25th Nov2013

Prism Takes the Stage at SPACE

by rockchicago

They took the stage like master carpenters arriving at a job, sharpening tools and getting ready to construct a very abstract design, which they did quite well in a short hour and a half construction time.

The job foreman, Dave Holland, set the mood with a fusion piece so the rest of the workers could warm up and set their levels. His solid bass playing is the backbone of the quartet and the rest of the band seem to honor his benevolent dictatorship.

Kevin Eubanks saws the edges of the prism electrically since he was the only one “plugged in.” His speed and agility punctuate the precise fluidity of the canvas backdrop and, like a painter, he accents the landscape to bring it to life. Keyboardist Craig Taborn experiments with sound textures that you would never expect to hear in this context. Like a rough carpentry expert, he constructs a framework that doesn’t seem to fit until he sands it down and you finally see it fits with precision. Precision – that is the key, and master finish carpenter, drummer Eric Harland, dots the T’s and crosses the eyes with the tenacity of a brain surgeon. His syncopations and signature changes are executed with authority and precision that only real well-trained journeymen can comprehend.

The avant-garde eccentricity of the combined ensemble reflects the band name “Prism” well, as one beam of light is diffused into all the colors of the world. I believe I can see the light!

The only question that plagues me after the show was why it was not built at the Jazz Showcase, where there seems to be a greater Jazz snobbery understanding audience. Maybe there is hope for Jazz after all. Maybe the intelligence surrounding Evanston’s SPACE with Northwestern University is the perfect venue for artists like this. It was certainly refreshing to be able to witness these masters at work and get a break away from the normal mundane commercially accessible “smooth” Jazz, or anything with a horn in it that the masses call Jazz.

Reviewed by Earl Rosen on 10/1/13

25th Nov2013

THE MAGIC OF MOTOWN LIGHTS UP THE HOLIDAY SEASON WITH THE “MARY WILSON HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR Featuring special guests The Four Tops”

by rockchicago

 

The Holiday Season gets a taste of the Motown Sound as “Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Topsblows into the Windy City December 23, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph St.) Presented by Reach Out Entertainment and Starvox Entertainment and Marketing, audiences will be taken on a journey through some of the greatest Motown hits as well as Holiday classics by Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes and the legendary Four Tops, celebrating 60 years of performing in 2013. Pre-sale tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) go on sale Tuesday, October 22 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com with an American Express Card. General Public tickets go on sale Sunday, October 27 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, HarrisTheaterChicago.org, by calling 312.334.7777 or at the Harris Theater Box Office. For more information visit marywilsonandthefourtops.com.

It is a dream to celebrate the Holiday season in Chicago,” said performer Mary Wilson. “To perform with my good friends The Four Tops while singing the great songs that introduced us to world combined with some of my favorite Holiday tunes, is the perfect way to usher in the New Year and celebrate the spirit of the season.”

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular” stars the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and Vocal Group Hall of Fame recipient Mary Wilson who will treat audiences to rousing renditions of some of the signature songs that catapulted the Supremes to become the most successful “girl group” in history. Favorites include “Stop In The Name of Love,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “Come See About Me,” “Can’t Hurry Love,” “Back In Your Arms Again,” Someday We’ll Be Together” and many more. Abdul “Duke” Fakir, leading The Four Tops will also bring the music of Motown to life with “Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Bernadette” and “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” and “In The Still of the Night.” Wilson and The Four Tops will then join together on stage, putting the Motown sound into everyone’s favorite holiday classics including “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Winter Wonderland,” “My Favorite Things” and a special rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” sung by Wilson and Fakir. These living legends bring their soul and passion to the stage, embracing the warmth of the season and welcoming in a new year with memorable songs that are sure to have audiences singing along and embracing the spirit and the sounds of holiday.

