, double bass, dumbak, bongos, rika, guest singers and guest vocalist Amina, Culture Club of Zanzibar is the premier ensemble of taarab, a popular music genre that fuses Arabic and African elements that is showcased in East African clubs and is known for its high energy, elaborate melodic ornamentation and contagious rhythms and which became associated with the youth movement during Zanzibar’s struggle for independence in the 1950s. Opening the show is Middle Eastern singer Natacha Atlas, who fuses Arabic and North African music with Western electronic beats and who will be accompanied by a traditional Middle Eastern chamber ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: T.S. Sankaran/Millenium Park

Festivals, Indian Classical, World Music No Comments »


When we in the West think of Indian classical music, we tend to think of instruments exclusively associated with that tradition such as the sitar and the tabla, but there is a long tradition of flute performance in India that predates its use in the West but which makes use of the same ragas and rhythms of Indian music though in a more subtle manner. This rare performance by Indian flute virtuoso T.S. Sankaran is part of the four-day “Dance India: Choreographing Traditions” festival and conference that is attracting Indian musicians and dancers from India and elsewhere and which will present Sankaran accompanied by Srikanth Venkataraman, a master violinist in the Indian classical tradition, and G. Vijayaraghavan on the South Indian drum known as the mridangam. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Malachi Thompson Salute with Africa Brass & Billy Harper/Chicago Jazz Festival

Festivals, Jazz No Comments »


Innovative trumpeter and composer Malachi Thompson was scheduled to perform tonight, but sadly, because of his July 16 death, this appearance by his band Africa Brass with saxophonist Billy Harper instead becomes a memorial concert to Thompson’s legacy as a second-generation member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He combined free jazz with a bebop sensibility and was an outspoken jazz educator and historian who challenged the narrow definitions and directions of mainstream jazz. It would be hard to imagine a more jarring juxtaposition than preceding that tribute with an appearance by conservative New Orleans clarinetist Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Jazz Band, but the 5pm Petrillo Band Shell set will do just that within an evening that will also include singer Nnenna Freelon in a Billie Holiday tribute and guitarist Charlie Hunter unveiling his new trio. Earlier in the day on the Jazz on Jackson stage (Jackson and Lake Shore Drive) at noon, Catholic priest and Chicago guitarist John Moulder and his ensemble will perform followed by Frieda Lee, Organissimo and the Bobby Lewis Jazz Sextet. The 12:30pm afternoon set on the Jazz & Heritage Stage includes the West Aurora High School Jazz Band, a session on jazz soloing with Nicole Mitchell and Edward Wilkerson Jr. and the Jazz Links All-Stars with Ken Chaney. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Joe Lovano Nonet/Chicago Jazz Festival

Festivals, Jazz No Comments »


Joe Lovano is doing something that Miles Davis never did: looking back. The hot saxophonist, who is comfortable in virtually any one of the several styles that Davis helped bring about, pays tribute to Davis’ first album as leader, “Birth of the Cool,” in his latest album “Streams of Expression” (Blue Note) and in this live salute to Davis’ 80th birthday anniversary with Lovano’s own nonet, including trumpeter Tim Hagans, saxophonists George Garzone, Gary Smulyan and Steve Slagel, trombonist Conrad Herwig, pianist John Hicks, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Lewis Nash. Preceding Lovano’s finale set at the 5pm session at the Petrillo Music Shell is a tribute to Oscar Brown Jr. with his daughters Maggie and Africa Brown, a set by thirteen-piece Dutch jazz group Bik Bent Braam and hot young pianist Jason Moran and The Bandwagon with saxophonist Bunky Green. Earlier in the day, Chevere, Earma Thompson with John Whitfield, Ben Lewis, a jazz workshop with Lee Konitz and the Dana Hall Quintet perform at noon on the Jazz at Jackson stage, and Dos Claves Orquestra, a “Percussion Discussion” with Paul Wertico and the Muntu Dance Theatre perform at 12:30pm at the Jazz & Heritage Stage. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lee Konitz Nonet & “A Salute to New Orleans”/Chicago Jazz Festival

Festivals, Jazz No Comments »

The final night of the festival features saxophonist Lou Konitz, who partnered with Miles Davis as part of the nine-piece band on his “Birth of the Cool” sessions and is a key architect of the “cool” school of jazz. Konitz is this year’s artist-in-residence and will perform with his new nonet directed by Ohad Talmor as part of the 5pm Petrillo Music Shell evening that also includes Chicago pianist Willie Pickens’ 75th birthday celebration, New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison and his quintet and Hammond B-3 organ master Joey DeFrancesco and his trio with guests Dr. Lonnie Smith and Ron Blake. The noon Jazz on Jackson stage features “A Salute to New Orleans” with the Lucky 7s, which features both New Orleans and Chicago musicians, New Orleans trumpeter Maurice Brown and Chicago trumpeter Corey Wilkes in a “Crescent City/Windy City Jam” and the New Orleans jazz-funk Rebirth Brass Band while the 12:30pm Jazz & Heritage Stage includes the Union League Civic & Arts Jazz Ensemble, Hijazz and “A History of Jazz” with John Watson. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Yang Wei/Wrigley Square

World Music No Comments »


Yang Wei is a master of the pipa, a semi-pear-shaped sound box with four strings that is the Chinese solo instrument of choice and that has a history back to the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.). Wei moved to the States a decade ago and has performed regularly as a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble since its founding. On this free lunchtime concert that is part of the Silk Road Chicago 2006 series, Wei performs a solo recital of traditional Chinese repertoire, but will also showcase some of his innovative experiments that creatively cross-fertilize key elements of the music of the East and West. Read the rest of this entry »