Rick Braun returns to the Montrose Room on Saturday, May 10.
It's "Jazz on the Vine 2014" at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin - Friday-Saturday, May 9-10. With Darren Rahn, Maysa, RnR (Braun & Elliot), Urban Jazz Coalition, Steve Cole, Global Noize and Chieli Minucci and Special EFX.
*The Hotel Intercontinental Chicago O'Hare, 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.
The Smooth Video of the Day: Some rare early footage of Special EFX, featuring the late George Jinda on percussion, from 1991:
Terrestrial radio. Over-the-air radio. Standard radio. Traditional radio. Conventional radio. Whatever you choose to call it, it's the radio we all grew up listening to. No special equipment required. And . . .
I am thrilled to announce that our favorite music returns to this type of radio this weekend! On 90.9 FM WDCB. Beginning this Sunday, February 9, I will be hosting The Sunday Jazz Brunch on WDCB each weekend from 11:00am to 2:00pm.
What can you expect from the new Sunday Jazz Brunch? For starters, you'll hear quite a few artists who've made Sunday mornings a special place for us over the years on our other Sunday Brunch shows: Ramsey Lewis, George Benson, David Sanborn and Grover Washington Jr., just to name several. We'll also feature a special "Chicago Music" segment each hour, showcasing artists from Chicago or based in Chicago.
Since WDCB is primarily a jazz station, the new Sunday Jazz Brunch will favor that particular genre in both the instrumental and vocal content of the show. As always, however, I'll be choosing music based on how well it fits that uniquely intimate Sunday mood.
I invite you to give the new show a try and let me know what you think. Address your comments, suggestions and requests to me at [email protected]
(By the way, if you've gotten used to listening to radio through your computer or HD Radio, The Sunday Jazz Brunch is also available on WDCB 90.9 HD-1 and streaming on www.WDCB.org. And the Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch will continue to air on www.SmoothJazzChicago.net from 6am to 6pm Central each weekend.)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Ramsey Lewis will officially launch The Sunday Jazz Brunch with this tune.
I know it's hard to imagine with the winterscape outside the window right now, but the time will come when you're going to want to get in the car and go for a nice, long drive. Mother's Day Weekend 2014 holds the promise of another fantastic lineup of live music at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
As in past years, the Osthoff's 12th annual "Jazz on the Vine" festival is brimming with smooth sounds and incredible talent. Here's the lineup:
Friday, May 9
Darren Rahn (5:15pm) (Darren's also the host of the event)
RnR (Richard Elliot & Rick Braun) 9:15pm
Saturday, May 10
Urban Jazz Coalition (1:45pm)
Steve Cole (3:45pm)
Global Noize - Sly Reimagined (with Nona Hendryx and Andy Snitzer) (6:00pm)
Chieli Minucci & Special EFX (8:30pm)
Sunday, May 11
Jazz Brunch featuring Marcell Guyton (10:00am-3:00pm)
Throughout the weekend, guests will also have the opportunity to sample over 100 wines from international and domestic vineyards. Dining at the Osthoff is also a memorable experience, with eclectic and sophisticated cuisine created by their award-winning chefs.
Dozens of Chicagoans make the two-and-a-half-hour drive to beautiful Elkhart Lake each year for "Jazz on the Vine." Ask anyone who's been there before. It's well worth the trip!
For more information, click here or call (877) 496-4113. Weekend packages sell out quickly, so it's always a good idea to make reservations as soon as you can.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Steve Cole, always a treat to catch live for the music and the one-liners!
In addition to being able to listen to SmoothJazzChicago.net anywhere in the world on internet with your computer, smart phone, or tablet, we are excited to announce that Chicagoans can now listen to Smooth Jazz Chicago without an internet connection. We are now on WTMX 101.9 HD2! By pairing our new signal with an HD radio, we hope to provide listeners with another way to take your favorite smooth music with you on the go.
HD (hybrid digital) radio provides a CD quality simulcast of many traditional AM and FM terrestrial radio stations plus addition new “sub stations” which feature content that cannot be picked up on an analog terrestrial radio. Like traditional terrestrial radio, no subscription fee is required to listen to any of the stations. Smooth Jazz Chicago’s new terrestrial radio home, WTMX 101.9 HD2 is one of these stations. When using an HD radio, first tune to 101.9FM and then wait a few seconds for the HD signal to lock in. On most HD radios, a small indicator light with the HD radio log will appear on the screen. Once the HD signal is locked in, turn the tuning knob or button up once to receive WTMX 101.9 HD2 Smooth Jazz Chicago. Additionally, the song and artist titles should appear on your HD radio’s screen.