We are so thrilled to bring together some of Motown’s living legends and present them to Chicago audiences during the holiday season, said Starvox President Corey Ross.” Both Mary Wilson and the Four Tops have continued to delight audiences for decades and to see them join together on one stage and showcase their incredible talent will be a holiday treat for all.”

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guests The Four Tops:”

Monday, December 23, 2013 – Sunday, January 5, 2014

December 23, 25 – 29, 31 and January 2 – 4 at 8:00 p.m.

December 28 and January 4 – 5 at 3:00 p.m.

December 31 at 10 p.m. (Special New Year’s Eve performance, details TBD)
*no performances December 24 and December 30

Tickets ($59.99 – $119.99) are available online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling
312.334.7777 or in-person at the Harris Theater Box Office (205 E. Randolph St.). Discounted Group Ticket reservations are available for groups of 10 or more at
Grouptix.net or by calling 773-327-3778.

30th Aug2013

Tony Bennett Arrives Home at Ravinia

by rockchicago

Tony Bennett had an outstanding performance at Ravinia on Thursday the 22nd of August.  Ravinia is a wonderful setting to see a show like for a number of reasons.
First, there are plenty of great options for dinner but the Park View restaurant is a great choice with an amazing view of the treetops that populate the lawn.  The menu is varied and it is filled with food and wine that a fine dining enthusiast would enjoy.  The staff is courteous and professional and the décor is modern and exciting.  This makes it an ideal place to get diner before the show.  Be sure to make reservations in advance as this is a very popular destination for concert goers.
Seeing Tony Bennett and his daughter Antonia in the Pavilion was a unique experience.   The Pavilion has ample seating  but is still small enough to afford that intimate feel that music fans crave.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house and there are two large projection screens for video during the show for close up shots.
The lighting and sound was top notch and were on par for what one would expect from a venue of this size and reputation.  The sound pressure levels were perfect and all the musicians in the mix could be heard well.
The show began with Tony Bennett’s daughter Antonia Bennett.  She opened the show with classics such as; “Too Marvelous for Words”, “Here I go again” and “From This Moment On”.  She also performed the title track off her recent album “Embraceable You”.
Antonia is a talented and skillful vocalist and it is clear that in her case, the apple did not fall far from the tree.  Her range is expansive and flexible and she moves through the vocal lines with a relaxed and fluid manner.   Her voice is sweet and soft in the intimate passages and strong and vibrant when she needs to bring a number to an exciting finish.  She was a pleasure to listen to and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.
After an opening of 5 or 6 songs, Tony Bennett joined his daughter on stage with a thrilling sound clip featuring The Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, singing the praises of Tony’s artistry.   Mr. Bennett opened with the classic “Watch What Happens” and proceeded to fill the rest of the evening with other classics such as : “I’ve Got Rhythm”, “As Time Goes By”, “Steppin Out With My Baby” and “Just the Way You Look Tonight”.  He even played his signature tune: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.
Mr. Bennett’s voice is still remarkable even after a long and productive career and he has retained the rich timbre and accurate pitch that he has always been known for.  He sings effortlessly and smoothly and fills the stage with a huge dark Tenor tone.  He sounds amazing and is significantly more impressive live than he might seem on a recording.
Mr. Bennett’s masterful approach to his craft really became apparent as he progressed through these classic standards.  His phrasing and timing was characteristically his while still highlighting the most interesting passages of these melodies.  He adeptly honored the time proven texts of these masters such as Gershwin and Mercer while interjecting his own style in such as way as to bring these classics to life in a way that only a Master Musician can.  Seeing Mr. Bennett live and in person will leave you with a new appreciation of this great artist.
Mr. Bennett’s song choices were interesting and well varied.  He performed a variety of tempos and styles from big wide Count Basie style swing feels to Bossa Novas.  The show was paced well and never dragged even for a moment.
The band was tight and always played with excellent taste.  They played as one and provided smooth segues between vocal passages and instrumental solos.  Gray Sargent, the guitarist, had many fine solos which he executed with flawless technique while playing tastefully and authentically for these tunes.  His tone was dark and clean like Joe Pass and blended remarkably well with the band and Mr. Bennett’s voice.
Overall, the entire show was one delightful surprise after the next.  It was remarkably entertaining on many levels whether you are a Tony Bennett fan from way back or a music fan that enjoys great players and amazing performances.   There was always something everyone could enjoy at this show.  I would highly recommend seeing this show and I plan to see him at the next opportunity I get.
Reviewed by Michael Hesiak on 8/22/13
08th Aug2013

