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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Soulful Chicago musician Angelique Anderson bringing powerful vocals to new music project



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

For her latest project, soulful songstress Angelique Anderson teams up with fellow Chicago musician Michele Thomas to form Acoustic Blue.

Acoustic Blue will perform at 11 p.m. Jan. 30 at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago. Kelley Ahlstrom will perform at 10 a.m.

I had the chance to talk to Anderson about Acoustic Blue.

Q - Great talking to you. Your latest project is Acoustic Blu. How did that come about and what do you want to do with the project? How did you hook up with Michele Thomas? 

Acoustic Blu came from Michele and me wanting to do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. It seemed natural since Michele has primarily been a jazz singer and I do take a lot of influence from Etta James.

We are using it to branch out and try some music we've wanted to do but didn't have a platform to deliver. For her, it is some less jazz influenced music and originals.

For me, it's getting to deliver my music in a more acoustic setting and covering some more challenging artists. We'd also like to start having a different artists join the collective each time.

It's a good way build a music family. At our Jan. 30th show, we'll have Kelley Ahlstrom. 

I met Michele when I was looking for a vocal coach. Out of all of them, I thought she was the best fit for me because she doesn't just focus on classical training but prepared you to sing in the real world. 

Plus she is super supportive and patient which you need when you are laying all your cracks and horrible notes on the line. 

Q - You released your debut album, "No Ordinary," in 2013. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Besides your Acoustic Blu project, are you working on new music? 

All of the music for "No Ordinary" comes from a tumultuous breakup. Isn't that the required response for any artist? It is true though.

At that time, I didn't have a clear long term goal. It was really people like Michele, drummer/producer Darren Scorza, DJ Caswell James and family and other friends propelling me to get my stuff out there. 


The album was much more cathartic than that for me. It helped me lick my wounds and start on another part of my life.

As for new music, I am tossing around some ideas now. I'm in the very early stages of an EP. 

My goal is to get a couple of tunes for this polished up and into my set list. If things go smoothly, maybe I can have the EP wrapped up later this year or early next year. 

Q - Who are your biggest musical influences and what kind of impact have they had on your music? 

Definitely Etta James. She's mainly known for her bluesy voice but the way she finessed that for "At Last" or "Sunday Kind of Love" made me want to sing.

Plus her whole "this is me attitude" is a great as well. She mainly encourages me to do things my way and trust that the right people will hear it.

Otherwise there is Nina Simone, U2, Otis Redding, Zero 7, and Led Zeppelin. I think they've all snuck onto the album in some form or fashion. 

Q - I understand that you stepped away from music for a while. What made you want to get back into music and are you happy with the decision? 

I am totally and utterly in love with music and singing. There are few things that bring me more joy, allow me to intimately connect with people, and provide excuses to hang out late and have a few whiskies. 

https://soundcloud.com/angeliqueamusic


So far the welcome has been amazing. I hope that it continues and that I am able to put some new music out there real soon. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and what do you think you add to it? 

Honestly, it's tough because its filled with so much diverse talent. There are some really good acts out there and while we have quite a few venues, there is a bit of vying for space. 

I think I have my own blend of soul, alt-rock, and jazz. I've covered anything from Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" to "At Last." 

I don't think you see many women doing that. "No Ordinary" does a similar thing starting with the rocked up "It Goes On" to ending with the very jazz influenced "In Between". 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

Other than currently working with Michele, Darren, and Neal Ager, I'd love to get together with Al Green, Chet Faker or Alt-J. 

I can dream, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chicago musician B. Forrest to perform new songs at Martyrs'


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

After performing the day after the terrorist attack in Paris, Chicago musician B. Forrest will play songs from his upcoming debut album, "Back to Bodhi," at Martyrs,' 3855 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, on Jan. 31.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at www.martyrslive.com.

I had the chance to talk to him about the upcoming show.

 
Q - Great to talk to you. You performed in Paris the day after the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. What was the mood like that day and what were your thoughts that day?

Thanks for having me.

It’s not easy to sum up the mood in brief, but that day was tragic in many ways. As an artist, it was upsetting.

