*The Loews Chicago O'Hare Hotel, home to the Montrose Room, is offering discounted room rates for those attending this show. Book a room, stay 'til the very last note of the final encore and don't worry about having to make the drive home! For information, click here.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: A sneak peek at the Acoustic Alchemy set list October 25 at the Montrose Room.
Keeping jazz alive and flowing in a city the size of Chicago sounds like it would be an easy feat, but not always. Like everything in life, jazz has its ups and downs. Case in point, The Jazz Showcase.
In the 1980s, it was in a beautiful room just off the lobby of the Blackstone Hotel. Then someone had the bright idea to remodel the Blackstone into condos, and the Showcase had to relocate. But that was not the first time Joe Segal moved his life's work. It has been on Rush Street, the Northside, in the Lincoln Park, Near North, and a space on Navy Pier. Since 2008, it's been nestled on the east side of the re-purposed Polk Street Station.
The incomparable, irrepresible Joe Segal
When you think about it, being in all those places is not a bad track record for a true Chicago institution that has been in operation since 1947. It never strayed far from its point of origin, the mind of Joe Segal, a student attending Roosevelt University. He opened what's been tagged "Chicago’s Jazz listening room" and has presided over it ever since, with a huge banner of Charlie Parker in attendance. At 88, Joe still greets his guests at the door, ready for pleasant conversation and good music.
On Wednesday, October 22nd, the city is going to say thanks to Joe for his stewardship of Jazz with an honorary street sign. Joe Segal Way will run from the corner of Polk at Plymouth Court, past the windows of the Showcase to the end of the block.
Leandro "Gato" Barbieri, the man behind the Smooth Jazz classic, "Europa"
In jazz, a song can grow and evolve like a person. It can change its mood, its tempo, even its lyric or title. Sometimes the change of artist or instrument is what makes the difference. Sometimes things just morph because they are so good, they just get better and better.
Folks who listened to smooth jazz in the evenings from 1988 to 2009, remember “Europa” as the theme song for Danae Alexander’s Lights Out Chicago show. Anytime I heard Gato Barbieri’s sax being plays on WNUA 95.5, I would look around to see if I had lost track of time and it was suddenly 7 o’clock in the evening!
Herb Alpert has put his jazzy spin on it and oh boy, is it good. You can find it on his CD Steppin' Out. (Still makes me thinks it’s time for a cocktail or two). But the origins of "Europa" are a twisty trail that winds through smooth jazz, pop, Mexico, Chile and France.
I always thought that the original composer was Gato, but one source said it was done by the equally wonderful Carlos Santana. Thinking back, I did remember him doing it in the early 1970’s. That made me wonder if it was one of his Woodstock set, so I dug a bit deeper on the title. The first website I visited said that in the '70s and '80s, "Europa" was the most highly requested wedding song on the continent, which makes sense given the name and because as a first dance or even as the recessional march, it’s romantic and stately. But it seemed that Carlos worked on it then put it aside for years before he and Tom Coster recorded it in 1976 for the Amigos album, so it was not in existence as Europa for Woodstock. Or was it?
That is when I stumbled across someone saying that Santana had transmuted it from another group, The Black Angels, a Chilean/Mexican balladeer group that recorded a song called titled “Y Volvere” back in 1969. Loosely translated, it means "I will return." It’s a song about love that has gone bad. In the translation I read, the singer thinks that after time apart, they will come back together. There is a recording of them performing it on YouTube from 1972.
I thought this is where the trail ends, but I was wrong. In another article, The Black Angels accredited the song to French singer/composer Alain Barriere, (no relation to Gato Barbieri who is from Argentina). He wrote and recorded it a year earlier in 1968. Titled "Emporte Moi,” meaning ‘Set me free.'
In the “Emporte Moi” version, the beautiful long intro is done on a Hammond B3 organ followed by sexy baritone voice. The “Y Volvere” version starts with a guitar and blends in an electric keyboard behind a very plaintiff Spanish vocal. When it becomes "Europa," it goes totally instrumental. Santana uses his guitar to speak for him, Gato belts it out on his sax and Herb trumpet us into the mood. Now that’s jazz evolution at work!
