Millennium Park Summer Music Series 2017

by Gail Dee Updated June 18, 2017

We Want Music Without Borders Must Sees include Amadou & Mariam from Mali; rising star Dayme Arocena from Cuba; the legendary Youssou N’Dour from Senegal; and Totó La Momposina from Colombia. Throw in Jaga Jazzist with Norwegian Electronic Jazz; Frank Waln with  Lakota Hip Hop; AfrotroniX for intrigue. Sultry sweet songstress Gary Moreno from Guatemela; Latin Rockers Centavrs from Mexico are frequent visitors to Chicago.  Juneteeth Celebrates Jazz with vocalist Gregory Porter and Jazz Journalist Association’s Jazz Hero 2017 cellist Tomeka Reed. Series opens with Bluesman Otis Taylor, followed the next Thursday by No BS! Brass Band-a Nola style brass band and Cuba’s Dayme Arocena. Catch Chicago’s newest R & B soul sensation Zeshan B & the Transistors with headliner Lady Wray in a complete night of soulful celebration at the end of June. July features Indie band Hurray for the Riff Raff; alt country rocker Drive By Truckers and there is still more in this genre busting summer series –indie rock; gospel and more R & B soul.

David Chavez, the curator of the series has made solid selections for a wide audience. Upon listening and reviewing the acts, it appears he may have chosen some musicians based on their musical activism and subject matter as well as listening enjoyment. DCASE did announce “The 2017 lineup includes artists from the U.S. as well as Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Mali, Mexico and Senegal—advancing Chicago’s status as a welcoming city” with  both  established and emerging artists. Yes, several acts will be familiar to many Chicago music lovers which in the midst of our turmoil –will be comforting. There are many delectable discoveries as well. It’s going to be a summer of very pleasurable listening and picnicking in the most beautiful outdoor venue in Chicago–full of the urban diversity city dwellers relish.

Do you like being part of a community that celebrates diversity? For the past five years We Want Music Without Borders The Facebook Group; Page and website has been fueled solely by my passionate love for music and people. Now it’s necessary to ask for financial contributions to continue.  If you appreciate We Want Music Without Borders, your generosity is greatly needed.

Please make a donation today to help us continue our work connecting the hearts of people through music.    Or See the link below. Thank you!

From JUNE 12–AUGUST 21  the 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series will offer an exciting line-up of FREE outdoor concerts every Monday and Thursday, June 12 – August 21 (except where noted) at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. All concerts are FREE and open to the public and performances begin at 6:30 p.m. and take place rain or shine. There will be no concerts on Monday, July 3, Thursday, July 6, Thursday, July 27, Monday, July 31, Thursday, August 3 or Monday, August 14.”

The full 2017 Millennium Park Summer Music Series line-up features:

Monday, June 12, 6:30 p.m.
Otis Taylor (Blues)  Multi instrumentalist on banjo, harmonica, mandolin and guitar. Otis grew up playing banjo which he points out was from Africa. His latest release Otis Taylor, Fantasizing About Being Black,” is a stark and poetic lesson on the historical trauma of the African American experience, from the voyages of slave ships to the Mississippi Delta” Don’t walk on by this concert. Definitely a recommended roots experience for We Want Music Without Borders music lovers.

Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native (Americana) “A genre-bending cellist and songwriter who combines classical artistry with bluegrass and pop, Sollee has created a unique and infectious take on folk music.” His best known song “Letting Go” he wrote for the movie “Killing Season”. Sollee is also known as a political activist with his music frequently touching on social issues including poverty and environmental issues. He’s a man of action too  taking his environmentalism on the road with Ditch the Van using bikes to tour with his band instead of a van.

Thursday, June 15, 6:30 p.m.
No BS! Brass Band (New Orleans Brass Fusion)

Dayme Arocena -the Afro Cuban Jazz vocalist & composer is a rising jazz phenomena. She last appeared at the Pritzker for 2015 Chicago Jazz Fest with Jane Bunnett & Maqueque. This time she returns leading the chant –literally and figuratively as she mixes influences of Santeria with soul and Afro Cuban rumba. Expect her to be hot, Hot, HOT.  Tiny Desk concert produced by Felix Contreras.  This spring she released her 2nd album “Cubafonia”  completely composed by her and highly recommended.

Monday, June 19, 6:30 p.m. – Juneteenth Celebration
Gregory Porter (Soul Jazz)  Deep Baritone smooth and soulful two time Grammy winner for  Best Jazz Vocalist Album in 2014 “Liquid Soul” and 2017 “Take Me To the Alley”-he also has recorded a song and released  in 2016 with Common called “Running” dedicated proceeds to refugee organizations.   His own compositions have gospel roots too.  Definitely a highlight of the summer season.