Steely Dan is “Home at Last” at Ravinia

by rockchicago

 

Night 1 of a 2-night stint of the legendary Steely Dan begins! As always, a trip out to Ravinia Festival is always a joy, as tonight one of my favorite bands Steely Dan is hitting the stage. Comprised of original songwriting partners Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the two proved they still have the musical chops to pull out all their hits.

The band were now called The Bipolar All-Stars. Before Donald and Walt came out, the band performed the Gerry Mulligan cover “Blueport.” After that, the men came out and went right into a string of their hits including “Your Gold Teeth,” “Aja,” “Hey Nineteen,” “Showbiz Kids,” “Black Friday,” “Black Cow,” “Bodhisattva,” “Home at Last” and “Josie” among others.

The bands backup singers were called The Borderline Brats. They all showcased their vocals on a great rendition of “Razor Boy.” Walter Becker even showed his chops on the jazzy “Monkey in Your Soul.”

For most of the night, musical director Jon Herington blew everyone away on guitar, taking turns with Becker.

After seeing the Dukes of September review at Ravinia last year with Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, I noticed that of all the vocalists, Fagen was one of the strongest. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call Fagen a singer. This time around, he showed the audience he can still play and sing a lot of the hits everyone knows. I must admit, I was a little bummed they didn’t play Aja in its entirety, but at least they played a good amount of songs from the album.

The band ended their set with “My Old School” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” which is always the big crowd pleaser. They cam back out for one encore which was “Kid Charlemagne.” I really wished they played a couple more, like “Deacon Blues” or “Dr. Wu.” As Becker and Fagen and the backup singers walked off the stage for the last time, the band closed out the show with the “Untouchables Theme,” which was an interesting way to close the show.

All in all, I must admit, I was expecting more from Steely Dan. But, on the other hand, this is the first time I got to see the band live and that was well worth it in itself. Hopefully the next time they come around, they’ll do the full albums again. If you do get the chance to see the band, you should.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 8/1/13

09th Apr2013

WAR & Tower of Power Bring the Brass to the Arcada

by rockchicago

 

It is a good thing I have insurance because this past Saturday I spent three hours at the clinic. The clinic was at the beautiful, historic Arcada Theater in St Charles and the clinic was put on by two of the best veteran bands you can ever hear: WAR and Tower of Power. Hands down two of the best live bands you will ever hear. Even though either band has enough hits in their combined ninety year history to headline they must have flipped a coin and WAR opened the clinic….and most impressively …ON TIME.  WAR wasted no time either getting the crowd moving to their timeless funk hits and the funk did hit. Lonnie and boys entertained and joked with the crowd as if we were all a part of the same 4th of July barbeque family reunion. They also went into a 70s LP jam session that took us on a journey through not only funk but also reggae, jazz, and even a little Tejano and who would have thunk even a bit of Minnie Ripperton’s Loving You. Percussion partners Sal Rodriguez on drums and Marcos Reyes on congas and timbales are living metronomes that beat their drums like they owed these guys money. With Poncho on bass and Stuart on guitar WAR’s rhythm section made their statement early. “We mean business”. WAR’s brass section of Stanley Behren on harmonica and David Urquidi on sax cement that very unique WAR sound that only they can produce.  Oh how can I forget the reason WAR exists and thrived for over forty years, the grand poobah himself, Lonnie Jordan. Lonnie IS the one to watch as he works his musical magic and keeps the show moving at an “I can’t stop dancing pace”.  This master of funk could not hide the fact that he also has a beautiful voice that rivals many of those  American Idol contestants would love to copy. Halfway through the clinic and my heart rate would not slow.

