I love all kinds of music, but there is something about smooth jazz and especially Dave Koz’s music. They brings me such joy, and whenever I see him live it always brings me to tears. If you have not had the chance, please do. He is the benchmark of how concerts should be, especially the Christmas concert.
I've had the pleasure of meeting him and quite a few of our smooth jazz superstars many times. Peter White to Mindi Abair, Jonathan Butler, Rick Braun and Euge Groove--just to name a few. Not name dropping, but they truly are as glad to see us as we are to see them. So many incredibly talented, and incredibly humble people. After giving 110% to us at a show, they always seem to find a little more time and energy to stick around and meet their fans. They are grounded enough to know enough to acknowledge the fans who appreciate them.
To me, that speaks volumes about their character. You don’t find that in most music types at this level of success.
Dave and Friends will be here on the 12th. Get your tickets and don't miss 'em!
Our Smooth Video of the Day: One of the highlights of every Dave Koz Christmas show is his song about Hanukah.
Jazz happens every day. Some days it takes me from the present moment to other moments in my life. Listening to the stream, a song caught my attention, so I went to see what the title and artist were by way of TuneGenie. That was when the fun started. Seeing that it was a song by David Foster called "Flight of the Snowbirds," it made me giggle.
The title took me back to the summer of 1988, when I was working in a riverside high rise. The rehearsals for the Chicago Air and Water Show began on a clear Wednesday afternoon. We could hear the planes as they flew high above us, getting their bearings over the lakefront. Someone found that there was an empty upper floor facing east. It was a great observation deck.
We oohd and ahhd our way through our afternoon coffee break, sipping lemonade and swapping trivia about airplanes. The blue jets soared and flashed in the sunlight. We got glimpses of them between the buildings and in the clear space that the river afforded us. We debated whom we were getting a peek at, the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds, vowing to grab a newspaper or a brochure on the way home to look up who was gracing our skies. (Remember, this is pre-Google, so info access was not as instantaneous as it is today).
On the schedule was a visiting team called the Canadian Snowbirds. Described as a precision team of the Canadian Air Force, it wasn’t clear if they were prop planes or jets. As there was no picture of the planes, I filed them away in my brain as a side note.
The next day, while I sat in our 20th Floor lunchroom with floor to ceiling windows facing east down the Chicago River, we heard the telltale rumble of jets beginning their maneuvers. Before we could abandon our table and head for our impromptu viewing station, I spotted a dot in the sky above the river. In seconds, it became a formation of bright red fighter jets flying down the river at the same level as our lunchroom. When they streaked past us, my heart leapt. Being a child of the Cold War atomic bomb drills in grammar school, I uttered an explative while I dove under the table in full belief that we were under attack by the Soviets!
My co-workers coaxed me from my duck-and-cover posture under the table by assuring me that there was no attack on Chicago. Actually, I was waiting for the second wave and when it didn’t arrive, I decided to dust off my pride and emerge.
I was teased unmercifully by my co-workers. In my defense, all I could say was "who knew that snowbirds were RED!"
Chicago loves its jazz. We celebrate it over the Labor Day weekend every year with a public festival on the lakefront. And we have Duke Ellington to thank for it.
The Duke’s death in the summer of 1974 sparked several Chicago musicians to stage a festival to honor his legacy. They held it at the southern end of Grant Park near the museums in the old band shell. The crowd was ten thousand strong. It became an annual event, but by 1978 there were three different August jazz events being planned. When confronted with the dilemma of issuing overlapping permits, a solution was proposed by the city to combine them all into a full week festival. Starting with two days called Jazz Panorama, a tribute day for Ellington, one for John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery, the 29th celebrating Charlie Parker’s Birthday, followed by a day for Blues and Swing and ending with a day without a title that featured Benny Goodman and Mel Torme, the Chicago Jazz Festival was born.
The Petrillo Music Shell was new and over 125,000 people attended the first Jazz Fest. Putting it on Labor Day weekend and broadcasting portions of it on WBEZ and WDCB have helped it become a worldwide draw for fans of jazz.
Grab your sunscreen and head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for this year’s edition of the Jazz Fest, now held in Millennium Park. It’s some of the best free music around. Hope to see you there!
Mindi Abair would be a centerpiece of one heck of a fantasy band
In the days of the Big Bands, some of the organizations had virtual revolving doors when it came to the people who played together. Creative minds and bold personalities often clashed, sometimes mixing into a soup of anger and resentment. People walked away, sulked and then found other venues for their talents. Today, we don’t have jazz bands of such size and scale, but if we did, I have a secret weapon to bring such an organization together in harmony, on stage and off.
I’d start with the vibrant Chick Corea on keyboards, paired up with Lionel Richie and Brian McKnight. Lionel would write the songs and share the vocalist spot with two incomparable ladies, Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight. Brian could play any of the eight instruments that he has mastered, but I think I would ask him to be the drummer when he wasn’t collaborating with Chick and Lionel. The sax section would be Kenny G and Mindi Abair. The guitars would be Marc Antoine and Ken Navarro with Christian McBride on bass. I’d finish off my band with Walter Beasley on clarinet and Ramsey Lewis on the Steinway grand piano.
