Thursday, March 29, 2018

Aaron Neville, Elle King to headline Blues on the Fox festival June 15 and 16 in downtown Aurora

Photo by Tom King
Grammy-winning singer and musician Aaron Neville along with Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Elle King will headline the 22nd annual Blues on the Fox festival, which will be held June 15 and 16 at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora.

Gates will open at 6 p.m. June 15 for day one of the festival. Kansas City blues singer-songwriter Samantha Fish will take the stage at 7 p.m., followed by King, best known for her Top 10 hit “Ex’s and Oh’s.”

Gates open at 2 p.m. June 16 for day two. At 3 p.m., 14-year-old guitar phenom Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, who starred on Broadway in "The School of Rock," takes the stage. 
CTA bus driver turned blues musician Toronzo Cannon will perform at 5 p.m., followed by slide guitar legend Sonny Landreth at 7 p.m. Neville, who has three Grammy awards under his belt, will close the night at 9 p.m.

Early bird tickets are only $20 per day if purchased through May 31. Regular tickets are $30 per day starting June 1 and on-site. 

All tickets are general admission and fees are not included. Children 12 and under are admitted free, but must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.

Tickets and information are available at, by calling the RiverEdge box office at 630-896-6666, or at RiverEdge’s satellite box office, the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

The RiverEdge box office will also be open on-site both days, beginning at noon.


Friday, June 15

Gates open: 6 p.m.

7 p.m. - Samantha Fish 
“An impressive blues guitarist.” “Sings with sweet power.” “Kicked down the door of the patriarchal blues club.” The critics can’t get enough! The soulful, rootsy Samantha Fish is a musical force that refuses to be confined to a box. While she doesn’t peg herself as a traditional blues artist, it’s her deep love for the genre that’s at the heart of who she is and what she does.

Originally from Kansas City, Fish exploded on the scene in 2009 as the Samantha Fish Blues Band with her live album, "Live Bait." The rock-edged guitar work brought her to the attention of Ruf Records, which included her on the 2011 "Girls with Guitars" album of women covering the Rolling Stones and the Steve Miller Band along with original material. Later that year, Fish released her solo debut, "Runaway," also with Ruf Records. She saw her first chart success with her sophomore LP, "Black Wind Howlin'." It hit the Billboard Heatseekers chart and reached the Top Ten of the blues albums chart in 2013. She followed it with "Wild at Heart" in 2015, which became a blues number one. In 2017, she returned with "Chills & Fever," recorded in Detroit with members of the Detroit Cobras, and her fifth studio album, "Belle of the West."
Samantha Fish "Chills & Fever"

9 p.m. - Elle King 
Singer, songwriter and occasional actor Elle King, best known for her Billboard Top 10 hit “Ex’s and Oh’s,” will make you question everything you thought you knew about the blues. With a hard rock edge and debut album that dropped just three short years ago, earning her two Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song, she is tearing up the charts. Frank and fearless, tender and rowdy, King’s music is unbeatable and unstoppable. 

King was born Tanner Elle Schneider in 1989 in Los Angeles, the daughter of British model London King and Rob Schneider, the former cast member of "Saturday Night Live." She grew up in Ohio, and after hearing the all-girl pop-punk band the Donnas when she was nine, she decided she wanted to be a singer and musician. By 13 she was playing guitar, and later, the banjo. After college she spent time in Copenhagen and L.A. before settling in Brooklyn. Signing to RCA, she released a four-song EP, "The Elle King EP," in 2012. In 2015, King released her debut album, "Love Stuff," featuring the single "Ex's & Oh's," which reached the top of Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. In 2016, King recorded a duet with Dierks Bentley, “Different for Girls,” for his album, "Black." The track was released as a single, rose to number one on the Country Airplay charts, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, and won a Country Music Association trophy for Best Vocal Event of the Year.
Elle King "Ex's & Oh's" official video

Saturday, June 16

Gates: 2 p.m.

3 p.m. - Brandon “Taz” Niederauer
Fourteen years old. Let that sink in for a moment. Brandon Niederauer – nicknamed Taz - is just 14 years old and has already played in the most legendary places in America with some of the most prominent musicians of our time. Taz’s love for music began when he watched the film "School of Rock" and realized he wanted to play guitar. Four years later, he was cast as guitarist Zack Mooneyham in the Tony Award-nominated Broadway production of "School of Rock."