The cartoonists were artists expressing themselves (provocatively or not), and they and innocent others were killed for it. That day the streets were eerie, because the gunmen were still at large.

As the weekend progressed, the mood shifted from sadness and shock to unity and resilience.

My thoughts were not unlike a lot of peoples. Paris is a cultural capital of the world and the people who have come to call it home are from all walks of life.

A common sentiment was/is sadness at the potential polarizing of a diverse culture that promotes tolerance.

Q - How did the audience react that night to your performance? Did you feel your music gave some peace to the week's events?

The first night I played was that Thursday, and the second was on Sunday (the day of the unity walk). The cafĂ© culture of Paris is a way of life, so the first gig people were unwinding from the day's events. 

Friends came out to see me, which helped me relate to the listener, otherwise I can see I may have felt a little more foreign then I already was. I had just got in that morning, so I focused on playing with honesty and kept in mind that I was free to do so.

Sunday was a bit more wholesome. Everyone in Paris, (and therefore the venue), had been at the walk, so there was a shared energy of the day with us. 

I performed the songs with that experience fresh in mind. I usually never play a song twice in a night but I book-ended the two sets with “One By One”, which has become more relevant to me every time I play it live.

Q - Your debut album, "Back to Bodhi," is set to be released in the spring. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? What is the meaning behind the album's title?

My main goal for the album was to give the songs the light of day they deserved, and I think we achieved that. There was a time I focused on guitar playing and neglected songwriting… but songs I’d written never left and new ones came and grew.

I want to be able to focus on different things and finishing this album gave those songs a life of their own. I reared them, now I can move forward a ways.




The processes helped me get more comfortable with taking ownership as well.

The meaning of the album’s title is a personal reference to a few things but I hope the listener uses their imagination and comes up with their own impression. Literally speaking, the Bodhi tree was the tree that the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) meditated under when he attained nirvana.

Figuratively, it’s a bit of an essay in song on the common search for peace. I could mention more about what the title means to me but I would ramble a bit and would rather the songs do the talking.

Q - Do you practice Buddhism? How has it impacted your music?

No, I am not a practicing Buddhist, but I will say I have explored it and a lot of the principles have changed the way I look at the world (including music). One of the main foundations of Buddhism is meditation, which I’m not good at… but music is a form of meditation in some ways.

https://soundcloud.com/bforrestmusic

Approaching anything with mindfulness allows a renewed sense of appreciation of being and that act in which we are engaged in. 

In terms of songwriting though, some of my influences are other western cultural works that were influenced by eastern philosophy. Two novelists that come to mind are Hesse and Kerouac, both of whom I read quite a bit of a few years back.

Q - Who are the other musicians on the album and how did you hook up with them? What do they bring to the table?

The album has 13 players on it (14 including Doug) and I’m glad to say they are mostly all good friends of mine… people that inspire me. Four of us make up the rhythm section and the rest are featured throughout the record.

Tyler (drums), Garrett (bass) and I met when I was a freshman at Columbia. They went on to form Sidewalk Chalk with Maggie (background vocals), Sam (vocals and Trumpet) and David (trombone).

The rest of the players I met gradually on the younger Chicago scene. They are all extremely talented players who helped breath life into the music.

What they bring to the table most, aside from their caliber musicianship, is their personalities. They’re beautiful people and it comes out in their playing.

Q - I understand that some of the post-production took place in South Africa. What was that experience like? Do you think it helped add to the worldly nature of the album?

Post-production took place in a raw sense at the hands of the other producer (Doug Saltzman) at a home studio called The Coach House in Chicago. The ideas on my end were manifesting while I was abroad, and the bulk of that time was in Cape Town.

I left for five months days after we finished 90 percent of the tracking. Doug would send me mixes and I would listen down and send my notes back.

We would vigorously go back and fourth for months sculpting the tones and textures. Cape Town has a different energy to it and it was while I was there that I settled on the album title, reached out to Javier Pinon about the art, and recorded and produced the last track.

