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Boogie-woogie 2, pandemic 0

We won’t know the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many years, not least because they haven’t stopped piling up. Bodily sickness, mental illness, financial loss—everyone seems to have been afflicted differently, and the effects on our medical, political, social, and economic systems compound those individual misfortunes. New variants, vaccine updates, and long COVID are […]

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Bringing the blues back home

This year, the Chicago Blues Festival will again include shows on the west and south sides as well as in Millennium Park. The agendas of these neighborhood shows are more ambitious, though, than just getting a collection of locally rooted musicians onto the same stage. Both are presented in coordination with larger projects intended to […]

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Venerable jazz guitarist George Freeman celebrates 95 years with a new compilation

Legendary Chicago jazz guitarist George Freeman has been honing his dynamic, explosive style since the 1940s, working with dozens of the genre’s hall of famers, including Charlie Parker, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Gene Ammons, Jimmy McGriff, Buddy Rich, Shirley Scott, and his brothers Von and Bruz Freeman. On Sunday, April 10, Freeman turns 95, and to mark […]

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The blues has become part of Chicago’s DNA

Blues music thrives on live interaction between performer and audience, but for nearly a year and a half, that’s been in short supply. Clubs are caught between “waiting to reopen” and “slowly coming back,” and Millennium Park has been largely quiet—for two Junes running, the city has canceled the Chicago Blues Festival. Our blues artists […]

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Harpist Billy Branch draws from blues history to invigorate his sound

Blues tributes are too often dire affairs—note-for-note reworkings of timeworn ideas and riffs that betray an almost puritanical obsession with “authenticity.” That approach, of course, dishonors the spirit of the music it purports to celebrate—Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James, all of whom attract frequent tributes, weren’t purists or revivalists but instead radically reimagined […]