(When you have access to an internet connection, I still highly recommend using it to listen to Smooth Jazz Chicago on computer by visiting SmoothJazzChicago.net, on smart phone or tablet using our free custom apps available in the App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play store for Android devices, or an internet radio for the most optimal and reliable signal and audio quality when compared HD radio.)
While HD radio has been around for over ten years, it is still in its infancy in many respects. The key advantage of HD radio is that you are not required to subscribe to a cellular data connection in order to listen on the go. Over the past few years, more and more automakers have been integrating HD radios in the dash on their new vehicles. Click here for a list of new vehicles that offer HD radios as either standard equipment or as an available option. A handful of automakers, including BMW and Volkswagen, have offered HD radios in their vehicles for at least the past five years. Check your owner’s manual or consult your dealer to see if your car may already be equipped with an HD radio. At the moment, other HD radio offerings for at home or on the go are limited but growing. For more info please visit the Official HD Radio website.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email!
(It's Rick O'Dell. Let me jump in here with an additional request. If you currently have an HD radio--portable, tabletop or in-car--please send us an email and let us know how satisfied you are with it. Please be honest because your experience with HD will serve as a guide to others who are in the market for an HD radio right now. I'll include listener comments in our next blog on this subject. Thanks. My email: [email protected])
Our Smooth Video of the Day: From his solo debut The Nightfly here's one of my all time favorite musicians, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan (who celebrated his birthday on Friday, January 10th) with "I.G.Y."
Chris Botti has delivered many a magical performance in front of a Chicagoland audience over the years. This past Saturday at the Star Plaza Theatre was another one, according to one of our longtime loyal listeners:
I want to thank you one
more time for the tickets to the Chris Botti concert. It was incredible.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this was the best concert I've
ever attended. From the first moment to the last, everything was
fabulous. This was my first time at the Star Plaza. The
theater was nice and there was plenty of free parking.
Chris Botti was such a warm and funny person. He was very engaging
and related well with the crowd. He even invited a couple of
enthusiastic fans in the mezzanine to come down to the main floor. Chris
is the type of talented person I enjoy seeing - someone who is so
secure in his ability to entertain the crowd that he freely shares the
stage with others equally as gifted as he is. His special guests were
fabulous. The violinist was top notch and made her instrument sing. The
female vocalist had a terrific voice and lit the stage with her
presence. The male vocalist had the unenviable task of singing parts in
"Italia" and "Time To Say Goodbye" made famous by Andrea Bocelli. He
did quite nicely.
The back-up band was out of this world. I hesitate to call them
back-up because they were outstanding in their own right. The pianist
was fabulous, the guitarist and bass player were electric, the
keyboardist was wonderful, and the drummer was dynamic. I could have
listened to them play all night.
After the concert ended, Chris stuck around to sign CDs. By the
time I got to the counter selling CDs, they were almost out. The line to
see him was so long that we didn't stick around. Maybe next time.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Chris' stunning interpretation of "Emmanuel," which was described by another listener who attended the show as "now my all-time favorite Chris Botti tune."
I'm looking forward to being back at the Parrot Cage Restaurant on Sunday, October 13, for the next Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch. Our special guest will be a rising star of Smooth Jazz from the Chicago area, keyboardist/composer Scott Allman.
Our Brunch will serve as the official CD release party for Scott's new project, Next Stop Home. You've probably heard his new track, "Lane's Cove," which we recently added to the SmoothJazzChicago.net playlist.
Scott will be performing two sets, one at each seating. We'll get to hear him playing tracks from his new CD as well as his 2011 debut, Generations.
There are just two Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunches left for 2013. We hope you'll join us in the one-of-a-kind setting of the Parrot Cage inside the historic South Shore Cultural Center for the next one. Seatings are at 11:00am and 1:30pm. To make a reservation, please call (773) 363-1902.
Our Smooth Video of the Day: The uplifting first single from Next Stop Home, "Lane's Cove," as heard on SmoothJazzChicago.net.
Peter White was part of the star-studded lineup at the 2001 Smooth Jazz Awards at the Chicago Theatre.
Here's Part II of YOU ASK, I ANSWER, featuring questions submitted by Kathleen Gregory of Lockport. (Part I is here.)
8. How do you know all the tidbits of
information (e.g., artist factoids) you share with us?
Just about everything I use
comes from sources everyone has access to--the internet, mainly. But I do the searching for you! Record
labels still send out one-sheets on the artists with most CDs, so I'll rely on those also.
9. How can you tell if a song is popular with
our listeners? Is that different from listeners around the country?