Since then, the New York City-based phenom has played with Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy, Stevie Nicks, Lady Gaga, Slash, Jon Batiste, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Dr. John, Otis Taylor and many more. If you want to see a rising star, be sure to check out Taz. 
Brandon Niederauer plays The Star Spangled Banner on Broadway in "School of Rock: The Musical"

5 p.m. – Toronzo Cannon
Toronzo Cannon is a Chicago Transit Authority bus driver by day, and an amazing blues player by night - or whenever he’s on tour either in the United States or on another continent shredding the guitar like it stole his girl. With influences from the likes of B.B. King, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix and many other legends, Cannon has honed his style into a biting, singing guitar sound that’s all his own.

A modern blues master with compelling and forceful singing, Cannon has been hailed “one of Chicago’s new greats,” by the Chicago Sun-Times. His unofficial launch from local hero to national star took place on June 13, 2015, at the Chicago Blues Festival, where he performed as a festival headliner. His album "The Chicago Way" is his Alligator label debut, featuring nothing but Cannon originals, all powered by his blistering guitar and soul-baring vocals. His songwriting is inspired by his deep, homegrown Chicago roots, his years observing the public while working as a city bus driver on the West Side, and his own battles and triumphs. From searing blues anthems to swinging shuffles to soulful ballads to roof-raising rockers, the songs tell timeless stories of common experiences in uncommon ways.
Toronzo Cannon performs "Sweet, Sweet, Sweet"

7 p.m. - Sonny Landreth
Eric Clapton calls guitarist, songwriter and singer Sonny Landreth not only one of the most underappreciated musicians on the planet but also one of the most advanced. With praise like that, you don’t need another reason to see this blues master and slide guitarist. This virtuoso Southwest Louisiana blues man may be underappreciated, but when you see Landreth live, you’re gonna be in awe at the incredible craftsmanship and skill.

Landreth’s signature blues slide guitar playing found on his two early Zoo Entertainment releases, "Outward Bound "(1992) and "South of I-10" (1995), is distinctive and unlike anything else you've ever heard. His unorthodox guitar style comes from the manner in which he simultaneously plays slide and makes fingering movements on the fretboard. Today, Landreth is known as the “King of Slydeco,” famous for his easygoing personality and ability to play it all like any good session musician. Since 1981, Landreth has released 17 albums and collaborated with some of the biggest names in guitar: Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Derek Trucks, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffet, John Hiatt and more. His latest album, "Recorded Live in Lafayette," was nominated for a Grammy Award as best contemporary blues album. 
Sonny Landreth "Blues Attack" from the album "Recorded Live in Lafayette"

9 p.m. - Aaron Neville 

To close Blues on the Fox, three-time Grammy Award-winner, R&B singer and musician Aaron Neville will “tell it like it is” as only he can. Having one of the most evocative and recognizable voices in American music, Aaron Neville is an international ambassador of New Orleans R&B, though his soaring falsetto sounds at home in many styles. Coming of age in the incredibly creative 1950s Crescent City R&B scene, Neville gained national attention with his 1966 hit “Tell It Like It Is,” the stirring ballad and #1 hit, as well as with the Wild Tchoupitoulas, a touring Mardi Gras celebration that led to the creation of the Neville Brothers band — an institution that would confirm Neville’s iconic status.

Over his four-time Grammy-winning solo career, Neville has scored a string of hits including “Tell It Like It Is,” memorable duets with Linda Ronstadt including "Don't Know Much" and a hugely popular cover of Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool.” With his latest album, "Apache," a solo album that makes the case for Aaron Neville as the most holistic of soul men. Its hard R&B side matches anything the Neville Brothers ever recorded for true grit, while still allowing plenty of space for a singer who’s arguably the most distinctive vocal stylist on the planet to tell it like it is. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Chicago blues musician Mud Morganfield releases new album, will perform at SPACE in Evanston

Photo by Paul Natkin


Chicago is well represented on the latest album by Mud Morganfield, a Chicago native himself and the son of Chicago blues legend Muddy Waters.

Not only was "They Call Me Mud" recorded at JoyRide Studios in Chicago, the album also features several Chicago area musicians, including guitarist Billy Flynn and Studebaker John on harmonica and backing vocals. Special guest stars on the album include Billy Branch on harmonica, Mike Wheeler on guitar and his Morganfield's daughter, Lashunda Williams.

