Sunday, October 1, 2017

Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project - 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival

By TOM BOWSER

The Jazz Institute of Chicago made an excellent choice when they included Steve Gibbons Gypsy Rhythm Project in the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival lineup. Steve Gibbons Gypsy Rhythm Project was a talented group of musicians who presented an interesting blend of instruments and sounds. Steve Gibbons and his band reminded me of how culturally diverse and vibrant the city of Chicago is. It is our diversity as a city and as a nation that has always been our strength.

Violinist Steve Gibbons and his band comfortable switched from ethic sounding folk or world music to straight jazz. The band was energetic and the rhythms of the music they produced compelled you to move. Steve Gibbons Gypsy Rhythm would be a great band to hire for any office, family or other event you want to be remembered. They were fun to listen to and if dancing were allowed you would have quite a party! Click on any of the smaller images on the page to see a larger version.

Steve Gibons - violin and the Gypsy Rhythm Project at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festivahttps://www.google.com/intl/en/options/l | Photograph by Tom Bowser Mike Allemana - Guitar and the Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

I've never heard the cimbalom played prior to this show. It's similar to the Yangqin which I've heard in traditional Chinese music. Romanian born cimbalom player Nicolae Feraru added a unique and exciting element to the bands sound.


Nicolae Feraru - Cimbalom and the Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
A map showing the country of Romania.

Nicolae Feraru applied for political asylum while in the United States in 1989. He was granted asylum, immigrated to the United States and eventually moved to Chicago. If you are not a Native American Indian you are a descendant of someone who immigrated to this country. The diversity of ideas, art, music, food, religions and more that our immigrant ancestors brought with them is what makes the United States a vibrant and more interesting place to live. We are lucky to live in a country that supports legal immigration.

Dan DeLorenzo - Bass and the Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Tim Mulvenna - Percussionist and the Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm Project at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Want something fun and fresh in your music collection? Contact Steve Gibbons to purchase "Beat Nomad" by the Steve Gibbons Gypsy Rhythm Project.


The Band:
Steve Gibons - Violin
Nicolae Feraru - Cimbalom
Mike Allemana - Guitar
Dan DeLorenzo - Bass
Tim Mulvenna - Percussionist





Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tim Fitzgerald & Full House - 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival

By TOM BOWSER

Tim Fitzgerald and his band Full House led off Friday's performances beginning at 12 noon in the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival. Raucous cheering and clapping greeted the band as they were announced. It was clear the audience was energized to experience Chicago based guitarist Tim Fitzgerald and his band's blend of classic jazz.


Tim Fitzgerald - Electric Guitar, Victor Garcia - Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Chris Madsen - Tenor Saxophone, Rajiv Halim - Alto Saxophone at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


Tim stated that much of the days performance would be in tribute to the late jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. Tim explained that Wes Montgomery was one of his primary musical influences as a guitarist. Tim Fitzgerald is not a Wes Montgomery clone. He brings his own lyrical interpretations to classic Wes Montgomery tunes. Tim Fitzgerald's enthusiasm is infectious and draws listeners into his musical world. Any music fan would have found something to enjoy in the music that flowed from the stage. Click on any smaller image to see a larger version.

Tim Fitzgerald - Electric Guitar at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Victor Garcia - Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Christian Dillingham - Bass at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser
The horn and saxophone parts were precisely played and nicely arranged. Trumpet and flugelhorn player Victor Garcia incorporates a high level of intensity into his playing that few horn players can match. It was the first time I had seen alto saxophonist Rajiv Halim play. His solos were polished and articulate. I hope to see him play again in the future. Lastly, Chris Madsen on tenor saxophone drew the three players together into a cohesive unit. Chris Madsen's playing was spontaneous and engaging.


Victor Garcia - Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Chris Madsen - Tenor Saxophone, Rajiv Halim - Alto Saxophone at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Chris Madsen - Tenor Saxophone, Victor Garcia - Trumpet and Flugelhorn, Rajiv Halim - Alto Saxophone at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Chris Madsen - Tenor Saxophone at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

Pianist Tom Vaitsas expanded and added depth and nuanced complexity to the bands overall sound. Tom's playing was superb. Unfortunately the grand piano he played was positioned so that his back was facing the audience. It was rarely possible to see his face as he played.

Tom Vaitsas - Piano, Christian Dillingham - Bass at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser Tim Fitzgerald - Electric Guitar at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser

One of my favorite Chicago drummers George Fludas and bassist Christian Dillingham formed a sold core upon which the other members of the band could build and flourish. George Fludas is one of the hardest working drummers in Chicago. I see him everywhere playing with the best jazz and blues bands and musicians in Chicago. He elevates the sound of every ensemble he plays with. George is not only a great technician, but has a finely tuned instinct of where he belongs in the music at every moment. His understanding of what and when to play makes him a standout among drummers.