The theme of the night continued with Tower of Power. One of the first songs they played was “You ought to be having fun” and they were….and so were we. One of the greatest things about TOP is that every player is equally talented. A pulmonary specialist would be in awe to see their five piece horn section breathe in unity as they hit every deliberate, precise note sprinkled with some hot “where did that come from soloing” as well as Doc’s better than Fred Astaire’s dance moves (remember Fred Astaire is dead). As with WAR, TOP’s rhythm cannot be stopped.  Percussion award winning drummer David Garibaldi, Rocco “16th note” Prestia, Larry Braggs, and new comer Jerry Cortez were having a party within a party producing their seemingly effortless groove. Even though the boys were dressed for a neighborhood poker game Larry Braggs came out in a suit that would make you beg for an autograph without knowing anything about him. He controlled the crowd with his charm and oh yeah I forgot, this former Chicagoan can sing…I mean sang like no other can. As they played their hits they also morphed their way into a James Brown medley that would make JB and his Famous Flames proud. All this was topped with Larry’s “check James Brown’s DNA” to see if this guy is related” dance moves.

Anyone who has followed these bands over the years can expect the same thing year after year….perfection!!! These bands are tighter than my pants after an extended trip to the $8 pizza buffet at Pizza Hut.  I can honestly say that after my first visit to Arcada I was happier than a kid in a candy store and what do you know? The Arcada has a candy store right smack in the middle of the lobby.  Of course with my wife on my arm she made sure I didn’t quite make it in there. It was all good though because beer, wine, and mixed drinks are served. I will get my milk duds another day.

After the night was over my diagnosis was in. I am an incurable funkaholic and got a good dose.

Reviewed by Paul “Mr. U” Uhrina on 3/23/13

WVLP Valparaiso, Ind.

11th Dec2012

Chick Corea & Gary Burton Bring the “Hot House” Tour to the North Shore

by rockchicago

 

For my first time at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, it was really beautiful inside, and may I say, what a theatre! Tonight, 2 of the biggest legends in Jazz were playing the closing date of their tour here in Skokie; the incredible Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet.

They started out the night with Chick’s “Love Castle” and some classic material from their past repertoire with just the two of them on stage. I do have to say that I’ve never seen Gary Burton live. My guests who were my dad and the incredibly talented Howard Levy from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones have both seen him live in the past. I was told that he is the only vibraphone player to use a double mallet when performing.

After the short set of past material, they went into performing songs from their latest album Hot House which the tour is in support of. Hot House is an album of covers picked out by Chick and Gary. Some highlights from the album that they played included Art Tatum’s “Can’t We Be Friends,” Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House,” Thelonius Monk’s “Light Blue” and my personal favorite, The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

They ended the first set with “Strange Meadowlark,” a tribute to Dave Brubeck who recently passed away. Chick said that when he sent Brubeck the finished product of his song and sent it to him, he was very pleased.

For the second half of the show, the boys brought out the Harlem String Quartet, who sat in with them. The set consisted of a brand new composition that Chick decided to close the Hot House album with called “Mozart Goes Dancing.” It was probably one of the best songs of the night. There was also a point in the set where Chick arranged a piece just for the HSQ and it sounded superb. They closed out the show with a number from Chick called “La Fiesta,” which was cover from Return to Forever.

With the blend of Chick, Gary and the string quartet, you would not be disappointed. Gary Burton has to be one of the most amazing musicians you can witness onstage with his control, his playing and his technique. Same goes for Chick who is a mastermind with Jazz compositions. After all, Return to Forever was very successful throughout the years too. As a matter of fact, Return to Forever IV toured last year and released a new album entitled The Mothership Returns. If you have not heard this album, listen to it.