Born the day after April Fool’s in 1943, Larry Coryell defies classification. When I looked him up in my jazz encyclopedias, one of them put him in with the blues players while calling him a fusion artist while the other one totally ignored him.
To rectify this error, I went out to the Tune Genie at SmoothJazzChicago.net and plugged in his name in the search box. There are over ninety Larry Coryell songs to choose from. And there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. On a rainy morning, I got totally captivated by that playlist.
Of course, I started with a favorite of mine, Larry’s take on Wes Montgomery’s "Bumpin' on Sunset," called "Angel on Sunset," done with keyboardist/arranger Don Sebesky. At times it’s bigger and more orchestrated than Wes' version, but Larry stays remarkably true to the original. There are points in the song when I can’t tell who I am listening to, yet when Larry and Don break into an echoing rift, you know that you are in updated territory. Next, I tried "Feels Like Making Love," a tune that really shows how he stays melodically true to a song while adding his own jazzy rifts ebb and flow within the structure of said melody.
But to get a true read on this wonderful guitarist, I suggest you listen to three pieces that demonstrate his virtuosity. Click on "Nefertiti," which has a video that shows him giving advice to up and coming artists complete with snippets of his playing, then listen to "Black Orpheus" for a Brazilian flavor and, lastly, "Improvisation on Bolero," which will show you his classical mode.
And if you want more, check out his website. Myself, I’m diving back into the bottle with the TuneGenie to see what else I can find.
BTW, you can catch him live at Chicago's Jazz Showcase later in the month. He and his trio, featuring Larry Gray and Paul Wertico, open a four-nighter October 16.
One of the things that I love most about jazz is the element of surprise. Artists take a familiar melody, play it and improvise around it. They ebb and flow in both the compositions and the bands that they perform with.
For instance, I just knew I had the answer to the Smooth Jazz Coffee Break Quiz one morning – all the clues seemed to line up to a blog piece I had started, so with my Encyclopedia of Jazz at one hand and a cup in the other, I waited to hear the answer.
Holy Kona, Batman, was I ever wrong!
Across the airwaves came one of my late father’s favorite smooth jazz cuts, Craig Chaquico’s "Sacred Ground. "
My trusty six pound reference book published in 2007 didn’t have Craig Chaquico in it at all. They did have the jazz group called Hot Tuna which another guitarist from Jefferson Airplane formed. Grabbing another less weighty but still jammed packed (pun intended) reference book, I found that Craig wasn’t in there either. That meant they were defining him as a rocker, not a jazz man. Off to do some research.
First, I went to Wikipedia, where I found out that when he was twelve years old, he was badly injured in a car accident. It broke his arms and hands very badly. His father, who was in the accident too, told Craig that Les Paul had used playing his guitar as a form of physical therapy when he had a bad injury and if Craig would do the same, he would buy him a Les Paul guitar when his casts came off. He did and to this day, Craig believes in the power of music to heal. He’s an avid supporter of the American Music Therapy Association, member of Bikers for Charity, Harley Davidson's charitable effort supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association and when the Carvin Corporation makes one of Craig’s signature model guitars, a tree is planted.
At 16, Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane asked him to join the band. Craig stayed with them through all three phases of the band, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship. With the band and as a studio musician, he has played with some of the biggest and the best, from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to Santana and Russ Freeman of the Rippingtons.
Next, I went to his website. Here I was stopped in my tracks. After checking out the pictures, I found that his next gig, on October 11th is as a featured speaker, not a performer, at the Portland Creative Conference aka Cre8con.
The about section of the Cre8con website explains the event as follows: Cre8con . . . is an interdisciplinary exploration and celebration of the creative process across various creative industries. The conference features keynote presentations from leading creatives who reveal their work and talk about their process, secrets, influences and inspirations.
No wonder he defies definition. Check him out here.
The Sunday Brunch will be back on location for three live broadcasts on 90.9fm WDCB this fall, with wonderful food, a magnificent view and live music! Our show will originate from Waterleaf Restaurant in Glen Ellyn from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on the following dates:
October 19 (with singer Rose Colella and her ensemble) SOLD OUT
Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Please call (630) 942-6881 or visit the Waterleaf site to make an online reservation via OpenTable.com.