George Fludas - Drums at the Von Freeman Pavilion of the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival | Photograph by Tom Bowser


The Band:
Tim Fitzgerald - Electric Guitar
Chris Madsen - Tenor Saxophone
Rajiv Halim - Alto Saxophone
Victor Garcia - Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Tom Vaitsas - Piano
Christian Dillingham - Bass
George Fludas - Drums


Note from Tom: A Flugelhorn looks similar to a trumpet, but is a bit larger. It often has a darker and sometimes deeper, mellower sound than a trumpet. The multiple Grammy winning jazz artist Chuck Mangione popularized its use.


The Chicago Jazz Festival is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Visit InspiredChicago.com for ideas on things to do while you visit Chicago.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Native American Drumming & Dancing by Seven Springs

By TOM BOWSER

My wife and I let the sound of the drum guide us to the new "Lake Stage" at Navy Pier in Chicago where Native American drummers were warming up for their performance which would begin at 11:00 AM. Chicago's Navy Pier was celebrating it's 101st birthday. Native American Drumming & Dancing by Seven Springs led off a busy day of fun events.


Native American Drum Circle | Seven Springs | Navy Pier in Chicago | Photo by Tom Bowser


Native American dancers including world champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie performed after the drummers. Larry Yazzie is also an accomplished musician. He demonstrated his skill on the Native American wooden flute. The song he played had a mournful, haunting feel. The wooden flute Larry played was about 2 and 1/2 feet long. It had a rich, mellow tone. Click on an image below to see a larger version.


Native American Drummer | Seven Springs | Navy Pier in Chicago | Photo by Tom Bowser Native American Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie | Seven Springs | Navy Pier in Chicago | Photo by Tom Bowser


Larry Yazzie's Eagle Dance was unique and beautiful. His outfit included hand made wings adorned with eagle feathers. Larry soared effortlessly from the stage to within the audience where he gracefully flapped his arms/wings occasionally swaying from the left then to the right. Larry's facial expressions and the look in his eyes as he moved his arms/wings left me with the impression that he had assimilated the spirit of the eagle.





Larry Yazzie invited members of the audience to join him on Navy Pier's new Lake Stage to learn some of the basic dance moves he uses. A surprisingly large number of people (including myself) got on stage to learn some basics. After the dance lessons I concluded that Larry must be in very good physical shape! Everyone had lots of fun.

Joe Podlasek of Trickster Gallery in Schaumburg, IL hosted the event. Trickster Gallery is a native and cultural fine arts gallery. For more information and upcoming events visit the Trickster Gallery Web site.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Make Music Chicago - 2017

By TOM BOWSER

Make Music Chicago is an annual one day music festival held on June 21. It fosters diverse musical performances throughout the City of Chicago.

The Make Music Chicago organization describes it as:
"Make Music Chicago is a day-long, citywide, DIY music festival that celebrates the musician in us all. Every June 21st, Make Music Chicago helps Chicagoans celebrate their ability to make music, regardless of age, ability or preferred musical style. Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music Chicago is open to anyone who wants to take part. Every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion — pours onto streets, parks, plazas and porches to share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers. All of it is free and open to the public."

My wife and I are both music fans. We see Make Music Chicago as a fun way to experience some of the incredible diversity of music made in Chicago. Price: FREE!


Make Music Chicago provides exciting and unique opportunities each year. My favorite performances this year were:

1. The Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet at St. James Cathedral.
2. The organ recitals (unofficially dubbed "organ crawl 2017") at both Chicago's St. James Cathedral and The Fourth Presbyterian Church.

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet | St. James Cathedral, Chicago | Make Music Chicago | Photo by Tom Bowser

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet performed 2 pieces of music at St. James Cathedral. The first piece was one of my long time favorites, Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. It's a piece of music that evokes a powerful emotional response in me each time I hear it. The second piece and my favorite of their performances that day was Lyric for Strings by George Walker. This was the first time I had ever heard this piece of music. I loved every moment of the performance. Lyric for Strings is an emotional piece and The Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet's performance was beautifully executed.