Overall, it was fantastic concert. Getting to see these two legends together was truly an honor; especially meeting them after the show with Howard Levy. Since Howard played with Chick on the last tour with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts is definitely a great theatre to see concerts at!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 12/6/12

10th Oct2012

Michael Feinstein Takes Us Through the Years

by rockchicago

 

Michael Feinstein presented a fantastic concert with the Jeff Lindbergh Orchestra on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at the beautiful Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. He was in fine voice and as charming as ever. He acknowledged his audience’s presence and never took them for granted. He would often share a little story or tell a silly joke, all the while engaging his audience. Musical Director and conductor Sam Kriger is to be applauded for some really fantastic melodies often melded together to create stunning renditions of popular songs arranged such that, at times,  three songs can sound like one glorious tune. The show started with a medley incorporating two well known Broadway tunes: “Luck Be A Lady” and “All I Need Is the Girl.” These songs really showed off Feinstein’s ability to sell a song and featured some strong brass from the orchestra.

He then sang a popular 1939 standard “I Thought About You” by Mercer and Van Heusen featuring a smokey saxophone solo by Eric Schneider. He made reference to the big band era and how that music was some of the finest. I am inclined to agree. Strong brass complimented Mr. Feinstein’s vocal chops in “Pick Up The Pieces,” which Feinstein ended in a sailing high note. He shared the observation that musicians write songs to make us fall in love. The irony of course is that most of the big band musicians ended up in divorce.

The next medley combined the songs “I Can Dream, Can’t I” and “I’ll Be Seeing You”. Once again, two songs melded together beautifully. This time he played one song on piano, while singing the other. Amazing showmanship and arranging. Michael is a brilliant singer and pianist. The orchestra got the spotlight playing a popular Brazilian song which made me think of high trapeze circus music. I am certain I’ve heard it as a child. Feinstein mentioned a Liberace piano contest that didn’t require sequins which certainly amused the audience. As a tribute to British artists Michael sang the Ray Noble tune “The Very Thought of You” with a stunning guitar solo by Pat Ferreri and trumpet by Danny Barber. He sang a show stopping rendition of Leslie Bircusse’ “What Kind of Fool Am I” connected to every lyric in honest emotion. He started the song in his low smokey baritone, changed keys and ended the song with a high note that I am sure could have been heard for miles. Truly amazing.

He ended the 50 minute first act with a salute to the big band era featuring a medley of “Let Yourself Go” and “Sing, Sing” After a 25 minute intermission, ten minutes too long, he got his audience right back in the palm of his hand by delivering the Oscar Winning song “Once In A Lifetime” by Kern and Fields. Follwing this he sang “The Way You Look Tonight” ending in another pure high note. He had a couple humorous moments in Act 2. First he acknowledged the prevalent Jewish community in the arts and observed how all of the Broadway successes are written in minor keys or “Jewish keys” as he joked. He also had an overzealous heckler or perhaps tipsy fan in the audience who he acknowledged that he needed his support to get through the show. Following this humorous interjection he sang “So In Love” from Cole Porter’s smash hit “Kiss Me Kate” with another fully orchestrated piano solo performed by Michael. I think he played every single note on that instrument. A wonderful moment to be sure.

He then saluted the classic Oscar winning films of the 1930′s and 1940′s with a lyrical blending of “When I Fall In Love” and “My Foolish Heart”. He told a wonderful story of the great Jerry Herman and Louis Armstrong at a family gathering at Herman’s home and did a fantastic vocal recreation of Louie using seldom heard lyrics to “Hello Dolly” that included the words, “You’re a gin and tonic when I’m feeling blue.” The salute was bridged with a full Dixieland sound from the orchestra and it finished with Feinstein using his own voice. He then actually took requests from the audience on what songs they’d like to hear on piano by the great Gershwins. He used this as an opportunity to make a quick humble plug for his Gershwin CD coming out later this October. He spun musical melodies from “Embraceable You”, “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me”, “The Man I Love” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay” on the piano.