Featuring a variety of fresh and seasonally inspired items on a moderately priced a la carte brunch menu, Waterleaf has earned Diner's Choice Awards for Best Ambience, Best Overall, Best Service, Fit for Foodies and Special Occasion on OpenTable.com, where it maintains a 4.6/5.0 rating. In addition, Waterleaf recently received a three-star "Excellent" rating in a review by the Chicago Tribune's food critic Phil Vettel.
See you at Waterleaf this fall!
~Rick O'Dell (FmAm1@aol.com)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Executive Chef Nadia Tilkian describes the fine dining experience at Waterleaf.
She called him a freak of nature – he smiled and said thank you. He said he started as a singing waiter and he loved it. He sounds amazed that he is still doing what he loves, but without the clank of plates and trays in the background.
When they met at a charity event, she climbed up a ladder from the main floor, in the middle of the audience to the balcony, to serenade him! And from the photo, I would say it was not a publicity stunt. She hadn't planned it because the ladder was a Home Depot variety from backstage, not something gussied up with bling and ribbons, which would have been so her way of doing things. They are both Italian Americans, both New Yorkers and that’s the basis of their mutual understanding, they say.
Later, he was the one who asked her to do an album. She was excited because she said no one realized that she was a jazz singer under all the hype, the glitz and the glamour. She admits that she was on her way to burning out from all the meteoric success she'd had. He didn’t want her career to fizzle, so he decided to help expand her audience, to give her another genre. Just like another famous Italian singer did for him when he was a young up and coming performer.
She says, with a tear in her eye, that jazz makes her happy. I can't agree more. Jazz makes me happy, too.
She says that he helped her get rid of her demons. For his 88th birthday, she sent him not a card or a cake, but had a gigantic banner flown over the skies of Los Angeles for three hours. He loved it.
Who are these people you ask? Why, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga! And the CD (album if you're over 35) is called Cheek to Cheek. It debuts September 23.
P.S. I want to thank CBS Sunday Morning for doing a piece on them and inspiring me to recount it here for the blog. For fashion advice from the Lady check out this video.
I sure hope Bill Cochran (above) enjoys being the inspiration for this one. His show is a foodie's dream!
Early Sunday morning I found myself wandering around. I saw Boney James and Rick Braun jamming atop a make-shift stage fashioned from wooden crates marked Salt Peanuts while Dizzy Gillespie stood offstage waiting his turn. I wondered why they weren’t all Grazing in the Grass with me. But suddenly I heard Come And Get It, so I headed for the pavilion where Fattburger was Sizzlin with All Natural Ingredients. They were definitely On a Roll. The smell of Green Onions made me turn around. There was Booker T and the MG’s stirring up big pots of Red Beans And Rice.
Before I could get close enough to ask for an autograph, a group of children ran past me waving handfuls of Michael Franks’ Popsicle Toes! Shaking my head, I wondered why their mothers hadn’t given them his Eggplant instead or even a good serving of Ray Charles’ Stringbean.
Passing a gleaming white door, Diana Krall said Peel Me A Grape to Cab Calloway. Always the gentleman, he flashed her his trademark smile and said Everyone Eats At My House. Swinging the door open, I could see Louis Armstrong Struttin with Some Barbeque toward a table covered with a blue and white checkered cloth. Behind that table stood Nat King Cole’s Swingers spreading Frim Fram Sauce on plates of Kelsey Grammer’s Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.
Moving into the living room, I saw Frank Sinatra sitting behind a big, low table on elegant leather couch. He was singing The Coffee Song as he added a heaping dab of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream to his cup. Myself, I opted for a mug of Santana’s rich Black Coffee which I spiced up with Herb’s Taste of Honey. Sipping my jazzy concoction, I noticed Gregory Porter pouring some of his Liquid Spirit into a crystal tumbler before disappearing into a music room filled with all white instruments.
After my coffee was gone, I decided to walk through the gleaming all white house that Cab built. That’s when I found that it wasn’t just men in the smooth jazz kitchen. Patti Austin was standing by a stainless steel stove with an apron over a black ball gown crooning I Can Cook, Too. Patti LaBelle came marching through, dressed as Lady Marmalade, preparing to go strutting her stuff on the street. Billie Holiday and John Lennon were talking about some Strange Fruit that she had found growing at the edge of his property, Strawberry Fields Forever. As they debated the meaning of it, the girls of Manhattan Transfer were putting the final splashes of Spice of Life into their Soul Food To Go, being sure to include a few packets of Mindi Abair’s new Haute Sauce with each order.
