It must be surreal to be a towering figure in your field but still have to explain who you are to almost everyone you meet. I’m sure scientists are used to it—their work doesn’t exactly put their faces in front of the public—but I’ll never get why the reputations of blues musicians travel so poorly […]
The Hyde Park Jazz Festival defied the pandemic with ingenious safety accommodations in 2020, presenting 18 brief pop-up concerts in parks, pedways, and sidewalks between 40th and 61st Streets, all announced at the last minute to minimize crowding. Last year the festival strived for a return to normalcy and almost got there, booking a slightly […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Pioneering house DJ Lori Branch shouts out her fellow Windy City originators, including Chaka Khan and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
By the early 90s Lurrie Bell didn’t even own a guitar anymore, but now he’s got a shelf full of Blues Music Awards.
This year’s lineup details a sprawling cross section of the genre, including world-changing explorers the Art Ensemble of Chicago, trad band the Fat Babies, venerable guitarist George Freeman, and restless experimenter Rob Mazurek.
Guitarist George Freeman and harmonica player Billy Branch demonstrate the common roots of the sounds they love.
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 […]
As a bandleader and an educator, harmonica master Billy Branch links blues tradition to the genre’s evolving future.
Che “Rhymefest” Smith’s devotion to Chicago’s black cultural legacy finds a new outlet in a Billy Branch remix.
The Chicago Blues Festival moves to Millennium Park for 2017, with an adventurous bill that includes Rhymefest, Rhiannon Giddens, and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
Every set at the 2017 Blues Festival, from Friday morning through Sunday night on all five stages in Millennium Park