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet for this performance was:
Tara Lynn Ramsey - violin
Janis Sakai - violin
Kip Riecken - viola
Alex Ellsworth - cello


Stephen Buzard the director of music for St. James Cathedral began his organ recital shortly after the Civic Orchestra of Chicago String Quartet concluded their performance. His playing was wonderful, but occasional hampered by some technical deficiencies in the organ itself. After his performance he explained that the organ was improperly renovated many years ago. In fact. the organ was currently missing some of the pipes that would normally be utilized during a performance.

The church is looking for financial support to help them finance the costly repairs that are desperately needed to bring the organ back to it's original beauty. To become a benefactor and support the restoration of the organ for this beautiful church contact Stephen Buzard, Director of Music at St. James Cathedral, 65 E Huron St, Chicago, IL 60611. Visit the churches web site at Saint James Cathedral


Following Stephen Buzards organ recital we walked the few blocks over to Chicago's Magnificent mile and the The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. We were invited to the organ loft by Fourth Presbyterian's organist and director of music John Sherer. We carefully made our way up the narrow stairs to the organ loft high above the church alter where the Andrew Pipe Organ is located. Planning and fundraising for the $3,000,000 required for restoration of this organ began in 2012. Restoration work was completed in 2015. It sounds fantastic!

John W. W. Sherer - Organist and Director of Music for Fourth Presbyterian Church playing the Andrew Pipe Organ | horizontal image | Photo by Tom Bowser

You could not ask for a more engaging, thrilling place to watch a performance. The power of this great organ is impressive and compelling. The organ has 8,343 pipes making it the largest in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. My whole body vibrated when John Sherer played some of the organs lowest notes, some of which were so low in pitch that human hearing can barely perceive them. The best seats in the house! Add Make Music Chicago to your schedule for next year. You will find something you enjoy!


John W. W. Sherer - Organist and Director of Music for Fourth Presbyterian Church playing the 1971 Aeolian-Skinner Organ | vertical image | Photo by Heather Bowser


Find out more at Make Music Chicago. Visiting Chicago? Find other great FREE things to do in Chicago at InspiredChicago.com.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Edwin Daugherty Sextet | 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival

By TOM BOWSER


Day 2 of the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival: The Edwin Daugherty Sextet performed at the Von Freeman Pavilion (South Promenade) as a tribute to the music of Chicago legends Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, and Eddie Harris.



Edwin Daugherty shares a similar legacy with Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and Eddie Harris. All four men studied music with Walter Dyett at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois. Walter Dyett's music program trained and influenced a substantial number of talented musicians that went on to gain national and international notoriety in music.

During the performance Edwin Daugherty spoke of the generations of jazz musicians that were guided by Walter Dyett. In fact, on stage that day were 3 different generations of Chicago jazz saxophone players.

Unfortunately I did NOT hear the name of the tenor sax player pictured on the left below. He was very talented! Edwin Daugherty is the tenor saxophone player pictured in the foreground of the second (right hand) picture below. Ari Brown is the tenor sax player in the background and to the right of Edwin. Click an image below to see a larger version.

Edwin Daugherty - saxophone and Ari Brown - saxophone of The Edwin Daugherty Sextet plays the Von Freeman Pavilion at the Chicago Jazz Festival - Photo by Tom Bowser
Ari Brown was 70 plus years old the day of this performance. I have to say I was impressed by the energy and intensity of his solos. You still got it Ari!

I also enjoyed the chemistry between bassist Chuck Webb and pianist Willie Pickens. You can tell that Chuck Web and Willie Pickens are seasoned jazz veterans. They are both great soloists, but as importantly they know how to play cohesively with the drummer to form the foundation of the band.

Chuck Webb - bass and Willie Pickens - piano of The Edwin Daugherty Sextet play the Von Freeman Pavilion at the Chicago Jazz Festival - Photo by Tom Bowser

Chuck Webb - bass and Willie Pickens - piano of The Edwin Daugherty Sextet play the Von Freeman Pavilion at the Chicago Jazz Festival - Photo by Tom Bowser Chuck Webb - bass as a member of The Edwin Daugherty Sextet plays the Von Freeman Pavilion at the Chicago Jazz Festival - Photo by Tom Bowser

It was a great show and the Edwin Daugherty Sextet was lavished with generous applause both during and at the end of the show.

The band:
Edwin Daugherty - saxophone
Ari Brown - saxophone
Chuck Webb - bass
Willie Pickens - piano
Artee “Duke” Payne - saxophone - was replaced for this show by a saxophonist whose name I did not hear when it was announced.
Avreeayl Ra - drums - was replaced for this show by a drummer whose name I did not hear when it was announced.