For thirty years I was
lucky enough to work for stations that prioritized music research. That
was an essential tool in the decision making process for choosing which titles to play. At WNUA we had test scores
for over a thousand smooth jazz titles going back to the late
'80s. Having been involved with music testing for many years, I can usually tell which tracks will work with our audience.
And, yes, Smooth Jazz listeners in Chicago do have different
preferences than, say, listeners in Los Angeles.
10. Is there a way you can tell how many
listeners the station has? In Chicago area? Around the country? I listen on my Kindle and not a computer--does that make a difference in tracking?
Yes, yes, yes and
no. Our stream provider, Triton Digital, gives us access to specific
audience metrics--every ten minutes of every day, in fact. But we are not able to separate out the different
devices where each individual stream request is coming from--not for now, anyway.
11. Is there a system that tracks popularity of
internet radio stations? If so, how do they compare with terrestrial stations?
How does our station compare with other internet stations?
Triton Digital also
provides monthly ratings, but they're national--not local--numbers. Since
most internet stations are national (and global) and terrestrial stations are
local, comparing Triton's numbers for the internet with Arbitron's numbers for local stations are apples-to-oranges.
SmoothJazzChicago.net is one of the few internet stations targeting one
specific geographic area, the Chicago metro area. Our numbers aren't close to what we had in the heyday of WNUA, but our
audience has grown every month since we launched. Give us time.
12. Do you plan to simulcast on television?
I'm assuming you're asking if we're going to be installing a webcam. Not anytime soon. Who'd want to watch someone who's basically just staring at a computer screen anyway?
13. I hear smooth jazz all over the place.
We even heard it on our cruise. Is there a way to find out if it is as
popular as ever with listeners.
That's difficult to
measure. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence around to say that, yes, it
is. Smooth Jazz-themed cruises, for instance, are big business today. Plenty of
new artists are coming down the pipeline. And here in Chicago, 2013 will
go down as a very strong year for Smooth Jazz concerts. Realistically
speaking, however, it's safe to say Smooth Jazz reached its peak of
popularity--at least on conventional radio--between 2000 and 2002. This is how a friend of mine who's a concert promoter put it: "Smooth Jazz is like [the pro sport of] ice hockey. It'll never be the number one spectator sport, but there will always be a significant number of people who like it."
14. Lisa McClowry has decided to go country. Is
this a sign of things to come? Are other smooth jazz artists choosing
other types of music? Are new artists coming to smooth jazz?
Lisa made an unusual
decision with her career. And it's easier to shift gears like that when
you're a singer. If you're an instrumental artist and want to cultivate a
solo career, your paths are limited--to pop, Smooth Jazz and traditional jazz,
mainly. I wish Lisa all the best with her new direction. She's always welcome to come back to our world. And, to answer the last question, we've had no shortage of new artists in 2013. I'd call that a positive sign for Smooth Jazz.
15.There are international smooth jazz awards.
Was smooth jazz as popular in other countries as it was in the U. S.? Are other
countries suffering from the same lack of terrestrial stations?
During the heyday of
Smooth Jazz, there were successful stations (or Smooth Jazz channels) in
Canada, Great Britain and Japan. I don't think there are many Smooth Jazz
outlets left on terrestrial radio anywhere in the world, sadly. The music is thriving on the internet, however.
16. Would you consider having the lunchtime
listener requests even when there is no prize? Personally, I would be happy
just to hear my selections and think others would feel the same.
I'd be happy to do a
request or dedication feature at lunchtime, but I think having a prize makes it
much more fun. I'd rather do it when we have something to give away. We try to have a prize every week.
17. I know with all the
songs that are made and become hits, there must be some that you like
more than others. Do you ever play songs you personally don't like?
Everyone who's ever been on the air will gladly tell you--off the air, of course--about the songs and artists they play but can't stand. Ramsey Lewis hated Paul Hardcastle. The late Yvonne Daniels would wince whenever she saw a Candy Dulfer tune on her playlist (and boy, would I get an earful during my brief stint as the producer of her morning show whenever she had to play "Lily Was Here"). As for me, there are some vocals we play that will never make my favorites list. There aren't many instrumental hits I have a problem with, though. I love instrumental music in general. And most people know I'm
partial to the piano, so any tune featuring a piano playing the melody
generally catches my ear right away.
18. On my Kindle, I notice that when I go to smoothjazzchicago.net,
other stations pop up as ones I might like. I was curious to see if your
station pops up when I listen to one of them. It doesn't. Is that
because our station is in my favorites? If not, is there a way to make
our station show up for people tuning into other stations? I'm sure
they would prefer ours.