Morganfield and many of the musicians who performed on the album will join him on stage as part of a CD release party on April 5 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $17 to $27, available by going to

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

Q – I know you consider the songs on "They Call Me Mud" some of the best work you have done.

It gets better and better for me, man. This variety has a variety of stuff on it. Many, many people can take something away from this album.

It's a buffet, man. You can get a pick of a little jazzy stuff with Billy Branch on "Mud's Groove," and you can get some funk blues with "They Can Me Mud." And behind that, there's a B.B. King kind of sound that Billy Flynn brought to "48 Days."

Not to mention the ballads, man. I think it's a buffet for everybody to eat off of.

Q – To me, the album has a real live feel to it. I could imagine a lot of these songs sounding the same on stage as they do on the record. Did you try to create some of that live feel on this CD?

Not particularly. I took this great band into the studio, and that is the end result of it. We were all there together in the studio. I was the only one in a separate booth, me and my daughter.

At Joyride Studios, the band is in one big room. There weren't any tracks laid down. Everybody did these tracks at the same time. 

Q – You and your daughter, Lashunda Williams, appear together on the duet, "Who Loves You." What was it like working with her?

It was like pulling teeth, man. She's a gospel singer, and I had to do a little persuading for her to do it.

She's a God-fearing young woman, you know. But I'm her dad, and Muddy Waters is her granddad, and she came around, and assisted me on that one tune. It was great working with her.

Q – How did the band come together for this album? Did you hand pick these musicians or how did it come about?

I produced the album, and I knew the sound I was looking for. I knew what I wanted, man.

These guys are a bunch of great guys. They are a bunch of great musicians. They wanted to be a part of it. What you got is the end result, and I am happy and honored to be able to play with them.

Q – And I know many of the musicians will be playing at the CD release show at SPACE, right?

I'm going to get as many as I can to come down if they not working at another gig. We're going to have a great time, man. 

Q – You include a couple of your dad's songs on the album, "Howling Wolf" and "Can't Get No Grindin.' " What made you want to put those songs on the album and did you want to do something different with the songs than they were originally played?

Anything I put out, you can almost bet your bottom dollar I'm going to put a song or two of my dad's on there. It's my way of respecting and honoring my dad.

It's my way of saying, "I love you, dad." I thank God that him and my mom was able to give me the same talent as dad had. 

And I enjoy it. I really enjoy it. I'm more comfortable there. 

When I was growing up, I tried to sing like Tyrone Davis and Johnnie Taylor,  and everything come out of my mouth just sounding like Muddy Waters. So I'm not going to fight that, I'm just going to make good music for our fans and friends and family. That's my goal.

Q – As far as some of things that your dad taught you, did he want you to go into the music business?

I was born into the blues. My dad didn't really teach me much about the music business. Everything was God given and straight from his bloodline.

Q – Of course, we've lost so many blues legends in the past few years. What do you try to do with your music to carry on the blues?

You've got it right there in your hands, "They Call Me Mud." What else can I do? That's all I can do, is what you've got there in your hands, until I do the next album.

And there's no telling. I'm considering doing a gospel album. I keep an open mind.

There's no telling which way my spirit may lead me. But I'll always stay around that bluesy stuff. 

Q – Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

I would probably be featuring my daughter a little more if she is up to it. 

Q – When you work with family, I guess that's what it is all about, right?

Yeah. It takes you kind of out of the business end of it. It's from the heart, because you love each other, you know.

And that's what I like about the song that me and her did. It ran deeper than just us doing a duet. It was really comfortable, and we did it from our hearts.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Chicago Sinfonietta will present "Hear Me Roar," a celebration of women in classical music


In conjunction with its Project W initiative for gender equity in classical music, Chicago Sinfonietta will present "Hear Me Roar" at 3 p.m. at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall at 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, and at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, who is music director of Chicago Sinfonietta, will conduct. Chicago Sinfonietta  is Chicago’s professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion, and both racial and cultural equity in the arts.

The program includes new works "Dance Card," by recent Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon as well as "#MeToo" by Reena Esmail, both commissioned as part of Sinfonietta’s Project W initiative. 

