S’Wonderful Life

Our top five picks for things to do this week: Kurt Elling, The Bad Plus, and Willie Pickens save (Christmastime) jazz. . . . Sing your own heart out at the Music Box. . . . Plus, what the Waco Brothers’ Jon Langford is doing this weekend

A scene from the ending of 'It's a Wonderful Life'
YOU CAN RING MY BELL Sing along with Santa when he leads carols before
screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas at the Music Box.

THE FIVE

Don’t-miss picks for Wed 12.15.10 through Tue 12.21.10:

1

concerts Kurt Elling
For those who miss the Chicago ex-pat’s once-weekly sets with the brilliant pianist/arranger Laurence Hobgood, this homecoming concert makes for a throwback holiday delight. But it’s not all ghosts of Christmases past: Elling previews new material from The Gate, his forthcoming release and the first since 2009’s Grammy-winning Dedicated to You.
GO: Dec 17 at 9, Dec 18 at 8. $15. Green Mill, 4802 N Broadway. greenmilljazz.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: Or catch the inimitable pianist Willie Pickens’s 16th-annual Jazz Christmas, with the outstanding trumpeter Maurice Brown and the luminous vocalist Tammy McCann, Dec 17 at Hyde Park Union Church. There’s nothing smooth about it.

2

concerts The Bad Plus
Just one more jazz tip, then we’ll move on—but what a luxury, in a tough year for jazz in Chicago, to have so many choice picks in one week. Behind door number 3: The notoriously offbeat trio The Bad Plus celebrates its first decade as a recording act like any 10-year-old would: by being loud and occasionally obnoxious. The gig’s official raison d’être—a new album of original tunes, Never Stop—will in no way preclude these guys from indulging their love of a good Nirvana or Black Sabbath cover.
GO: Dec 16–18 at 8 and 10, Dec 19 at 4 and 8. $25–$30. Jazz Showcase, 806 S Plymouth. jazzshowcase.com

3

film Music Box Christmas Show
If all that jazz leaves you inspired to make your own sweet music, belt it like you mean it when Santa plays carols from his organ perch prior to screenings of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life—a feel-goodie so gosh-darn endearing, even the hipsters leave their ironic detachment at home.
GO: Dec 17–19, 22–24; see website for showtimes. $10­–$14 per film; $17–$20 for the double feature. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N Southport. musicboxtheatre.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: The Do-It-Yourself Messiah at Harris Theater is sold out, but a couple of (free!) sing-along options remain: Auto Tune Karaoke for the tonally challenged, Dec 17 at Lincoln Hall, and one last round of Caroling at Cloud Gate earlier the same night.

4

film A Christmas Tale
No, not the one about Red Ryder BB guns and showing Mommy how a piggy eats. This is a Catherine Deneuve flick, all cool French indifference and bougie dysfunctional-family drama. The flipside to the Music Box’s double bill, we love it just as much—for all the opposite reasons. See it at the Alliance Française, where cheapo admission includes a glass of wine and a chat by Facetschef, Milos Stehlik.
GO: Dec 15 at 6:30. $7. Alliance Française de Chicago, 54 W Chicago. af-chicago.org

5

sports/rec Roller Skate with Santa
What, wrap The Five on such a sophisticated note? Never. Last but not least, we present an all-ages option, open to kids and kitsch-lovers alike. It’s even cheaper than a night with Deneuve, and the only thing French about it is the rinkside eau de haute dog.
GO: Dec 17 from 6:30 to 8:30. $5 includes a hot dog, a drink, popcorn, and skate rental. Margate Park gym, 4921 N Marine. 312-742-7522

WHAT I’M DOING THIS WEEKEND

Musician Jon Langford
Jon Langford

Up next in our series of plans from notable, in-the-know locals (a.k.a. people we like): Jon Langford, the cowboy artist and inveterate rocker whose bands include the Mekons and the Waco Brothers, among many others.

“This is going to be a seriously hectic weekend. On Friday, Bonerama plays Martyrs’; they were the brass section on my Old Devils album, and they always get me up to play a bunch of songs I don’t really know, New Orleans–style!

“Saturday’s not too bad, apart from Tae Kwon Do for my eight-year-old at 9 a.m. Bloodshot Records mogul Rob [Miller] unleashes new homemade seasonal sausage treats on us at 7 p.m. at his house, then it’s over to Schubas for the Waco Brothers Xmas show, part 1.

“Sunday finds the Wacos playing a 1 p.m. lunchtime show at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn to help launch Tony Fitzpatrick’s new art book, then a mad dash over to the Hideout for Kathleen Judge’s puppet performance of Jabberwocky, followed by lashings of gin and tonic at Aunty Terri Hemmert’s Xmas party, and back to Schubas for supper in the Harmony Grill and more Waco Xmas mayhem.”

FREEBIE OF THE WEEK

sports/rec Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Fest
Forget TIFs and CTA overhauls; what’s Rahm’s or Gery’s position on badminton? Don’t wait to find out; do visit Richard M’s final fitnesspalooza, stocked with floor hockey, archery, fencing, and more.
GO: Dec 18­–19 from 10 to 4. Halls A and B, McCormick Place, 2301 S King. chicagosportsfest.us

 

Photograph: (LANGFORD) Paul Beaty

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