Standing there watching everything was Herbie Hancock, who, when he saw me said, “I’ve been waiting for you! Come one, let’s go to Cantaloupe Island.”
Mesmerized, I linked arms with him and just as I was about to ask him about Rocket Man, I promptly woke up on my couch!
Note to self: Got to go easy on the bubbly and sardine sandwiches while listening to the Dinner Party!
It’s not something I like remembering. A day when people who hated us so much decided that they would kill a great number of us on our own soil and put a hole in the heart of a great city, New York. Not good. Not nice. I won’t regale you with the details of that event. We all know most of them far too well, even after thirteen years.
Where I will go is into the land of patriotic songs. On the 200th anniversary of the event that produced our National Anthem, I want to liken it to jazz. It’s a hybrid of music, like jazz. The tune of the Star Spangled Banner is an old English drinking song written by a group of amateur musicians in London that was fitted with lyrics that Francis Scott Key wrote as a poem while he was on sequestered on a ship in Baltimore harbor during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 13th, 1814. (What is it about September that makes people attack us?)
It’s quintessentially American, like jazz, because it’s been around in our collective consciousness for a long time. The Navy adopted it in 1889 as an official patriotic song and Woodrow Wilson used it in 1916 for official events; however, it was not adopted as the National Anthem until 1931 by an act of Congress.
Like jazz, the song struck a chord in the nation’s heart and persisted although it is notoriously hard to sing because of its octave and a fifth range. After Jose Feliciano did a blues-style rendition of the song for the fifth game of the 1968 World Series, many musicians have made many variations. The most notable ones are the 1983 Marvin Gaye opening for the NBA All-Star Game and Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl XXV version. Whitney’s was released as a single and charted to 20 that year and was re-released in 2001 when it rose to number 6. With Jose, those are the only times the anthem has hit the Billboard Hot 100.
To this day, the folks in Baltimore live up to the lyric, “And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there." In the National Museum of American History, the original 15 star, 15 stripe banner is still on display. Although we sing only the first stanza, the lyrics from the end of the second stanza are a perfect ending for this piece. Come on, hum them with me. You know the tune!
“'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
When your father is a jazz trombonist of renown, your god parents are Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington and you live in New York, it’s expected that your life gravitates to music. But what isn’t expected is that you have a wonderful, wicked sense of humor, impeccable timing and if you didn’t sing, you could do standup. With Grammy and Oscar nominations, Patti Austin is a wonderful singer and a darn fine comic!
Get your hands on a copy of Patti Austin Live, skip ahead to track four to hear her riff about vocal affectations. She starts with her partner, James Ingram from her big hit “Come to Me” and she ends with an introduction for her duet partner Sheldon Beckman. Her spot on imitations of Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Cher, Jennifer Hudson, Michael McDonald and Anita Baker are amazing. And she reacts with the audience the aplomb of Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon.
Again on track 10, she makes the audience howl. She does over ten minutes of double meanings on adult subjects that preclude it from being played on the airwaves. The way she gets the sing along going for "Through the Test of Time” is priceless. Thank you GRP Records for not cutting it out of the CD.
Most love songs are sung to a person who welcomes the attention, who gives back the affection and who wants to be with the singer/artist. But in the real world, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes love is one way, with only the singer being the one aware of the situation.
The first time I heard a song about love that wasn’t returned was in 1964. The Girl From Ipanema" defined unrequited love for me. "When she passes, I smile but she doesn't see, she just doesn't see." Originally called “Menina que Passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”), it was conceived as a part of a musical comedy about a Martian who lands in the middle of Brazil’s carnival and becomes obsessed by a girl in a bikini. The rest of the music faded into obscurity when the musical didn’t get produced while this beautiful bossa nova became an international sensation, overpowering two Beatles songs in the process. Although it rose just to number five on the charts, it passed the Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and then went on to become the most recorded song ever, edging out Paul McCartney’s "Yesterday." To me, the thing that makes it so haunting is Astrud Gilberto’s accented English and the gender flip. She is singing lyrics that are clearly for a man. At first I thought that the singer/songwriter was so shy that he had to get someone else to sing it for him. No so. She was chosen because she was the only one in the studio who had enough fluency in English to make it sound right. Otherwise, her husband Joao Gilberto, would have been the singer and it would have been done totally in Portuguese.
