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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pianist Benny Green keeps the classic hard-bop sound alive

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 04:44 PM

Art Blakey with a very young Benny Green (right)
  • Arthur Elgort
  • Art Blakey with a very young Benny Green (right)
It's hard to believe pianist Benny Green recently turned 50—it seems like not so long ago he was a fresh-faced young lion, instilled with the hard-bop virtues of Art Blakey, with whom he worked with in the late 80s. But on his terrific new trio album Magic Beans (Sunnyside) he's still purveying a timeless (if simultaneously time-specific) sound, delivering crisp, hard-swinging jazz in the style of his hard-bop mentors. It's the first album in a discography going back to 1988 on which he's stuck exclusively with original compositions, all of which he wrote in an intense burst last year.

Once again he's supported by the excellent rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation) that formed its bond with the great Johnny Griffin as well as, later Bill Charlap. Some of the tunes are named for heroes of Green, like "Kenny Drew," "Jackie McLean," and "Harold Land," but even when they don't specifically invoke an individual, they bask in the sound of hard bop's golden era of the 50s. The opening track, "Benny's Crib," for example, harks straight back to the vintage sound of Blue Note (and references the Sonny Clark tune "Sonny's Crib"). There's nothing novel or new about Green's playing here—just more of the same rhythmically exhilarating, blues-drenched, and technically precise work he's been churning out for decades—but since most of the remaining figures from the era he celebrates don't play with the same snap and concision and most contemporaries lack his sense of economy, Green provides a valuable service. He plays the Jazz Showcase Thursday through Sunday, performing with bassist Washington and drummer David Wong.

Below you can check out the Monkish "Paraphrase," so titled for the way it clips its melodic line from Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing."

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And the machines will be our masters: Ghost Machine and Lossless

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 04:18 PM

Dream Machine
  • Christopher Ottinger
  • Dream Machine
Anyone who has spent time around small children has likely observed the moment when a child goes toddling up to a reflective surface and presses himself against it, standing hand to hand, nose to nose, with self. Adults tend to undercut the profundity of these moments by cooing things along the lines of "Who's that? Who IS that? Who is that handsome boy in the mirror?" What the child is in the process of discovering, if Mommy could please just be quiet for a second, is that that handsome boy is him, and that he is in fact a thing that exists beyond the confines of his own mind. He is not only subject, he is object.

Jacques Lacan called this phase of development the "mirror stage." It's a crucial step on the road to self-awareness, to understanding not only that I am me—a unique individual consciousness—but also that I, as an object in the world, have the power to affect other objects around me.

With the exhibition Ghost Machine, currently on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition, BOLT resident artist Christopher Ottinger explores the idea of machines on the threshold of consciousness—machines captured in the mirror stage.

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A New York Times story begins with a gratuitous display of humility

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 03:45 PM

Earlier play about Mom and Dad
  • Earlier play about Mom and Dad
This is about tradecraft. I read the first paragraph—no, not even the first paragraph; the first sentence of the first paragraph—of a story in last Sunday’s arts section of the New York Times, and wondered where the editor was who should have saved the writer from himself.

The writer was Joe Gilford, a playwright whose father, Jack Gilford, had been a well-known actor a few decades ago and whose mother, Madeline Lee Gilford, had been a child actor before raising a family. Both parents were victims of the blacklist, and their son’s new play, Finks, dramatizes that era.

Gilford’s Times article offers the backstory to his play, focusing on his mother’s bizarre encounter with a moonlighting actress who’d jumped out from behind a bush on Fire Island and tried to serve her with a subpoena to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The article’s fine, except that this is how it begins: "Among the few things I share with Eugene O’Neill—although I am not nearly as brilliant or as important—is that we are both playwrights, we both chose to write about our parents, and our parents were actors. One thing we don't share is that my parents were blacklisted in the 1950s and were unable to work in television and film for almost a decade."

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Check out artist Michael Robinson's "Video Playlist" at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 03:26 PM

From Robinsons These Hammers Dont Hurt Us (2010)
  • From Robinson's These Hammers Don't Hurt Us (2010)
Tomorrow at 6 PM the Museum of Contemporary Photography will host a program called "Video Playlist: Short Circuit Sparks," a collection of short films and videos curated by video artist Michael Robinson. The 31-year-old artist, whose work is currently on display at the Carrie Secrist Gallery, describes the program as an examination of "connections between television and self-understanding, specifically through physical, spatial and psychic interactions with TV monitors themselves." (Hey, that sounds like David Cronenberg's Videodrome!) Robinson's art is devoted to such spatial and psychic interactions; many of his video and still-photography works are collages of some sort. His longest video project to date, the 45-minute Circle in the Sand (2012), depicts a group of derelicts exhuming cultural objects in a postapocalyptic environment. Call it the last mixed-media exhibit of all time. Circle screens hourly in one of the rooms of his Carrie Secrist exhibition; tomorrow's MoCP program will feature some of his shorter works. Also represented on the program are Miranda July, Shana Moulton, Lynda Benglis, Laida Lertxundi, and School of the Art Institute professor Lori Felker.

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Why Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" is probably the song of the year

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 02:42 PM

Every once in a while the universe manages to come close to being exactly as it should be. For instance, right now Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" is at number 19 on the Hot 100, which isn't exactly the placement it deserves, but isn't too far off either.

This isn't the French robot duo's first appearance on the chart ("Around the World" made it to number 61 in 1997 and "One More Time" did the same in 2000), but it's the highest spot that they've achieved. More importantly, it's the first time that they've charted since EDM—a genre that they've had as big an influence on as any other single act—has become a competitive player in mainstream pop music. Right now they're sharing the Hot 100 with EDM artists Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, Baauer, Zedd, and Skrillex (albeit via a beat for A$AP Rocky), as well as more pop-oriented acts like, Icona Pop, and Awolnation that have prominent EDM streaks. And aside from Baauer, who's still cruising off his seemingly unkillable "Harlem Shake," they're higher up than any of them. Which is exactly as it should be, since Daft Punk is better than all of them.