And why would I put all these folks together? Because they are all Geminis, with birthdays starting on the 23rd of May and running to the 20th of June.
According to the traits ascribed to Geminis, it would work perfectly because they are adaptable and versatile, have a strong sense of self, are lifelong learners, great communicators and team players, up for anything. They thrive in social situations. They are big picture folks who don’t get sidetracked, and they are excellent multi-taskers.
So, as soon as I can get their agents and promoters out of the way (and after I win a few million in a lottery) I’m going to hit the road with my experiment, the Gemini Jazz Band. Tickets anyone?
Richie Havens was born in Brooklyn and became a resident of Greenwich Village during the 1960s. He wrote and performed protest songs. He was booked for a festival in Bethel, New Yor,k that was projected to sell around seventy thousand tickets at best. The venue was called Woodstock. When the roads became impassable because of half a million people parked and camped out on their vehicles, he and his band was helicoptered over. They were sent first because they were the smallest ensemble: three guys with two congas and two guitars. Richie held the crowd enraptured for three hours at the opening. In a long russet dashiki, white pants and black sandals, he strode across a stage that was still partially under construction and started his set with "Handsome Johnny," the song that he wrote with Lou Gossett Jr., which traces war from Concord to Vietnam with a mention of the Civil Rights War that was going on in Birmingham, Alabama. Being asked to do set after set, he performed until the logistics of getting the other performers into the venue were hashed out. He ran out of material, so his last song was an improvised number that blended parts of "Motherless Child" and a spiritual called "Phone In My Pocket to Call Jesus’ to make the song ‘Freedom."
Best known for his cover of the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun," Havens released twenty one albums in his career, many of them under his own label, Stormy Forest. In the middle of his career, Havens did commercial work for Maxwell House Coffee as well as singing "The Fabric of Our Lives," the theme for the cotton industry, and performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Havens play for charity, civil rights and the environment all his performing life.
He started the North Wind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children's museum on City Island in the Bronx, and helped in the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization that educates children about the environment.
Richie died of a heart attack in 2013 at age 72, and he had his ashes scattered over the alfalfa field that was Woodstock.
Let’s say that your special someone can really keep a secret, so you don’t know where you’re headed. You think it might be a romantic movie or a nice dinner. In the car, you listen to smooth jazz selections, and before long, you arrive at the Loews Chicago O'Hare Hotel. A smile passes between the two of you. Hand in hand, you make your way across the lobby, but you don’t end up at the desk. You go to the Montrose Room.
Your special other hustles you in because the show has already started. Taking a table near the back, you realize they’re in the middle of the first song. It’s something from a new album, so the tune is not familiar. You look to the stage and a thought crosses your mind.
“When did Steve Harvey decide to perform in one of his colorful suits, a really great fedora, playing a guitar?”
Suddenly you realize that you are not at a comedy show, you’re hearing jazz guitarist Nick Colionne!
Remembering what you read on Nick’s website, you smile as you whisper a quote that you saw.
“Nick is frequently referred to as ‘the best dressed man in jazz,' and he enjoys an on-going endorsement from the men's designer line Stacy Adams." Then you settle into enjoying the performance.
At the next break, your partner tells you Nick is Chicago born, he started playing at age nine and then went touring at fifteen with the Staple Singers. You reply that you know from his website that Nick also played with Curtis Mayfield, The Impressions and Natalie Cole. And Nick seems really fresh from playing and fishing in Florida. When the music starts again, you sip a drink and think, what a wonderful gift this is for the both of you.
After another song, you realize that this is his annual Valentine’s Day show for Smooth Chicago. You both agree that he sounds great. Then you wonder, with all the planning and secrecy, could there be another surprise in store? After all, you’re very close to O’Hare Airport. Hmm . . . . .
(Note from Rick O'Dell: Please join me in welcoming Lydia Barnes to SmoothJazzChicago as our primary columnist/blogger. Lydia's passion for the music dates back to the early '90s, and we're pleased to be able to present her unique view of happenings--not just music-related!--in our world. You'll find the rest of her writings at her site.)
Before flying east for the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the Joey DeFrancesco Trio will honor us with a touch down on Friday, August 1st. Playing Evanston S.P.A.C.E. with drummer and Chicago native George Fludas, guitarist Jeff Parker and his trusty Hammond B3, Joey is sure to deliver a sweet treat for jazz lovers. If you’re a fan of the rich tones the B3, this is the show for you. Whether they’re slowing down Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean" to making her extra jazzy, transforming Bobby Hebb’s "Sunny" from a 1960s pop icon into a new millennium jazz diva, or making the theme to the Godfather into audio honey, Joey will makes his B3 a killer B!
Check out his website. To hear all the cuts mentioned above, click the media tab and choose video. He has full length songs posted. His latest release is called Enjoy the View and with him at the keyboard, I’m sure we will.
No babysitter that night, no problem. The S.P.A.C.E. is open to fans of all ages! Don’t miss it, because he heads back to his hive until December 7 when he ventures out again. But not to Chicago, the closest he will come will be Columbus, Missouri.
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!
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.