Another 1964 hit was "Going Out Of My Head" by Little Anthony and the Imperials. In it, Little Anthony croons that he is being driven mad because "I see you each morning, but you just walk past me, you don't even know that I exist." Although it was written by Bobby Randazzo, a childhood friend of the band, especially for them, it was quickly covered and made jazzy by Wes Montgomery the following year. Since then, it has been embraced by jazz artists from Ella Fitzgerald to Ramsey Lewis to Frank Sinatra to Luther Vandross.
"My Cherie Amour" hit big in 1969 for Stevie Wonder. Originally written for a girlfriend he had in school, the tune's upbeat message speaks to the sweetness of new love. However, he modified the lyrics after their breakup. Keeping the melody but removing her name and generalizing the object of his affection in French, he laments that she isn’t paying him any attention, "I've been near you, but you never noticed me." It’s been covered by Anita Baker, Quincy Jones, Minnie Ripperton and Ramsey Lewis.
"Just My Imagination" done by the Temptations was a sledge hammer in a velvet glove when it was released in 1971. The first line says "Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by," while at the end of the same stanza he admits that "But in reality, she doesn't even know me." Next, the chorus clearly states that he is in deep trouble because "it’s just my imagination running away with me." Then the song goes on to tell of his dreams, "A cozy little home out in the country with two children, maybe three." Poor guy! It was done as a nod to the ballads that the Temps did back in the 1960s. As a departure from the psychedelic sound they were recording at that time, they didn’t have much hope for it, but it hit big. Later it was covered by Larry Carlton, Booker T and the MG’s, Babyface and Gwyneth Paltrow, Euge Groove and Peter White, just to name a few of the smooth jazzers.
Roberta Flack’s 1973 hit "Killing Me Softly’"qualifies as unrequited love because the lyric "He sang as if he knew me in all my dark despair, then he looked right through me as if I wasn't there" sums it up nicely. I find that in all these songs it’s the recurring idea, someone looking right at you but not seeing you. And I appreciate this one because it isn’t done in the gender flip mode. It was written for a woman, sung by a woman owing the feeling she is having.
The ever enigmatic Earth Wind and Fire may have written one for us in 1975 called "Reasons." The line "I'm in the wrong place to be real, I'm longing to love you, just for a night" makes me suspect that it is. But with most of their lyrics, I am never sure.
In 1984 Luther Vandross gender flipped the Carpenters 1971’s hit – "Superstar" (Long ago and oh so far away), which was a song about the relationship between a groupie and a rock star. The performer has moved on, and she is left with only his song on the radio to cling to. Hitting the number two slot on the charts, held out of first place by Rod Stewart’s "Maggie Mae," it was originally recorded in 1970 by Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen Revue on their Live album. It helped propel Rita Coolidge from backup singer to soloist. Yet, it didn’t even hit the charts until Richard Carpenter changed one line of the lyric. Hearing the then up and coming Bette Midler sing it on the Tonight show, Richard decided to reduce the risqué factor by changing one line. "I can hardly wait to sleep with you again" turned into "I can hardly wait to be with you again" with the songwriter's permission, and it got plenty of air time across the country. Luther’s version makes me wonder which female superstar he was referring when he sang "Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear, but you're not really here, it's just the radio." Could he be referring to Traci Chapman or Joyce Cooling or Sheryl Crow? Sadly, we’ll never know.
And Lionel Ritchie did a smooth job with his unrequited love song "‘Hello" in 1984. From the first words, we know that this man has it bad and he even admits that it is a one way street by saying "I've been alone with you inside my mind." But he’s hopeful because he asks the musical question "Hello! Is it me you're looking for?" as the chorus. Ten years later Luther Vandross worked his magic on it to make it even smoother on his album, Songs.
Now, after all this musical game of Loves-me,Loves-me-not, the only thing I can think to do is to take the advice of Crosby, Stills and Nash. "Don't be angry, don't be sad, Don't sit crying over good times you've had . . . Sometimes you can't be with the one you love, honey, so love the one you're with!"