Colombian Fest Al Parque July 15 & July 16 Kelvyn Park Chicago

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by Gail Dee CHICAGO’S COLOMBIAN FEST AL PARQUE moves to Kelyvn Park (4438 W. Wrightwood) for 2017 with a blockbuster lineup of music. New this year, Carnival attractions including rides, games and a Kid’s zone to guarantee family fun!  Sizzling … Continue reading

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Richly layered Afro Mexican Music Making Weekend Memorable

My confession? Years ago I didn’t like much Mexican music much. Yeah I just lumped it all into one big “thing”. Fortunately for me –that is no longer true.  Now I enjoy it immensely. While  Chicago is  especially fortunate to have several genres this weekend to choose to go see from Mariachi to alternative rock at the 8th annual Mole de Mayo festival- the artists playing Son Jarocho this weekend are outstanding. Happily it’s one of my favorite genres. Son Jarocho is sometimes called the Mexican blues. It originated in Veracruz. a seaport which in prior centuries had  African slave markets.   Son Jarocho music and dance owes it’s African roots from that infamous activity.   Often we don’t realize the influence of the African diaspora  spread throughout Mexico & South America.  We tend to focus on it’s influence in our jazz & blues & the Caribbean music and culture.  Chicago is lucky tho: several institutions in Chicago from Hothouse to Old Town School of Folk Music to the National Museum of Mexican Art present Son Jarocho.  In fact, Hothouse is in the midst of a project called Chicago -Guantanamo Blues Exchange which includes musicians who play Son Jarocho as well as other African influenced music in a cultural exchange in Cuba.  See more at our link in the Chicago Defender article by Stan West.

Jaime Rodriguez Garcia of Pachanka Music Culture  programmed the music for Mole de Mayo sponsored by the 18th Street Development Corporation. He’s a major proponent of this genre in Chicago as well as being a kick ass rock/cumbia bass guitarist with Dos Santos Anti Beat. He is also one of the musicians who took part in the Hothouse project in Cuba.  Under his music programming the entertainment promises to be as vibrant and rich as the Festival’s culinary namesake Mole the smokey, complex dish the festival is named after. And the festival’s programming spills over to other places as well–like Old Town School of Folk Music and Thalia Hall.

On Friday Old Town School of Folk Music presents Son de Madera direct from Veracruz,  Mexico with a performance. OTSFM  also offering  workshops on Sat May 27.

If you haven’t seen them before this is a great opportunity to see the real thing–traditional Son Jarocho direct from Veracruz for it’s Friday global dance party.  Tickets $20  On Saturday Son de Madera will also perform at the Mole de Mayo Festival at 8 pm. See the Schedule below.

The next exciting group is the 2013 Latin grammy winners from East LA “Quetzal”.   They will be at Mole de Mayo on Saturday May 27 at 6 pm.

This outstanding  Chicano group established for 20+ years is well known for their social activism as well as their music. They also play Son Jarocho mixed with other kinds of alternative latin.

On Sunday night the popular Chicago Sones de Mexico closes the Mole de Mayo festival.  They are also 20 year veterans  offering Son Jarocho as well as many other genres.

FYI: all these bands have also played at the Smithsonian.

Another musical highlight of the weekend include Celso Pina the popular Mexican accordionist known for his cumbia as well as mixing ska, rock, reggae & more with Nortena and other mexican styled music.  Cumbia originally an Afro Colombian music genre found great popularity in Mexico. Celso Pina famous for his fusion with other styles of music.

He closes the Saturday night  at the Mole Festival and on Sunday night Pachanka &  8 Track Presents him at the Official Mole de Mayo After Party at Thalia Hall with IFE--a very HOT Puerto Rican group which mixes traditional Yorban chant & rhythms with electronic effects very seductively.  Dos Santos Anti Beat is also on the program with their high energy psychedelic cumbia.  Highly recommended show.  Tickets

Check out the hot  ÌFÉ, –who also played the Chicago World Music Festival 2016.

Also on my list of recommends includes Victor Garcia Latin Quartet at 6:30 on Sunday at Mole de Mayo.  More on Victor soon.  He’s one of the best of Chicago trumpet players with both Mexican traditional music and jazz.  He just recently performed and was praised by jazz critic Howard Reich as part of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra performance in celebration of Dizzy Gillespie. I remember seeing him in the remarkable entrance he made with Sones de Mexico in their 20th anniversary Millennium Park show.   He’ll also be at Sabor tonight (Friday) and Jazz Showcase on Tuesday May 30 in a free WDCB sponsored show.

Speaking of Jazz Showcase:  Chico Freeman Plus + Tet visits us from Switzerland this weekend. Chico is originally from Chicago–and is the legendary Von Freeman’s son.  The entire weekend of shows will be great — Of special interest is Sunday when his Uncle George Freeman will join him also on guitar.  George just celebrated his 90th birthday  and will be headlining at this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival.