It was difficult at times with the time difference and different set ups, but in other senses it let the music and the collaboration breath. It was also a special experience to play the mixes to the friends I made there and feel their support and enthusiasm in a totally different culture.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?

What do I think of the Chicago music scene? That’s a tough question. My first answer would say its great. The scene is welcoming and there is a lot of love to go around.

In terms of it being a national stage though, I think it can compete but doesn’t have the glowing recognition that NYC, L.A., and Nashville have.



That’s the whole Second City syndrome, though. There are movements of people who are making known and championing the Chicago music scene. 

The lovely people over at the Gala have created their own world where many people have been drawn to and thrive in.

I don’t know just yet how my music fits into it. I am a proud Chicagoan, but I’m attracted by a lot of other places and would rather my music be defined by those who relate to it rather than the city it comes from.

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I have my dream projects like anyone else (idk if I can say them with out feeling vulnerable.) All of us grow up listening to our heroes and it’d be surreal to make music with them.

For now, I’m grateful and blessed to have the peers that I do, and I’d like to keep collaborating with them before they become too in demand and don’t have the time for me anymore.

In the meanwhile, I look forward to performing this album and recording the next one.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows innovation, maturity on new EP




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The maturity that Chicago-based jazz vocalist Alyssa Allgood shows on her debut EP, "Lady Bird," belies her young age.

Allgood, who recently graduated from North Central College in Naperville, will celebrate the release of "Lady Bird" by performing Jan. 23 at The High Hat Club, 1920 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago.

The show starts at 9 p.m. and there is a $10 cover charge.

I had the chance to talk to Allgood about the new EP.


Q - Great talking to you again. "Lady Bird" is your debut recording. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

Thanks, Eric. It is great talking to you again, too!

My main goal with "Lady Bird" was to create a nice representation of my sound and my artistic approach to the music. Since I am new to the professional jazz scene .I thought it would be smart to create a recording that other artists and people could listen to in order to get a better understanding of who I am musically and to help legitimize me as an artist.

I think I accomplished this with my EP by including original writing, arranging and lyrics. My next goal is to use this album to get my sound out into the world and help land other performance opportunities. 

I have already gotten some great feedback about the recording and I imagine that I will continue working on this second goal for a while.  

Q - Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

There is a special meaning behind the album's name. "Lady Bird" is an old standard written by Tadd Dameron that I wrote lyrics to about finding freedom in music once you've learned to trust in yourself and be in the moment. This is always one of my performance goals and it is something I think I have become more comfortable with recently.

I know I will continue to develop this as well. So, the album name and product are symbolic of my own personal growth and freedom in my music.

I have some of the lyrics written on the inside of the album cover - "trust in your wings, just let yourself sing and your story will soar."

Q - I understand that the first sale of "Lady Bird" on CD Baby came from Japan. Does it surprise you of the impact and reach of your music?
 

Yes, it certainly does! I was pretty blown away that someone in Japan purchased my CD. I think it shows how easy it is to connect globally in our world. 

It excites me about the potential of connecting with a diverse and wide-ranging audience. It also excites me to think that people around the world may be interested in my music.

Q - You were named the Best Collegiate Vocal Jazz Soloist of 2014 in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards. What did that honor mean to you?
 

I think you nailed that question with the use of the word 'honor.' I was so incredibly honored and humbled to have won that award and receive that kind of prestigious recognition for my music. 

Winning that award was a wonderful way to end my collegiate educational experience and it helped me feel reassured in my abilities and my desire to pursue music professionally. It also helped me believe that dreaming big with my music is possible and it is absolutely what I should do.
 

Q - Who are your major influences and what kind of impact did they have on your music?

My two major influences are Janice Borla and Jack Mouse. I've known Janice and Jack since I was 12 years old, when I first attended Janice's vocal jazz camp at North Central College.

This camp exposed me to high quality musicians and the language of jazz at an early age. I went on to study jazz at NCC because of them and I received a great education working with them there.

The two of them helped me develop an understanding and love of jazz, which I always hope shines through in my music. Janice and Jack have significantly influenced my music because they have instilled a strong work ethic in me as well as a desire to never stop learning and growing musically. 

