Posted inArts & Culture

Sweat equity, radical politics, and gentrification

Before Pilsen welcomed gallery spaces and Little Village became La Villita, the city’s Mexican population fought to make their voices heard and for places to live. Georgetown University historian Mike Amezcua chronicles this decades-long struggle in his compelling Making Mexican Chicago: From Postwar Settlement to the Age of Gentrification, published in February by University of […]

Posted inMusic

A tribute to Syl and Jimmy Johnson

Chicago shaped Jimmy and Syl Johnson, and the brothers stayed grounded here even as they became global heroes. The singer-guitarists moved up from Mississippi after World War II and played blues and R&B, carving out their own spaces within those sounds. They had outwardly contrasting personalities and their careers took different paths; they worked together […]

Posted inMusic

Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger address cultural issues from lockdown on Force Majeure

For the past few months, bassist Dezron Douglas and harpist Brandee Younger have dealt with the necessity of social distancing with their own kind of intimate gigs: a series of quietly uplifting performances streamed live through a shared microphone from their Manhattan apartment. Force Majeure collects a dozen of these songs along with brief, perceptive […]

Posted inMusic

Papo Vázquez leads his Mighty Pirate Troubadours through an uplifting blend of jazz and Caribbean rhythms

Trombonist Papo Vázquez had plenty of reasons to feel reflective this past spring. He was about to record Breaking Cover, his tenth album under his own name, and he’d spent more than 40 years performing with some of New York’s top Latin ensembles, among them Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band and the Fania All-Stars. The […]

Posted inMusic

Paulette McWilliams’s A Woman’s Story shows why stars have always relied on her voice

In the early 1970s, singer Paulette McWilliams quit ascending Chicago R&B group Rufus and recommended that her friend, Chaka Khan, take over the lead spot. The decision benefited everyone, even (and arguably especially) McWilliams, who dodged the pitfalls of limelight while continuing to work constantly in music. By the time she relocated to Los Angeles […]

Posted inMusic

The Awakening’s reissue of 1972’s Hear, Sense and Feel still uplifts through jazz and R&B

When the Awakening formed in the early 1970s, they combined veterans of Chicago’s R&B sessions and jazz players affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The sextet drew on these diverse sources for its 1972 debut album, Hear, Sense and Feel, which is being reissued domestically this month as part of Real […]