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Musical Chairs

Our top five picks for things to do this week: For those whose New Year’s resolution was “Hear more live music”: James McMurtry … Allen Toussaint … Charlie Hunter … a behind-the-scenes chat with Lyric leading lady Deborah Voigt … plus, what hometown DJ Jesse De La Peña is doing this weekend

James McMurtry, Allen Toussaint, and Deborah Voigt
HALL PASS So what if this week’s big indie-rock gigs at Lincoln Hall and Schubas
(Markéta Irglová, Handsome Furs) are sold out? Take the opportunity to expand your
musical horizons with James McMurtry, Allen Toussaint, and Deborah Voigt.

THE FIVE

For those whose New Year’s resolution was “Hear more live music”: Don’t-miss picks for Wed 01.12.10 through Tue 01.18.11

1

jazz Charlie Hunter
Casting aside both the taut horn passages and the whimsical song titles (“Ode to My Honda Odyssey”) of 2009’s Gentlemen, I Neglected to Inform You You Will Not Be Getting Paid, the veteran guitarist strips it bare on his recent solo outing, Public Domain, with nothing but his trusty seven-string and 11 well-worn tunes—from “Danny Boy” to “Avalon”—chosen by his grandfather.
GO: Jan 18 at 8. $18–$30. SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston. evanstonspace.com

2

country Dale Watson
Watson has remained doggedly, if unfashionably, devoted to traditional country in the vein of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, but he has the songwriting skills and the belting baritone to make his old-school obsession work. He’s got stamina, too: During an amiably entertaining show at Martyrs’ a year ago, he accepted requests—and drinks—from the crowd for hours.
GO: Jan 14 at 9:30. $12. Martyrs’, 3855 N Lincoln. martyrslive.com

3

roots James McMurtry
Like father, like son: Larry Brokeback Mountain McMurtry’s offspring writes (and plays) deceptively laconic story-songs on human drift, disconnection, and distress, with similarly cutting insight.
GO: Jan 15 at 10 (early show at 7 sold out). $18–$22. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln. oldtownschool.org

4

jazz Allen Toussaint
Mardi Gras comes early this year: New Orleans’s vibrant musical renaissance continues when one of the scene’s bedrock composers brings his latest project, The Bright Mississippi, to town with a crack band featuring Don Byron on clarinet and a fellow Big Easy standout, Nicholas Payton, on trumpet.
GO: Jan 14 at 8. $25–$56. Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan. cso.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: With the lights and tinsel long since packed away and the specter of a cold, dark winter ahead, the massive, exuberant, and massively exuberant Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah couldn’t arrive at a better time: Jan 15–16 at Auditorium Theatre.

5

opera Discovery Series: The Girl of the Golden West
OK, so it’s not a concert per se, but opera buffs won’t want to miss this behind-the-scenes chat on Puccini’s original spaghetti Western, opening next week at Lyric. Hear thoughts on the production straight from a trio of horses’ mouths: the Wheeling native Deborah Voigt, who stars as the gun-toting saloon owner Minnie; Marcello Giordani, who sings the role of Dick Johnson; and conductor Sir Andrew Davis.
GO: Jan 17 at 6. $16. UBS Tower Ballroom, 1 N Wacker. Lyric’s The Girl of the Golden West runs Jan 22–Feb 21. lyricopera.org

WHAT I’M DOING THIS WEEKEND

Hip-hop DJ Jesse De La Pena
Jesse De La Peña

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals (a.k.a. people we like): the longtime hometown hip-hop DJ Jesse De La Peña, who spins alongside the house DJ and producer Ron Trent at the afterparty following Saturday’s Winter Block Party for the Hip-Hop Arts.

“I usually spin the third Friday of every month at Simone’s, in Pilsen, but I have this week off, so I’m hoping to get some dinner with a couple of buddies who’ll be playing with me on Sunday at Crocodile. We’ll be doing Ethiopian food. I only go one place: Addis Abeba, in Evanston. One of my favorite chefs, Demess, used to be at the old location on Clark. He took a break for a while, but he recently came back, which is all the more reason to go. It’s a little treat to myself.

“Saturday is the Winter Block Party. It’s my first time playing the event itself. Last year, we scheduled the afterparty at Crocodile and brought everyone over for a Prince/Michael [Jackson] tribute. This year, on Sunday, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we’re paying homage to him with a dance party at Crocodile, Freedom to Dance, featuring DJs Uncle Milty, Major Taylor, and myself: free pizza, drink specials, and no cover from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. I’m there every Sunday, but it’s always good when people have the next day off [for MLK Day]. That makes it easier to go out on a Sunday night.”

GO: The Third Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip-Hop Arts runs Jan 15 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Some activities require admission, but De La Peña and Trent spin at the free afterparty, starting at 10. Chicago Urban Art Society, 2229 S Halsted. wbez.org/events

FREEBIE OF THE WEEK

lit/lectures Cornelia Maude Spelman
In her just-released memoir, Missing, the local children’s author turns to a more intimate story—that of her mother. Spelman first began to comb through her family history after connecting with a college friend of her parents, the late New Yorker editor and writer William Maxwell. Relive Spelman’s subsequent correspondence and friendship with Maxwell in this 2008 story from Chicago’s archives, then hear her read from Missing this weekend.
GO: Jan 16 at 4:30. Women & Children First, 5233 N Clark. corneliaspelman.com

 

Photography: (Toussaint) Courtesy of Chicago Symphony Orchestra; (Voigt) Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago; (De La PeÑa) Eddie QuiÑones

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