Once again the vocal prowess of Mr. Feinstein was combined with the big brass sound of the orchestra on “The Beguine”. Mr. Feinsteins use of his pure falsetto tone was like silk. He ended the hour second act with “For Once In My Life” at which time the audience thought his concert had ended. Several audiences members left to beat the traffic, but the majority stayed only to be treated to not one but two full encores. ” The Lady Is A Tramp” and “New York, New York”, the latter which he proceeded to do a kick line on top of the piano and ended with another purely trained note at the top of his vocal range. The entire audience rose to their feet in a spontaneous show of affection and respect for this amazing talent. This American Songbook was a brilliantly orchestrated musical 2 hours of solid entertainment. Mr.Feinstein is a handsome, engaging talent with brilliant vocals and honest emotion. The sold out crowd had a wonderful treat.

Reviewed by John B. Boss on 9/29/12

29th Aug2012

Fagen Keeps The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue Alive at Ravinia

by rockchicago

 

On a beautiful Wednesday evening, folks were rushing to get their seats to “The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue,” a show that Donald Fagen of Steely Dan started up back in 2010 with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. The project is a resurrection of the previous New York Rock and Soul Revue which featured the same three musicians and played a combination of hits from the members respective careers as well as a wide variety of covers.

Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald began working together in the mid-1970s when McDonald would collaborate with Steely Dan, singing and playing keyboards on a lot of their material. The two worked together again during the early 1990s in the short lived New York Rock and Soul Revue which also included Boz Scaggs, Phoebe Snow, Eddie Brigati, David Brigati, Charles Brown, Walter Becker (of Steely Dan), Cornelius Bumpus and Mindy Jostyn.

With the bill strong as ever tonight, I was just waiting to see how they would each bring their own game. The big disappointment of the night is the disaster that has become Michael McDonald. When he was in The Doobie Brothers in the 70’s, his voice was up to par, but as years grew on, he obviously cannot hit the high notes that he used to. Every time McDonald had a high note to sing during the show, he would “cheat” the mic, by singing to the side of the microphone. That was very disappointing, since he “used to” be one of my favorites. McDonald sang through most of his old Doobie songs including “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” “What A Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It to the Streets.”

Donald Fagen was the highlight of the show. As I am not the biggest fan of Boz Scaggs, I’ve always loved the music of Steely Dan. Fagen took charge of the whole show, and when it came time to perform some Steely Dan songs, he was all over it. With songs like “Pretzel Logic,” “Kid Charlamagne,” “Hey Nineteen,” “Peg” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” Fagen proves he still has the chops to sing his own music. With facial and body antics like Joe Cocker, Fagen kept his Rhythm Revue alive with not just Steely Dan songs but other R&B artists’ songs too like “Who’s That Lady” by Isley Brothers, “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful,” “Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly & The Family Stone and “People Get Up” by James Brown.

Boz Scaggs was another highlight of the night. As I said before about how I am not a personal fan, the crowd sure did love him. Playing his hit songs like “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle,” everyone was so happy to hear those songs played to perfection. Scaggs also showed off on other songs too like “The Same Thing” by Willie Dixon, “Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry and “Love TKO” by Teddy Pendergrass.

The Rhythm Revue wouldn’t have been complete without the excellent backup vocals of Catherine Russell and Carolyn Leonhart. Those two together knocked all three of the featured singers out of the park. Russell blew everyone away with an outstanding version of “Piece of My Heart” originally by Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma Franklin, later covered by Janis Joplin. She later dueted with Scaggs on a great rendition of Boz’s songs “Miss Sun.”

Overall, this was a great show with great classics by great and legendary artists. Russell, Scaggs and Fagen brought the house down tonight. I only wish McDonald can focus on getting his notes right the next time around. It would be interesting if Fagen got more people involved. Special props for the night go to guitarist Jon Herington who was freakin’ outstanding throughout the night!