Featured instrumentalists include Carol Dylan, violin; Karen Nelson, violin; Marlea Simpson, viola; and Ann Griffin, cello.

Tickets can be purchased by calling Chicago Sinfonietta at 312- 284-1554 or online at

I had the chance to talk to Esmail, who was born in Chicago, about her music.

Q – Great to talk to you. What is it like being a part of an event like this? How do you think your music fits into "Hear Me Roar"?

It is truly an honor to work with Chicago Sinfonietta and Mei-Ann Chen. In my entire career, I have worked with dozens of male conductors, but only one female orchestral conductor, and that was Mei-Ann, back in 2013 with River Oaks Chamber Orchestra.

Working with her left such an impression on me. She is an incredibly kind, generous and passionate person, and it shows in everything she does, including how she approaches the music she conducts.

It means so much to me to be able to work with her again.

Q – I understand you decided to retitle your composition #MeToo. Why did you decide to retitle it and how do you think it fits into the Me Too movement?

I was writing this piece during the time the #MeToo movement was unfolding. #MeToo bears the title of the social movement that has been exploding across our country during the time I was writing this piece. The movement, created 10 years ago by Tarana Burke as a way to create safe spaces for young women of color, has grown into a movement that has allowed so many women to speak out, contextualize one another’s experiences, and begin to heal.

As a woman composer, I always get asked why there aren’t more women composers. This piece is one response — of many hundreds of responses — to that question. So many of us decide to become composers when we are young women because we fall deeply in love with individual pieces of music.

We listen to them incessantly, we memorize every note of them, we live our lives through the lens of that music. And then at some point, for some of us, as we engage with that music, something devastating happens to us — often by the very person who has introduced us to that music.

We hate ourselves, we blame ourselves, we bury it deep within our psyche — until we hear that piece of music again. It could be at a concert, it could be in a theory class, it could be on the radio. We are powerless to fend off that tidal wave of sensory memory. The very music we once loved becomes a trigger that slowly destroys our love for our art. 

Of course I’m speaking about myself, but I’m also speaking about so many other women I know. That experience is what this piece is about.

I was so filled with rage while I was writing this work. The rage of seeing the injustices that plagued even the strongest, most powerful women among us, the rage of having to relive the worst moments of my own life over and over again, every time I checked facebook or turned on the news.

The rage that as women, some of the strongest bonds we share are forged from the most devastating and corrosive experiences.

Lest this seem like a war cry, I want to say this: I have never known of a truly happy, fulfilled man that has sexually abused a woman. The outcries of #metoo are a symptom of issues that are affecting men. Women are the bystanders who get caught in the crossfire. 

Every day, even as my rage simmers, I have to ask: what is the endgame here? What does a healthy society look like? And how can we put systems in place that truly allow men to address these underlying issues, so that we can create stronger bonds with one another, and build stronger communities with higher standards of accountability to each other?

I look forward to imagining and creating that world together.

Q – Are you familiar with any of the artists or works that will be featured as part of the event? How do you think your work stands beside theirs?

Jennifer Higdon has been an inspiration to me for as long as I've been a composer. I remember over a decade ago, when I had graduated from my undergraduate degree and I was so creatively lost – I kept wondering if I really had what it took to be a composer.

I found this amazing interview in "New Music Box" with Jennifer, where she said that she composed six hours a day, every day. And that instantly snapped me out of my ennui – I realized that it wasn't as much about having raw talent or unequivocally great ideas, or having encouragement or people to believe you could do it.

It was about investing the time to see what I did have to offer, and then working from there. I would literally think to myself, "Jennifer Higdon is composing for six hours today! What the heck are YOU doing?"
It helped a LOT. I'm here today because I began to take my creative practice as seriously as Jennifer takes hers.

Of course, the amount of time and careful attention she has invested in her music over the years is so obvious. There is just this seamless perfection about everything she writes. I am completely floored by how incredible, how intricate, how fresh, how innovative and how soulful her music is. 

I never imagined, back when I was reading that interview that I would ever have the opportunity to share the stage with her in this way. It means everything to me. 

Q – What would you like people to get out of the event? What would you like people to get out of your music in general?

Everyone has such a different experience listening to music, and that is the beauty of music. I hope that my music resonates with my listeners, and that it stirs something in them. 

I love hearing what my listeners are thinking and feeling, and I love knowing if my music meant something to them.