They are also incredible musicians themselves and have served as wonderful role models for me.
 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago area jazz scene and how do you think you fit into it? Do you have any favorite venues in the area?

I think the Chicago area jazz scene is a diverse musical setting that allows for creativity and making a living. I've found nothing but positivity and support from other musicians and that has made me think very highly of the community.


Although I am new to the scene, I think I fit into it by bringing in my own creative interpretation of the music and also showing my own support of other musicians. I am often trying to go out and see other people and support their individual music and approach to jazz.



Although I've never performed there, I think that The Green Mill is one of my favorite venues in Chicago. That jazz club is unique in that it enforces a strict no-speaking policy during performances, which I love!

I've also seen a few of my favorite performers there. I'll be doing my album release at The High-Hat Club and I had the privilege of singing there this fall. I think that's a great listening room and it's my favorite venue that I've performed at in Chicago. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

One of my dreams is to do a big European tour. I've always thought it would be incredible to connect with people around the world through my music and I would love to travel throughout Europe to do so.

I think it would be great to have my music receive enough attention one day for that to be possible. I would also love to perform at a few of the big jazz clubs in the United States.

Collaboration-wise, I would love to work with jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee on some kind of duo project. She is one of my favorite singers and I would be thrilled to work with her!

She is a great improviser, so it would be a lot of fun to do some soloing with her.

Singer-songwriter Misty Boyce coming to Chicago with new album in tow

By ERIC SCHELK0PF

Los Angeles singer-songer Misty Boyce likes to keep busy.

After spending most of 2013-14 touring with Sara Bareilles, Boyce has released a new album, "The Life."  Fans of her music will get two chances to see her, as she will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Levere Memorial Temple, 1856 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

At 9 p.m. Jan. 22, Boyce will perform at Uncommon Ground, 3800 N. Clark St., Chicago. There is a $5 cover charge.

I had the chance to talk to Boyce about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. Your second album, "The Life," will be released soon. In sitting down and making the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?


Stylistically, I really wanted to make an album that bridged the gap between my interest in pure, Americana-ish acoustic songwriting, and electronic, synth-pop. Emotionally, I wanted to make an album that was honest and felt like a pure expression of myself and my voice and my experience.

I think I came as close as ever to reaching those goals with this album.

Q - Is there a story behind the album's name? Filipe Bessa made the video for the title track off the new album. What was your concept for the video and what did he bring to the project? 
"The Life" is the third song on the album, and most of the other songs also deal with life and death and existence in some way or another, so it seemed like a title that would wrap up the sentiment of the whole record in a nice little package.



Filipe's idea was to make something inspired by the portrait-like shots of Grimes's "Oblivion" video. Thankfully, Los Angeles offers a lot of beautiful and diverse scenery within a couple hours drive in any direction, so we just picked a few of our favorite spots and I loosely built some characters, or different sides of one character, inspired by the scenery and the lyrics. 

Q - You recently toured with Sara Bareilles. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience?

Touring with Sara was incredible. I loved every minute of it, even the challenging moments. 
I was pushed to the brink of my musical capabilities and surprised myself by rising to the occasion, and I learned so much watching her gracefully maneuver the terrain of pop-stardom while maintaining her integrity and treating people so very well. 
She showed me how to be a boss without being a jerk and how to incite loyalty and professionalism by leading the way.

Q - How do you think you have grown as a musician since you were the keyboard player for The Naked Brothers band? Who are your biggest influences? 

I think, after a certain point, you become a better musician simply with time and life experience. I'm a much better singer than I used to be, thanks to some coaching, and I know a lot more about synthesizing sounds and gear, but I'm essentially the same musician, I've just been doing it longer.

My biggest influence keyboard-wise is Daniel Mintseris, who plays with St. Vincent. She's also a big inspiration for sounds... 

Q - Do you have any dream collaborations or dream projects?

I would love to work with Blake Mills or Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes or Emily Haines from Metric. Singing and playing and writing with any of them would be a dream come true!