 

Dukes of September Rhythm Revue Setlist:

People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul / James Brown – vocal: Leonhart & Russell
That Lady / Isley Brothers – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
Sweet Soul Music / Arthur Conley – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near) / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald
Trouble Man / Marvin Gaye – vocal: Fagen
Kid Charlamagne / Steely Dan) – vocal: Fagen
The Same Thing / Willie Dixon – vocal: Scaggs
Miss Sun / Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs and Catherine Russell
Heard It Through The Grapevine / Gladys Knight – vocal: Carolyn Leonhart
Never Can Tell / Chuck Berry – vocal: Scaggs
Summer In The City / Lovin’ Spoonful – vocal: Fagen
If You Don’t Know Me By Now / Melvin & the Bluenotes – vocal: McDonald
What A Fool Believes / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald
Hey Nineteen / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen
Love TKO / Teddy Pendergrass – vocal: Scaggs
Piece Of My Heart / Erma Franklin – vocal: Catherine Russell
Peg / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen
Lowdown / Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs
Takin’ It To The Streets / Doobie Brothers – vocal: McDonald and Catherine Russell
Reelin’ In The Years / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen

Encore:

Lido Shuffle / Boz Scaggs – vocal: Scaggs
Pretzel Logic / Steely Dan – vocal: Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs
Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) / Sly & the Family Stone – vocal: Leonhart & Russell
Them Changes / Buddy Miles – vocal: McDonald
People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul (reprise) / James Brown – vocal: Leonhart & Russell

 

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 8/22/12

Rating: 3/5

18th Jul2012

Big Sam’s Funky Nation Storms Up Mayne Stage

by rockchicago

If you want to be knocked out by a wall of sound, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is the band to see. This high impact band is an explosion of sound that just keeps on going.
The group is headed up by Big Sam Williams on Trombone who has played with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band out of New Orleans. The group also features a typical New  Orleans type of line up with a Trumpet player, Drums and electric guitar and bass.
Out of the gate one can tell that this band has a lot of fun and they really know how to pump up the crowd. There is always plenty of audience participation and they know how to get the crowd going.
Although the band is from New Orleans, don’t expect to hear your father’s Traditional Jazz here.   This band does a great job of updating the New Orleans sound while still staying true to the roots. While their style might be best described as hard hitting funk, they definitely preserve the New Orleans Jazz flavor in their work somehow.
There is a fusion of a number of different styles and influences that make their overall sound fresh and interesting.  One can hear James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Rick James and even a touch of Rap in what they do.
Sam Williams dominates the scene with his mighty powerful trombone playing.  He has a big sound and it is forceful but well centered. His intonation is spot on and he is very agile on an instrument that makes it difficult to play quick successions of notes. He is an accomplished showman and regularly shouts out to the audience to get things going with the crowd.  They even have tunes that involve the crowd dancing.   In one tune they invited audience members up to dance solos in front of the crowd.   Those familiar with Big Sam’s work will remember these “Shake That Funky Donkey”events from past performances.   They certainly drew attention at this year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
The rest of the band is also comprised of very accomplished players.  Andrew Baham on trumpet is also a very strong player that plays precisely, definitively and with incredible force.  His solos were high impact and melodically interesting.  The bass player was rock solid and played with excellent time.   The drummer was also very impressive and always played with rock solid time and high energy.
High energy is the best way to describe this band.   They understand the dynamics of jamming and building up energy. It was not long before everyone in Mayne Stage was dancing or at least moving to the music.   They also played continuously as a DJ would, transitioning from song to song smoothly. As soon as they had the crowd grooving on one thing they would morph it into another great groove. They just built this up more and more over their set until they had the whole house rocking.
This band is definitely worth seeing.   They have a great sound that is interesting and entertaining and they are fun to watch. Just make sure you bring comfortable shoes because it is highly likely that you will spend most of the show on your feet!
Reviewed by Michael Hesiak on 7/13/12
29th Jun2012

