Posted inArts & Culture

Kahil El’Zabar Quartet with David Murray

David Murray’s expressionistic tenor work has infuriated as many listeners as it has impressed. Supporters revel in his extended upper-register flights and ballsy rhythmic drive; detractors complain about uninformed squawks, repetitive phrasing, and general showboating. I wonder how much of the controversy has to do with the circumstances of Murray’s arrival on the scene. Having […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Field & Street

The summer heat has gotten sullen. Zucchini and tomato plants thrive in the sweating air. My zucchini explode at dawn with gigantic yellow blossoms, and before you know it inflate their fruit to the size of dirigibles. I walk from neighbor to neighbor offering these fine logs of food, good only for zucchini Parmesan and […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Reel Life: rescued rock

In the late 80s Penn Jillette (of the magic/comedy team Penn and Teller) did two things that may have saved the rock band Half Japanese from permanent obscurity. First he rescued the master tapes to the band’s landmark Charmed Life album from a label deadbeat in LA who sat on them for several frustrating years […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Grant Park Symphony Orchestra

Tania Leon’s twangy, distinctive music draws heavily on the Afro-Cuban and Latin influences that make up her cultural heritage. She received her musical training first in Havana (her birthplace), then in New York (her adopted hometown). While studying composition at NYU and conducting at Tanglewood in 1968, she met up with Arthur Mitchell, and together […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Los Munequitos de Matanzas

Like other Cuban musicians such as Lazaro Ros and Orlando “Puntilla” Rios–who have both performed in Chicago within the past year–Los Munequitos de Matanzas are masters of roots rumba. This hauntingly beautiful music wraps a paper-thin Spanish veneer over a visceral and intellectual feast of polyrhythmic percussion, Yoruba chanting, and dance, all derived directly from […]

Posted inMusic

Redneck Raunch

HANK WILLIAMS JR. STAR PLAZA THEATRE, JULY 22 Like a beefier, unhinged version of the hillbilly in the TV commercial who asks the dowager to “please pass the jelly,” Hank Williams Jr. is a man who calls it as he sees it. It’s not that he doesn’t have any manners; they’re just complicated, family-specific ones. […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Mitchell-Ruff Duo

One night only, step right up, ladies and gents, for perhaps the most oddly instrumented “group” in jazz. Dwike Mitchell plays piano; Willie Ruff plays French horn and bass (though not at the same time), and for 40 years they’ve managed to make this unbalanced tripod stand up. Give much of the credit to Mitchell: […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Edward Petersen

For the better part of nine years, the unsinkable saxophonist Ed Petersen has appeared every week at the Green Mill, helming a band that matches his intensity and versatility–which alone would place it among the best bands in town. At the beginning of this week, during his penultimate Monday-night performance, Petersen called the catchy but […]