Since I don't have a Kindle, I forwarded this question to our Tech Advisor, Danny Rigoni ([email protected]). Here is his answer:
I have played around with the Kindle, especially after all of the
questions we've had about listening to SmoothJazzChicago.net on the
device, but I do not have one personally. When reading Kathleen's
description, I think the related stations she is mentioning can be found
through two interfaces. The first would be if she is searching for the
station through Google or another search
engine. However, if she were to follow through to the link for
SmoothJazzChicago.net in the Kindle's browser, the only way she would be
able to listen to the station is through downloading the direct stream
each time. Considering that this is a rather complex process, my guess
is that she is using the TuneIn Radio app to listen to the station on
her Kindle. When listening to a station in TuneIn on my iPhone, if I
swipe to the right, the app recommends similar stations. Additionally,
TuneIn recently launched a new "Live" page that comes up when you launch
their app on any device, including an iPhone, Android, or Kindle. This
page has the intention of helping listeners discover new stations, and it
generates results based onf a listener's past selections and search
results. Furthermore, based on the results the app gives me on the "Live" page,
their algorithm for generating recommendations is not exactly unbiased
or entirely generated based off of a listener's
choices or habits. In reality, its results skew towards recommending
Sky.FM online stations or big radio owned terrestrial stations, which
makes me think that the "Live" page and recommended stations are controlled to a large extent by paid ads.
I want to thank Kathleen for some quality questions. Is there anything you would like to know? Drop me an email to the address below.
The saxophone is the premiere instrument of Smooth Jazz.
Recently, longtime Smooth Jazz fan Kathleen Gregory of Lockport sent over a formidable list of questions, so it gives us the perfect excuse to bring you the latest edition of YOU ASK, I ANSWER. Here's Part I.
1. How long do you give a new song to catch on
with listeners before deciding not to play it or add it to the rotation? Does
it make a difference if the new song is a vocal or instrumental? Does it matter
if the song is played by a new act? If a song doesn't quite catch on (for
example, Basia's "From Newport to London") will you play it from time to time, or is
it gone forever?
Here's how we've always approached
"adds" going back to the days of WNUA. Adds are what the industry likes to call new tracks that make the
playlist, by the way. First of all, we don't give new tracks a chance "to catch on with
listeners." When we add a new track to the playlist, we make a firm
commitment to it. We don't throw a new tune onto the playlist as an
audition with the chance that we might pull it off if it doesn't meet our expectations. That's why we like to take a good deal of time before
deciding whether a track merits airplay. We'll listen to a new tune
often eight, nine, ten times or more, and sometimes we'll even evaluate a new track by
committee. Several of us will lend our ears to it. Then, we'll arrive at a group decision on it. Vocal or instrumental, new or established artist,
it makes no difference. This is the process every new track has to go
through before we make a decision on it. I hope I've made it clear that new music is serious business to us.
Once we commit to adding
something, we break in the new track on the air slowly. It begins in a low
frequency rotation. As listeners become more comfortable with it, we bump
it up into a higher rotation. We'll give a new track anywhere between 100 and 300
total spins in current rotation, which take anywhere from five to six months on the air. That's
usually enough exposure for us to observe if our listeners have embraced
it. If we feel positive about it, we'll stay on it a little longer.
Then, we'll move it into a slower rotation by putting it into our permanent
active library. If we don't, it goes into an "icebox" category and might surface from time to time on a weekend program such as Dinner Party.
2. When you put together your show, do you have
a vocal to instrumental ratio per hour? Do you have a ratio for male to female
We have software that
schedules our music--after we program it to obey certain rules of
scheduling. As was the case on WNUA, we by and large have a 55-45 ratio
of instrumentals to vocals. There is no set ratio for male to female
vocalists. At the same time, we try and shoot for optimal variety in our mix of vocal tunes, alternating males and female voices, pop and R&B and so on.
3. Do you have a limit for certain instruments
like piano, bass, or saxophone?
The saxophone is the
signature instrument of Smooth Jazz. I'm sure you could have guessed that! As
such, we try and make sure there is at least one saxophone-based instrumental
every four tunes. It doesn't matter where or how often the other instruments play.
4. How do you put together a show? Do you have
Our weekend shows (e.g.,
Dinner Party and Sunday Brunch) lend themselves to themes and featured artists.
That's where we have the best opportunity to do special features.
Thematic shows can be polarizing (listeners can love or hate them),
however. That's why we rarely do them during the week, when we're trying
to build the largest listening audience we can.
