Jazz Trio Plays at Historic Rogers Park Theater

In the heart of Rogers Park sits Mayne Stage Theater. Mayne Stage opened as Morse Theatre in 1912. Since then it has been home to a theater called Co-Ed. And various stores and meeting places.

In 2008, Morse Theatre reopened, but closed a few months later due to arson. The theater again reopened, but in 2009, it closed due to a dispute with the landlord, according to a 2010 article by The Chicago Tribune.

In 2010, after grand renovations and under new management, the spot on Morse Avenue at Wayne Avenue became Mayne Stage Theater, Act One Pub and the Mezz Gallery, an upstairs gallery featuring local Rogers Park artists.

The theater seemed to thrive after the switch to Mayne Stage.

“What we wanted to do is get the art community kind of getting to know each other,” said Tanya Marquez , Mayne Stage Assistant General Manager and Mezz Gallery Co-Curator. “And [we] also provide a space where you’re coming … not only for the restaurant experience, for the music experience in the back, but also [for] two-dimensional art.”

“I would say Mayne Stage is just a comfortable neighborhood hang out in Rogers Park,” added Laura Bluett, Mayne Stage Marketing Coordinator.

On Dec. 8, the Sam Fazio Trio played a show at Mayne Stage for the first time. They performed classic jazz standards and some modernized jazz to an audience of over 100 people. Sam Fazio was on vocals with Chris White on piano, Joe Policastro on bass, Victor Garcia on trumpet for the first half of the show and Andy Brown on guitar for the second.

“He’s kind of the crooner, Frank Sinatra-esque kind of person,” Bluett said of Fazio.

The group covered standards such as “Sunny Side of the Street” and a 10-song Frank Sinatra medley in the first half of the show. Fazio even sang a jazz rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain,” from The Wizard of Oz.

The second half of the performance featured favorites like “God Bless the Child,” a tune made popular by Billie Holiday, and “You Don’t Know Me,” popularized by Ray Charles.

Jazz Legends Call Illinois Home

After the jazz boom in New Orleans, Chicago became the northern hub for jazz. At its peak, many of the American greats hailed from the state of Illinois. Some of Illinois’ big names include Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goodman and Quincy Jones.

Below are the sounds of the Illinois natives’ most famous hits, some recorded close to home.

Miles Davis played this tune, “So What,” live at the Plugged Nickel in 1965. Plugged Nickel was a jazz club in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood in the ‘60s. Davis was born in Alton, Ill. but raised in St. Louis.

Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel, 1965

Herbie Hancock plays selections with a quartet in Chicago in 1981 in the video below. He was born in Chicago and even played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was only 11 years old.

A fellow Chicagoan, Benny Goodman plays at Chicago’s Congress Hotel in the next recording. Marked December 23, 1935, the recording covers Goodman’s originals.

Benny Goodman, Congress Hotel, Chicago, 1935:

Born in Chicago, but raised in Seattle, Wash., Quincy Jones became a producing talent in music, as well as film, Broadway, radio, television and print. The piece below, “Evening in Paris,” is from Jones’ 1956 album How I Feel About Jazz.

Quincy Jones: Evening in Paris:

Classic Clips Get a Modern Twist

Many jazz standards come from musicals of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Generations have recognized the value and genius of composers like George and Ira Gershwin, vocalists like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and dancers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and recordings of old time songs and films have been preserved.

Filmmakers of the 30s to 50s couldn’t have predicted technology’s modern alterations to their original creations. A 2005 VW Golf GTI Advertisement remastered the famous rain scene with real dancers and digital styling to replicate Gene Kelly’s dancing, which was modernized from tap dancing to a sort of break dance.

I just discovered that clips from other timeless films have a modern twist as well: they’re GIFS. Everything from Gene Kelly splashing around, Ella Fitzgerald taking the stage and Judy Garland clicking her heels has been recreated as a GIF. Click here to view the GIFS on Storify and check out what college students think of technology’s influence.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Jazz critic combines his passions

Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune

As saxophonist Ari Brown’s quintet struck its first note, Howard Reich listened. His foot began to tap. His knee bounced. His fingers kept the meter. His arms moved with the melody.

Reich feels the music, but not just emotionally.

“If I’m moved, I feel it physically. And then what I’m really trying to do is interpret why do I feel this way?” Reich said.

Brown’s  Oct. 24th performance at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase, what Reich called the “temple of bebop,” made an impression on Howard Reich, 30-year Chicago Tribune jazz critic.

“Every great jazz city has a roster of leonine players who don’t necessarily pursue international careers but would be eminently worthy of the attention,” Reich wrote in his review. “…But hearing him [Brown] leading a quintet in a room where listeners pay keen attention reaffirmed the stature of his art and cast a bright light on its appeal.”

Reich answered his calling from jazz, and from writing, decades ago. He acted on his passion and ambition, but took a few years trying to figure out how to piece his interests together.

Reich started writing at a young age. But when he was 16, he turned on a classic film full of Gershwin tunes and Gene Kelly’s choreography, An American in Paris.

“After that, that was it. I was going to be a pianist,” Reich said.

He had never taken a piano lesson, but from that point forward, he practiced to the point that he neglected his high school classes.

When college application time rolled around, Reich decided he wanted to study journalism at Northwestern University. But as each day passed, he became more interested in pursuing music.

Without telling his parents and just a couple months before school started, he auditioned for Northwestern’s music program. He was accepted. Reich became a piano major.

But Reich was torn. When he played in the practice rooms, he felt like he was missing out on what was happening in the world outside. But on days he didn’t practice, he felt guilty for neglecting his piano studies.

Reich had a realization the summer between his junior and senior year.

“I should write about music,” Reich said. “I had always been a writer, and I learned all about this music.”

Then the pieces really started to fall into place. Chicago Tribune’s music critic, Thomas Willis, happened to be on the Northwestern University music staff, and Reich asked to do an independent study with him. He reviewed a show for Willis every week.

At the end of Reich’s study with Willis, he asked if he could really do it.

“I don’t encourage many people, but I encourage you,” Willis told him.

That positive energy pushed Reich forward. He free-lanced for the Tribune and other publications before he was hired by the Tribune, where he has been for 30 years.

“Every bizarre choice I made along the way was right for me- even though my whole family told me it was wrong, wrong, wrong and that I was going to be a bum,” Reich said.

Now he’s reviewed countless performances and met his musical heroes, like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock and his An American in Paris favorite- Gene Kelly.

Reich said he sees the world through his ears, and that’s what led him to his career.

“Listening to music, to me, is a very intense emotional experience … I want to be on the edge of my seat,” Reich said. “I’m bursting with things to say, and I write them down. So that’s what I do, and I’ve been doing all these decades.”

Loyolacappella Performs ‘Halloweird’

What would you sing on Halloween? Loyolacapella dressed up in Halloween costumes to perform its annual Halloweird concert just before Halloween, on Oct. 25 this year. They sung popular songs, including “Superstition” to an audience so big that they could barely fit in Coffey Hall. Play the video below for the full story.

An Inside Look at the Loyola University Jazz Band

Chicago is celebrated for its jazz spirit, and the music infiltrates area universities as well.

Loyola University Chicago’s jazz band will play a jazz showcase on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Loyola’s Mundelein Auditorium. This week, jazz band senior Jarrett Donoghue and his professor Scott Burns told me about their love for the music and their upcoming show.