Tomeka Reid Quartet – The outstanding versatile cellist  Tomeka Reid will be leading a quartet for the Juneteeth celebration with Mary Halverson on guitar, Jason Roebke on bass; Toma Fujiwara on drums. She is one of the 2017 “Jazz Heroes” recognized by Jazz Journalist Association this year.

Thursday, June 22, 6:30 p.m.
Hurray for Riff Raff (Indie)
Matthew Santos (Indie)

Monday, June 26, 6:30 p.m.
Jaga Jazzist –Electronic jazz from Norway.

AfrotroniX (African Electronic) –Creating visually futuristic performancesChad artist, Caleb Rimtobaye  (now living in Montreal)  AfrotroniX merges electronic music with African rhythms.  It should be an intriguing opening act on Monday June 26.  The  live shows are an original creations mixing electro DJs , live instruments, African urban dance performances and digital art which reflect Montreal’s multiculturalism ; Chad of Sai mixed to Dubstep and Mbalak Rumba with Deep House and electric blues.

Thursday, June 29, 6:30 p.m.
Lady Wray (R&B Soul)

Zeshan B & the Transistors Chicago’s rising star sings R & B soul with a classically trained voice playing a…harmonium.  Yep. And nails it.

You’ll find lots of talk about this Indian American Muslim in NPR; Marco Werman‘s PRI; Aaron Cohen in Chicago Tribune and elsewhere. Why? His music breaks stereotypes and forges a new path with soul. His debut album “Vetted” resurrects old civil rights songs with Sam Cook type styling  while singing in three languages and playing a harmonium, an instrument well known in Indian and Pakistani music as well as occasional vocal flourishes associated with South Asian music qawwali. He grew up with a Dad who loved American R &B; soul and blues however has classical opera training.  In this album he consciously wants to use  music as a way  to unite with black and brown people.  Interestingly, we learn in his interview with PRI he says he felt socially privileged growing up in America and he’s embarassed by the prejudice shown from some of his people.  This isn’t the first time he’s shown he wants to “unite” people.  In 2014 he combined the Pakistani and Indian national anthems as an ode to the culture of both nations in “Border Anthems”. This is definitely We Want Music Without Borders territory.

Check out the short film “Desi Soul” for intriguing look at his background.  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2413884&pnref=story 

Monday, July 10, 6:30 p.m.
Natalie Prass (Indie Rock)
Angelica Garcia (Indie Rock)

Thursday, July 13, 6:30 p.m.

Toto La Monposina -Colombia’s legend. Real World Artist.

Xenia Rubinos (Indie Pop)

Monday, July 17, 6:30 p.m.
Big Thief indie rock from NYC -In all honesty- I’m slow to warm to this genre -generally it’s too tepid for me. To be fair singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker and guitarist Buck Meek have many fans including NPR. I’ll include a Pitchfork review of their album “Masterpiece” http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/21828-masterpiece/  It’s always better to see them live and see what you think.  That’s what I will do. Keep exploring.

Overcoats (Indie Folk Soul)

Thursday, July 20, 6:30 p.m.
Drive-By Truckers (Alt Country Rockers from Alabama)

Honeysuckle (Progressive Folk)

Monday, July 24 6:30 p.m.
Amadou & Mariam (Afro Pop) Mali’s popular singers wow audiences with their warm vocals and extraordinary grace.  All the more amazing because both are blind.

Frank Waln Sicangu Lakota Hip-Hop

Monday, August 7, 6:30 p.m.
Gaby Moreno (Latin R&B)

Thursday, August 10, 6:30 p.m.

Senegalese Superstar Youssou N’Dour!

When the 2013 Polar Prize made him a laureate: ” A West African griot is not just a singer, but a story teller, poet, singer of praise, entertainer and verbal historian. Youssou N’Dour is maintaining the griot tradition and has shown that it can also be changed into a narrative about the entire world. With his exceptionally exuberant band Super Étoile de Dakar (Dakar Star) and his musically ground breaking and political solo albums, Youssou N’Dour has worked to reduce animosities between his own religion, Islam, and other religions. His voice encompasses an entire continent’s history and future, blood and love, dreams and power.” He’s run for President and has become as much involved in politics as Senegalese music.  Foremost exponent of the style of Mbalax music –a traditional form which he has modernized.  Beloved thruout the world –he came to prominence to Western ears when he first collaborated with Peter Gabriel in the 80’s.

Bassel & The Supernaturals (Neo-soul Funk)

Thursday, August 17 6:30 p.m.
Joshua Nelson (Kosher Gospel Music)
Tone Ross & INSPIRED (Gospel Music)

Full schedule

Monday, August 21, 6:30 p.m.
Headliner TBD.
**Schedule of Performers is Subject to Change**

The Millennium Park Summer Music Series is presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and sponsored in part by the Chicago Transit Authority.

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