5. How far in advance do you do it?
Personally, I like to
plan things at least one month out. But, if I've learned anything from 30
years in the business, it's that you always have to be ready for last-minute
6. How much time do you dedicate for
requests per day?
I'll generally leave
room for one or two requests each hour.
7. Do you use CDs?
Very few stations play
CDs anymore. Most music gets copied from CDs or downloaded song by song into a hard drive, as
audio files. Our music scheduling program then grabs them and puts them on the air at the proper times.
(We'll get to Part II of Kathleen's list in a few days.)
Got a question you'd like me to answer? Got a list of them I can start working on? Drop me a line anytime: [email protected]
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Our newest "add" at SmoothJazzChicago.net, Paul Hardcastle and "Easy Street."
Smooth jazz, rough jazz, something in between. It’s summer in Chicago, which means you won’t
have to go far to hear your favorite style of jazz being played live under the
The big one for fans of traditional jazz is the City of
Chicago’s annual jazz festival. This
year’s event is the 35th, and for the first time ever will be held
in Millennium Park. As usual, the
headliners represent a solid core of area talent (including Willie Pickens, Henry
Johnson and Larry Gray) complemented by national acts such as Donald Harrison. The festival runs August 29 through September
1, and admission is free.
Sadly, the annual South Shore Jazz Festival ended a
remarkable run with the announcement that this year’s event was canceled. The news was better, however, for the Hyde
Park Jazz Festival which, for the sixth consecutive year, will boast a lineup
of some of Chicago’s most adventurous jazz musicians. Familiar names include Corey Wilkes, Dee
Alexander and the Willie Pickens Trio. They
will be performing at various south side venues on and around the University of
Chicago campus September 28 and 29.
Midweek after work sets have been a popular attraction for many
years at two non-traditional venues. The Shedd Aquarium presents live music in a
remarkable one-of-a-kind location. With the lake on
one side and the magnificent downtown skyline on the other, their patio is home
to “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” Wednesday evenings, 5:00 to 10:00pm. Admission is free to members, $18 for adults
and $16 for children. Certain aquarium
exhibits will be open extended hours on Wednesdays and included in the
admission charge. Get there early if you
want to beat the crowd.
At the same time, Chicago State University at King Drive and
95th hosts its own Wednesday night series, “Jazz in the Grazz” on
the city’s south side. Running through
September 4, free performances in their
open-air amphitheater include Chicago favorites Ray Silkman, Joan Collaso and
Terisa Griffin. There is a nominal
charge ($5) for parking.
Get on I-94 and travel north for ninety minutes, definitely
a doable drive on a summer afternoon, and you’ll reach the Racine Wisconsin Zoo. They’re the surprising locale for a couple of
notable shows next month. As part of
the Zoo's Wednesday night “Animals Crackers” series, Jeff Lorber, Chuck Loeb and
Everette Harp perform on Jazz-Funk-Soul night, August 7, and
saxophonist/flautist/world class whistler Nelson Rangell brings his
triple-threat talent to the Zoo August 21.
Admission is $25. And David
Benoit headlines at the annual HarborPark Jazz and Blues Festival in Kenosha
Saturday, August 17. Tickets start at
Finally, if you prefer your superheated jazz solos in air
conditioned comfort, the area’s most popular clubs—Andy’s, Pop’s for Champagne,
the Jazz Showcase, Close Up 2 and Katerina’s—will keep the music flowing with
no letup throughout the summer.
Sure, the days may be getting shorter and the dog days nearing
their halfway point, but there’s plenty of summer jazz left. Plan an evening out and enjoy some!
I'm about to introduce Jim Peterik and Chicago's own Lifeforce at our April brunch at the Parrot Cage. (Photo courtesy of Al Junco Photography.)
at the Parrot Cage Restaurant are preparing to roll out their red carpet to
Smooth Jazz listeners once again. They
invite you to join Bill Cochran and me June 23, the first official Sunday in
summer, for the next Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch.
Alaskan salmon with summer squash pearl couscous.
pasta with shrimp artichokes.
roasted pork shoulder with tomatillo and habanero sauce with pinto beans and
meatballs with marinara and capellini pasta.
barbecued braised brisket with sautéed Chinese nappa cabbage.
Sunday Brunch favorites such as fresh, made-to-order omelets and waffles, hash
browns, creamy bacon grits, turkey sausage, house made peach cobbler and mini
assorted desserts will complement Chef Angel’s summer specialties.
appearing at the Brunch will be Chicago singer Julia Huff. She will perform two sets, one at each seating (10:30am and 1:00pm).
Jazz Sunday Brunch always sells out, so make your reservation now. Call (773) 602-5333 or send an email to [email protected].