The Chicago Jazz festival is well worth your time. It's one of the largest FREE jazz festivals in the world. The 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival is just around the corner so include it when you plan your next vacation or decide how to use those accumulated sick days! New to jazz? Try it, you might like what you hear and see! There are lots of different styles of jazz each with their own unique flavor and vibe. If you don't like one style of jazz you may like a different style.

The Chicago Jazz Festival is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

Visit InspiredChicago.com for additional things to do while you visit Chicago.





Saturday, February 4, 2017

James Sanders | Proyecto Libre | 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival

By TOM BOWSER


Day 2 of the 2016 Chicago Jazz Festival: The Chicago Jazz Festival is produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

It was yet another beautiful early fall day in Chicago. A perfect day to listen to world class jazz. My wife and I both especially enjoy events that are held in some of the smaller more intimate stages & spaces used during the Chicago Jazz Festival.

James Sanders and Proyecto Libre played at the Von Freeman Pavilion (South Promenade). It's a medium sized tent. Seating consists of both benches near the stage and chairs further back. The sides of the tent can be opened or closed depending on the weather. Today the sides of the tent were open allowing a light, comfortable breeze to refresh the space. Ample, clean bathrooms are available on both the left and right sides of the Pritzker Pavilion main stage which is a short walk from the Von Freeman Pavilion. Walk about 1 block west (opposite beautiful Lake Michigan) and you're on Michigan Avenue which has a variety of restaurants and shops. (Click on a picture to view a larger version.)

James Sanders - electrified violin and Proyecto Libre | Photograph by Tom Bowser James Sanders - electrified violin and Proyecto Libre
My wife and I moved to Chicago. One of the many things we like about Chicago is the diversity of people, languages spoken, foods and cultures that call Chicago home. James Sanders’ music reflects the diversity of the people and cultures that makes Chicago the great city it is. James Sanders grew up in Chicago. His mother was from the Dominican Republic and his father was born in the United States.

James Sanders is a classically trained violinist with a Masters Degree in performance from Yale University. According to a bio I read James Sanders became motivated to begin his journey exploring the world of jazz when he met jazz violinist Johnny Frigo. Johnny Frigo is also a Chicago native. Johnny Frigo often played in a style similar to the great jazz violinist Joe Venuti. Johnny Frigo and Joe Venuti are also similar in that they both played with one of the Dorsey Brothers bands when the big band era flourished.

James Sanders playing style and sound is uniquely different from his early inspiration Johnny Frigo. James Sanders has a modern feel with a Latin American flavor that makes him unique when compared to other jazz violinists. His playing is improvisational and rich in emotion.

Avreeayl Ra - drums - and Proyecto Libre | Photograph by Tom Bowser

The joyful drumming of Avreeayl Ra and solid bass playing of Joshua Abrams kept the rhythm of the band tight. Joshua Abrams is a talented basist. I've seen him a number of times in different musical ensembles. On a number of occasions the sound techs running the live sound have had problems mixing Joshua's bass sound. A big part of the problem is his bass is often reproduced using a EV-RE20 microphone placed at or around the F hole of his bass. This microphone position produces to much emphasis on the low frequency range at the expense of the clarity, articulation and attack that should be present in the missing mid frequency range of the reproduced bass sound. The result is his bass tends to sound a bit boomy in the low frequency range. Not Joshua's fault. Also, as he moves while playing his bass, his bass also moves relative to the mic. The change in position alters how the microphone reproduces the tone/sound of his bass. Joshua's bass would sound better if he had a statically mounted pickup or microphone. This would improve the consistency of his bass sound when played through live sound systems.

My wife and I both liked the interesting feel that bassist Harrison Bankhead added to the music. The conga playing of Jean-Christophe Leroy added the final latin touch to the soundscape created by James Sanders and Proyecto Libre. Lastly, a standout in the band the day we saw them was the saxophone playing of Edward Wilkerson. (Click on a picture to view a larger version.)

Joshua Abrams - bass and Proyecto Libre | Photograph by Tom Bowser Edward Wilkerson - saxaphone and Proyecto Libre | Photograph by Tom Bowser
If you like improvisational jazz you will enjoy the unique approach and sound of James Sanders on electric violin and his solid, talented band Proyecto Libre. My wife and I both enjoyed the show.

The Band:
James Sanders - electrified violin
Avreeayl Ra - drums
Joshua Abrams - bass
Harrison Bankhead - bass
Jean-Christophe Leroy - congas
Edward Wilkerson - saxophone

Buy James Sanders latest CD or listen to a free sample!

NOTE: I took pictures of all the members of the band as I always do. Unfortunately not all the pictures turned out well and some had to be omitted. Sorry guys!