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Drinking Malort at 9 AM

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 01:59 PM

Bitterness in a bottle
That's what I did today, anyway—along with Fat Rice chef Abraham Conlon, Reader editor Mara Shalhoup, and Morning Show host Tony Sarabia; we were on WBEZ talking about the Reader's upcoming Key Ingredient Cook-Off. This Friday, 25 of the chefs who've participated in Key Ingredient will prepare a dish using one of the five assigned ingredients: durian, Malort, millet, celery, or dried shrimp (VIP tickets are sold out but regular tickets are still available).

At least most of them will use one; Conlon, a recent addition to the lineup (he hadn't yet participated when the other chefs were invited), elected to use all five. And he brought his dish—an homage to Epoisses cheese that involved durian, Malort, and dried shrimp, served with millet bread and a celery and grape salad—as well as the makings for a Malort cocktail. Conlon's version of the stinky cheese (which, like durian, is banned on the subway in certain countries because of its odor) echoed the funkiness of Epoisses but was a little sweeter and creamier. The cocktail was a twist on a gin and tonic; instead of tonic water he used plain sparkling water, and the Malort mimicked the quinine flavor. It tasted quite a bit like a gin and tonic. You can listen to the segment here—below is a list of what ingredients the other chefs are using, and a few of the dishes they'll be preparing (some of the other bites are described here).

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12 O'Clock Track: Harry Fraud teams up with Riff Raff and Earl Sweatshirt for "Yacht Lash"

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 12:00 PM

Producer Harry Fraud got his first big break a few years back with the beat to French Montana's "New York Minute" and he's since worked with A-listers like Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross, but he also does plenty of work with edgy underground rappers like Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$. He has his own EP about to drop via the Scion A/V label, and today released its first single. It's a woozy, druggy, trap-inflected beat featuring verses from increasingly independent-seeming Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt and the eccentric, Diplo-backed rapper Riff Raff, who delivers a typically surreal verse with lines about "Versace lasagna" and similar things. Oh yeah, and the song's called "Yacht Lash," which apparently means the specific kind of whiplash that you get when your yacht gets into an accident, and which may or may not be an actual technical term. Fraud's High Tide EP is out May 7, and you can stream "Yacht Lash" after the jump.

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Did you read about Syria, Jason Collins, and the Tonys?

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 11:31 AM

Jason Collins
  • Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • Jason Collins
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That Republicans are demanding that President Obama take some action in Syria so they can condemn whatever action he takes in Syria, according to Andy Borowitz? Steve Bogira

• That 28,000 rivers are missing in China? Mick Dumke

• That Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, is the first male pro athlete in the four major American sports to come out? Kevin Warwick

• This take on "Internet reviewing culture" from the perspective of a critical theorist who lives in Brooklyn, name drops Enver Hoxha, and gives Yelp one star on the grounds of nonawesomeness? Kate Schmidt

• That, based on a survey of maps, Illinois is the most midwestern of states? Aimee Levitt

• That the 2013 Tony nominations include a Steppenwolf production (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), three Steppenwolf ensemble members (Laurie Metcalf, Amy Morton, Tracy Letts), and Chicago-based actress Carrie Coon? Tony Adler

• That in lieu of gifts for their baby, Kanye West (and Kim Kardashian) want people to donate money to Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital? Gwynedd Stuart

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While waiting for information out of City Hall, please enjoy this video of the mayor

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 10:15 AM

Howard Wolinsky is one of Chicago's most experienced medical writers. He worked that beat for about 15 years at the Sun-Times, cowrote a muckraking book on the American Medical Association, and now teaches at Medill and freelances. After the Boston marathon bombing, Chicago Medicine, a monthly magazine published by the Chicago Medical Society, assigned Wolinsky and another writer to examine emergency preparedness in Chicago. Eric Beck, medical director of the city's emergency medical services system, suggested some doctors he ought to talk to.

One was Elisabeth Weber, projects administrator of the hospital preparedness program of the Department of Public Health. Another was Will Wong, medical director of the department's Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response. Wolinsky e-mailed them both on April 20 and asked for an interview. The e-mail to Wong bounced back; but even though it was a Saturday morning, Weber replied within minutes. "How nice of Eric Beck to send you my way," Weber wrote. "I have time on Monday and Tuesday but I will need to loop in the PIO from the Health Department. I am not certain of his availability." However, Wong's office was next to hers, and she thought possibly he could join her when Wolinsky came over.

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Reader's Agenda Tue 4/30: The Elephant and the Whale, Founders dinner at Jerry's, and the Acid Rap listening party

Posted By on 04.30.13 at 06:14 AM

The Elephant and the Whale
  • Charles Osgood
  • The Elephant and the Whale
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered:

According to Reader contributor Justin Hayford, Chicago Children's Theatre's play The Elephant and the Whale, currently in production at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, "isn't necessarily for children—call it a childlike play for adults." Both property of a janky family circus in the early 20th century, an elephant and a whale strike up an unlikely friendship and hatch an elaborate plan for escape.

Jerry's Sandwiches hosts a prix fix dinner featuring an original menu paired with Founders brews. Registration required.

Jugrnaut hosts a listening party for local hip-hop wunderkind Chance the Rapper's new mixtape Acid Rap. As a primer, be sure to read Leor Galil's recent feature story on Chance and his recent success.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
August 11
Performing Arts
July 31

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