Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 another banner year for Fox Valley music scene

Photo of Billy Branch at The Venue by Eric Schelkopf

By Eric Schelkopf

2002 was another banner year for live music in the Fox Valley.

Here are a few highlights:


Chicago musician Gerald "The Soulkeeper" McClendon performs his song "Let's Have a Party" April 1 at The Venue in Aurora.

Dan Tedesco performs his song "Firecrackers at Dawn" April 8 at The Venue in Aurora.

 Chicago's own Shemekia Copeland performs her song "It's 2 A.M." June 17 at RiverEdge Park in Aurora.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd performs June 17 at the Blues on the Fox festival at RiverEdge Park in Aurora.

Adrian Belew, with Julie Slick on bass and Johnnie Luca on drums, perform the King Crimson song "Thela Hun Ginjeet" July 15 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

 Laura Rain and the Caesars perform their song "Sunset" July 29 at The Venue in Aurora.

Boz Scaggs performs his song "Lowdown" Aug. 20 at RiverEdge Park in Aurora.

Ralph Covert performs his song "Death on Holiday" with musical guests Oct. 15 at The Venue in Aurora.

Ralph Covert performs his song "Another Beautiful Day" with musical guests Oct. 15 at The Venue in Aurora.

Noah's Arcade performs the song "Devil Down The Stairs" as part of Noah Gabriel's 20th anniversary show Nov. 11 at The Venue in Aurora.

The Noah Gabriel Band performs Gabriel's song "Black Snake" as part of Gabriel's 20th anniversary show Nov. 11 at The Venue in Aurora.
Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues perform their song "The Sons of Blues" Nov. 26 at The Venue in Aurora.
Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Branch and his band the Sons of Blues perform The Rolling Stones' song "Sympathy For The Devil" Nov. 26 at The Venue in Aurora.

Monday, December 26, 2022

With new album in tow, acclaimed blues/soul musician Derrick Procell to perform Friday at Hey Nonny


Photo by Ryan Bennett 



“Hello Mojo!,” the second solo album from Chicago-based soul/blues belter Derrick Procell, has been enjoying critical and commercial acclaim since its release in August.

With the album, Procell is making his debut on label Catfood Records. “Hello Mojo!” was the No. 1 soul blues album on Roots Music Report for seven weeks. Procell will likely perform several songs from the new album during his appearance Friday at Hey Nonny, 10 S. Vail Ave., Arlington Heights.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at

I had the chance to talk to Procell about the album and the upcoming show.

Q – I am sure you are going to be playing many songs from your new album at the Hey Nonny show.

Well, the plan is to play everything from the new album, quite honestly. 

I have my personal faves, of course, but the fact that every song on the record has been getting significant airplay over the last four months is quite an indictor to me that there’s something for everyone there.

As an overall piece, it’s pretty widely divergent. It’s in the category of soul/blues, but the truth is, it’s a pretty wide reaching album stylistically.

I like to say it’s blues adjacent.

Q – What were your goals for the album and do you think you achieved them?

My goals for the album were kind of modest. I hadn’t really been thinking about putting my stuff out and then I get this offer to release a record on an actual label with some label support. I got pretty excited about that.

The reviews for the album have been over the top. I just tried to put out the best record that I could, which I think any artist does, and hope for the best, hope that the critics like it, hope that the fans like it and hope that the DJs dig it.

Q – It does seem like there is a meaning behind the name of the song “Hello Mojo!” and the album’s title.

My songwriting partner, Terry Abrahamson, came up with these lyrics and I immediately sat down at the piano and came up with this sort of jazzy bluesy piano riff and off we went.

It’s a song of hope and a song of healing. Everyone loses their mojo at some point in their life and it’s always a good day when you get it back.

Q – I am sure that a lot of people lost their mojo during the COVID-19 lockdown.

That’s a fact.

Q – And I’m sure that you were affected by venues being closed for a while.

Q – Oh yeah. Since I have different income streams from songwriting and song production stuff, I don’t depend solely on live performing. So I was thankful for that.

But I did feel a lot for my musical brothers and sisters out there that had to find new ways to put food on the table. I know that my live performing certainly got shut down for almost all of 2020 and things picked back up a little bit in 2021.

But the devastation that the pandemic did to some of the venues that could not afford to keep their doors open was pretty significant.

Q – Yeah, including a lot of blues clubs, actually.

A lot of them kind of barely operate on a shoestring, you know. And having to shut the doors and try to keep the employees somewhat happy or satisfied, a lot of them didn’t survive it.

It affected everybody, some in more ways than others, for sure. So yeah, it’s good to get our mojo back, all of us, collectively.

Q – And I know the album was produced by Zac Harmon, who also plays guitar on three tracks on the album. What do you think he brought to the table?

Working with Zac was such a gas. I’ve got to confess, I was not that familiar with Zac. I had heard his name, but I was not that familiar with his work.

When it was suggested that Zac produce my record, I did my homework and looked him up and listened to a lot of his previous releases. He had released a couple of very successful records on Catfood Records, so he was a label mate.

We only actually met when we got in the studio. Of course, we had a number of conversations by phone before that and I loved all of his suggestions and ideas about some of the songs.