Soul Rebels Funk it Up at SPACE

by rockchicago

Photo by Neil Rigler

 

The Soul Rebels arrived in Evanston Thursday night fresh on the heels of appearances at Jazz festivals in Ottawa and Toronto, at the end of a month that took them from Bonnaroo to Metallica’s Orion Festival in Atlantic City.  The mere thought of seeing these ambassadors of a proud New Orleans brass band tradition in the intimate confines of Evanston’s outstanding Space had me excited for a rare opportunity.  To say I walked away fully satisfied only begins to tell the story of the joy of music these eight talented musicians represent.

With a 5-piece brass section, one saxophone, and two percussionists, the band worked their way through an impressive range of sounds, and a groove that barely paused over the course of a 90-minute set.  Their opening instrumental set the tone for the dance party that was to follow with up-tempo beats and alternating solos from each of the men on the front line as a way of introducing themselves.  Two trumpets, two trombones and Erion WIlliams’s great saxophone work played melodies and harmonies over the stellar bass grooves Edward Lee, Jr. pounded out on the sousaphone all night.   Many times I found myself looking around for a secret bass guitar helping with the funk, but this was not a night for electronic instruments.  This was all about the physicality and power of brass, sax, and percussion.

Their chant of “ain’t nothin’ but a party y’all” at the start of their second song brought to mind the work of the recently deceased Chuck Brown or Trouble Funk, both masters of the DC go-go scene years ago.  It got the middle of the room dancing – the people seated at tables on the sides would have their turn in an hour or so.  But the Soul Rebels wouldn’t be content with referencing just one type of music or song.  Quite the opposite.  By the end of the night I felt like they took my whole record collection and reworked it, reshuffled it, and made it their own.  So when Julian Gossin and Marcus Hubbard quoted Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” on their trumpets, it just fit right in with the flow.  Songs by turn included Afro-Cuban rhythms, Latin beats, Calypso, Reggae, and, dare I say, all that jazz.

The set included many songs from their widely-praised cd from earlier this year, “Unlock Your Mind” (Rounder).  “Turn It Up,” “My Time,” and “Showtime” were standouts along the way.  As the infectious groove kept rolling along, largely due to the tight and relentless beats from Derrick Moss and Lumar Leblanc, the band wanted the people seated at tables on the sides to join in the party.  They found a perfect solution in a dynamite cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” which segued into Parliament’s “Give Up the Funk,” but only long enough to be the perfect tease.  “In New Orleans we don’t have chairs,” Williams told the crowd, “so get on up,” while the band provided the perfect James Brown quote to go along with the sentiment.

Paul Robertson and Corey Payton’s work on trombone was a thrill to watch all night and  earned a new level of appreciation of its range from me.  Corey and Julian took center stage as the mood turned to hip-hop as the set turned to a close.  It was a daring reach for a group with such deep traditional roots.  I asked him about it afterward and he said their goal is to “touch on every aspect of music” with “no limitations” so they can “reach everyone we can.”  Powerful thoughts – ones they’ve proven by their appearance at Metallica’s 30th anniversary last year.  When asked about how that crowd received them, Corey glowed: “They took to it! It was all about acceptance.”

The set came to a close with an ode to the area code of New Orleans, “5-0-4,” followed by their biggest hit, a cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.”  By then, the whole room was dancing.  When the band finished their set, people stuck around for pictures and hugs with the band – nobody wanted the love to end.

A quotation from a reviewed posted on the Soul Rebels website speaks of them as “the missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong” – their music and stunning performance tonight proved that true.  Be sure to catch them when they return to Martyrs’ in late August – they’ll be busy touring Europe and elsewhere in the meantime, converting music lovers into members of their beloved 5-0-4.

Reviewed by Neil Rigler on 6/28/12

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