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Saturday & Sunday 4pm – 6pm
LA LUNA west stage MC Jaime de Leon
Friday, May 26* LA LUNA Stage (west) *
5pm – Luis Zamora & Karen Bloom
6pm – Tierra Roja
8pm – Mariachi Perla De Mexico Oficial* EL SOL Stage (east) *
5pm – Súbele
7pm – You Are Here
9pm – Yanga* LUCHA LIBRE STAGE *
5pm – Charlie Glitch
8:30pm – Cedeño Brfrecords***
Saturday, May 27* LA LUNA Stage (west) *
12pm – Baruch & DJ Juliocesar
1:30pm – Brinco del Chinelo
3pm – Chicago Mariachi Project
4:30 – Beats y Batería
6pm – Quetzal
8pm – Son de Madera
9pm – PyroBeat Ensemble Fire Dance* EL SOL Stage (east) *
12pm – Guapachosos
1:30pm – The Luna Blues Machine
3pm – ¡Aparato!
6:30pm – Dos Santos Antibeat Orquesta
8:30pm – Celso Piña y Su Ronda Bogotá*
12pm – The People’s Stage Karaoke with Pablo Serrano
4pm – Sonido Viernes 13 Rocknroll
5pm – DJ Mosko Cruz
7pm – Mr. Bobby
8:30pm – The Ponderers*** DOMINGO, MAYO 28 ***
Sunday, May 28*
LA LUNA Stage (west) *
12pm – Nahui Ollin Huehuecoyotl
1:30pm – Las Tequileras
3pm – Ramiro R Duarte
4:30pm – Rubén P. ALvarez y Raices Profundas
6pm – Bocafloja Quilombo-Oficial
7pm – Brinco del Chinelo
8:30pm – Sones de Mexico Ensemble*
EL SOL Stage (east) *
12pm – TBA
2pm – Leticia Servin
3:30pm – Claudia La Gitana
5pm – Money Chicha
6:30pm – Victor Garcia Latin Quartet
8:30pm – Los Vicios de Papá*
12pm – Pablo Serrano Peoples Stage Karaoke
4pm – Baruch
5pm – DJ Juliocesar
6pm – TBA
7pm – Bumbac Joe
8:30pm – Charly García de (((SONORAMA)))/ Future Rootz
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Thank You For Your Strong Support & Generous Donation

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by Gail Dee updated June 30 Due to illness & computer equipment challenges– I’m several weeks  behind publicly thanking some  special people. Please forgive me.  You’ll find some interactive images –containing links to information about them. Today the focus is … Continue reading

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Salsa. Swing. Steppin’ Chicago Summerdance 2017 Schedule with New Contest & Grand Celebration

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by Gail Dee Hot off the presses!  Chicago’s beloved 21st Summerdance announces it’s schedule.  The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will be presenting Swing, Salsa, Zydeco; Tango, Afrobeat and More at SummerDance.   Every Friday–Sunday, June 23–September 10, in … Continue reading

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Millennium Park Summer Music Series 2017

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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 … Continue reading

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We Want Music Without Borders #wmfchicago2016 #Deelights

by Gail Dee

Interested in sampling some of the music coming to Chicago for the World Music Festival Chicago?  Check out  our interactive image #deelights.  Each icon links to a different artist appearing at the FREE World Music Festival Chicago 2016 from Sept. 9 -Sept. 25. 60 artists from 25 countries!  More artist #deelights will be added daily until VOILA–the image contains everyone at the Festival! Below you can see the finished product from the 2015 World Music Festival Chicago!  Great way to whet your appetite for the incredible abondanza of music coming to Chicago.


The RAGAMALA (still adding to it;-)



The festival takes place at cool venues like Lincoln Hall, Martyr’s, Old Town School of Folk Music, Humboldt Park Boathouse; Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park and others. See the World Music Festival Chicago lineup and schedule here:

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Twenty Years of Tunes: Brian O’Hern & the Model Citizens Play the Pritzker at Chicago Jazz Festival: “The music grooves, soloists sparkle, and the band wails!”

by Gail Dee/ We Want Music Without Borders

After twenty years of hi jinks and hangs, Chicago’s swingin’ funky big band, Brian O’Hern and the Model Citizens, hits the big time on the big Pritzker stage at Chicago Jazz Festival Friday Sept. 2 at 5 pm in Millennium Park. O’Hern throws a lot of musical curves at his versatile 14 member band. They perform O’Hern’s original and humorously quirky compositions along with arrangements for songs from Jimmy Webb and Queen to the Star Spangled Banner.   Brian says “We play straight jazz, out jazz, boogaloos, rock covers, waltzes, marches, church music, hora, bolero, rumba, calypso, corals, and anthems.”