It was really helpful to me that he was as enthusiastic about the material as he was. And some of the suggestions that he made ended up on the record.

We worked really well together. It was great having him in the studio in that producer’s chair.

He let me be me and when he needed to kind of put a guiding hand in there about a vocal riff or the way something was going down instrumentally, it all served for the eventual good of the record.

Plus, he’s a fun guy to be around.

Q – And I understand you have a new band, right?

Yeah, I’ve thrown together a group, some of whom I’ve played with at various times in various situations. Some of them are from some tribute shows that I do. I do a Joe Cocker tribute show and I do a Van Morrison tribute show.

I’ve got a couple of Chicago blues all-stars, Brother John Kattke on keys, and Darren Jay Fallas on guitar and we’ve got a horn section and a couple of great players, Tom Trinka, who is a longtime Chicago name, on saxophone, and Mitch “The Lip” Goldman on trumpet.

Q – I know you are originally from Milwaukee. Since you’ve been living in the Chicago area, what do you think of the Chicago music scene?

The Chicago music scene is extremely wide and vast. It’s as wide and vast as the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago is a great music city.

You just name a style of music that you want to hear and it’s happening somewhere.

Q – Now you did your first recording as a lead singer in Nashville when you were 16. What did that experience teach you?

Well, it’s the reason I’m still doing this. I just fell in love with the whole process, of being able to sing into a microphone and have people dig it, you know.

I knew that was it for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Singer-songwriter Rebecca Jade ushering in the holiday season as part of Dave Koz and Friends 25th Anniversary Christmas Tour


For the second year in a row, singer-songwriter Rebecca Jade will be ushering in the holiday season with jazz saxophonist Dave Koz.

Jade will be part of his 25th anniversary Christmas tour alongside fellow musicians Rick Braun, Peter White and Keiko Matsui. The tour will make a stop Thursday at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

I had the chance to talk to Jade about the upcoming show and hew newly released album, “A Shade of Jade.”

Q – I know that last year you were on the Christmas tour with Dave Koz. You must have liked being part of the tour.

Any chance that I get to work with Dave and whoever he has lined up is always wonderful. When he invited me to come back, I was very flattered and grateful.

Myself and Jonathan Butler are the only two vocalists he’s had back-to-back on this tour, so I take that as a very big compliment.

Q – Is there a favorite Christmas song that you like performing?

I’m not really doing anything that I did last year. They’re all kind of new songs.

One song that Dave asked me to learn was the song “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” That’s a song I actually had never sung.

I thought this was a really cool opportunity for me to lean a band new song that is so beautiful. It is on one of his Christmas albums that featured India Arie.

So I’m grateful to be singing it.

Q – And of course, your latest album, “A Shade of Jade,” came out in October. It seems like it’s getting a lot of play and I know the video for the song “What’s It Gonna Be” has 128,000 views on YouTube to date.

The video has a basketball theme. A lot of people might not know about your background. 

The fact that you received two awards – “Best Music Video” and “Best R&B/Funk/Soul Song” – for the song at this year’s San Diego Music Awards must make you feel pretty good.

Absolutely. I’m very grateful. I wanted to pay homage to the athlete side of my being. That is why we we did the basketball themed video.

I felt like the song could be an empowering kind of song. I like songs that are encouraging.

Q – Following the car/pedestrian accident you were in, you had to give up your dream of being a professional basketball player and you literally changed gears as far what you were going to do with your life. The song seems to reflect what you went through.

Yeah, it’s for me, definitely. Also, I wrote this song before the pandemic, but a lot of people dealt with some tough times during the pandemic.

Without even of course knowing the pandemic was going to happen, the song is geared toward people who have just dealt with tough times and yeah, including myself. We endure, we go through tough times but we can get through the other side.

I truly believe that.

Q – During your career, you’ve performed with a lot of notable people, including Shelia E. and Sir Elton John. What did you gain from those experiences? Did they give you any advice?

Performing with Elton John was a one time thing. It was an amazing experience performing at the Oscars.

The experience itself was incredible. I toured with Shelia E. pretty regularly for four years was amazing.

I just learned from watching and just seeing how she maneuvered and how she was on stage.

I tried to take as much of that and kind of make it my own.

Q – I understand that your mom was a professional jazz singer. Does your love of jazz music come from her?

Definitely. Growing up, my mom was a jazz singer and she still sings in choirs and at church now.

When I was really young, she definitely exposed me to a lot of great music, particularly jazz. But she also listened to Patti LaBelle and Barbra Streisand.

We also listened to a lot of Latin music. I was partly raised in Puerto Rico.

Stevie Wonder was also big in the house along with Ella Fitzgerald. I was really exposed to lots of wonderful music.

She didn’t force me into it. I kind of just got into the business by chance, maybe because I was exposed to music at a young age.

Her and my husband are my number one fans.

Q – Do you have any dream collaborations?

Living legend Stevie Wonder would be a dream for me, if I could go as big as I want to.

Q – Why would you want to work with him?

Because his music to me is so eclectic and I know so many of his songs. He’s an incredible songwriter and musician.

His music is fascinating and interesting and timeless. And he has a catalog that is incredible.

I would love to just be in the room with his genius and see if soak up any of it. I would love to have that kind of a career where I can create some music that is hopefully everlasting.