Brian O Hern Jazz Fest Jackson Stage

As a megafan for over ten years,( full disclosure: I actually received the “honored” mega fan button) I’m hoping they get discovered by a TV executive and hired to be the house band for a talk show. The Model Citizens attack new charts with verve and old charts with mastery in monthly unrehearsed shows at the Gallery Cabaret  every 3rd Monday. The reward being beer served in frosty mugs by the most attractive female in the bar; a few bucks and lots of laughs. The band began their journey in 1996 at Martyr’s where they played their anniversary show in March. Martyr’s owner, Ray Quinn, a long time friend and fan of Brian’s music said Since Sir Georg retired, the greatest band in Chicago. Celebrate their return to Martyrs’ where it all began 20 years ago.”

Not to imply this is the first time the Model Citizens have performed at the Jazz Festival. In 2011 they played the smaller Jackson stage and many of the stellar band members such as Mike Allemana, the guitarist; Matt Ferguson, the bassist; Pat Mallinger, tenor sax; have headlined or been featured performers on the Pritzker for “Made in Chicago: Jazz” or the Chicago Jazz Festival. This year, however, will be the first time, the unassuming, eccentric and comedic composer and band leader Brian O’Hern, appears on the Millennium Park stage with his big band.

Besides Brian’s brilliant and humorous compositions, music lovers will appreciate the top notch Model Citizens musicians which are among Chicago’s best jazz musicians. Mike Allemana, Matt Ferguson (both Von Freeman’s sidemen) Pat Mallinger (Sabertooth) have been Model Citizens for 20 years. Other band members include Dave Creighton, Dan Nicholson, Anthony Bruno, Mark Hiebert, BJ Levy, BJ Cord, Scott Anderson, Raphael Crawford, Dylan Rehm, and Gerald Dowd.

Model Citizens Christmas show

Photo by Harvey Tillis

Nobody puts Brian O’Hern and the Model Citizens Big Band in a corner. Every show is a surprise even after 15 years of attending the monthly shows religiously.   Brian says “It’s not like the cookie cutter “jazz orchestras” coming out of the “college tradition.” While some of the songs have become familiar classics like “Helen’s Waltz Medley” with its’ sardonic lyrics “So put on your jazz slacks and go have a beer ’cause Andy’s is the place for Jazz” and “Frugal Tall Hag” an exhilarating instrumental groove based vaguely on a reproduction of an old WW2 big band classic “Bugle Call Rag”, Brian is always experimenting with new material. In fact, he has just released a fourth CD, tongue in cheek entitled  “We Are So Straight Ahead” .  I attribute part of my breast cancer cure many years ago to these monthly sessions of funky guitar, blaring brass and sexy soulful saxes combined with hearty laughter. Who wouldn’t feel healed at the end of night hearing “Party like a Rockstar” (not the shop boyz) morphing into a rousing rendition of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” as the band does a second line thru the narrow bar’s audience?

Educated at Berklee College of Music, Brian says he wasn’t interested at all in “big bands” until he toured with Arty Shaw and Glenn Miller bands. Brian plays the keyboards, piano, B-3 organ and accordion. (He also likes the kazoo;-))   At 49 years old, he still has a baby face and a boyish charm in front of the audience.   As well as being a serious composer, he’s also a ham and in the intimate club setting does hilariously outrageous things –like stripping down to his briefs to put on tights and a cape as perform “We Are the Champions” as a rock star. (ok–i guess you had to be there;-).

Brian OHern Dec. 2015 poster The monthly Monday nights at the intimate Gallery Cabaret are an informal affair- sort of like studio sessions. Frequently the musicians are looking at charts for the first time which they approach fearlessly. It is part of the thrill for the regular audience members to be privy to the organic process of hearing how a composition develops. They hear an original song performed and a couple months later the song may appear again—maybe the arrangement has changed or the melodic line is repeated in another song. And it’s always brings a smile to hear the band members break into song calling on the Gallery Cabaret’s owner to serve them more beer “We’re the Model Citizens and YES, we are thirsty. Kenny can we have more beer?”

Brian says, “Our shows are loose, crazy and sometimes blue in humor. But underneath all that is a tight deepness performed by the highest caliber of players. I like to make it look as though it’s all happening at random when the truth is I spend hundreds of hours preparing the charts and putting all the parts together to make the whole. So by the time the show is on I just sit back and listen. My work is pretty much done.”

Admittedly, I greeted the news of this Jazz Festival performance with a jubilant shout of glee and no small amount of smug vindication. For years I have figuratively grabbed the ears of friends and strangers with my enthusiastic “You got to come and see this crazy big band. The music is a blast!”

You can see for yourself Friday Sept. 2 at 5 pm at Millennium Park. Remember to see them in more intimate surroundings every 3rd Monday at the Gallery Cabaret.  Halloween shows are always a special musical trick or treat too! “We Are So Straight Ahead” can be purchased here . or iTunes.

Find out more about the Chicago Jazz Festival and Jazz Institute of Chicago

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