Tony Bennett going strong at 91

 

Clad in signature vanilla sports jacket and broad grin, Bennett entertained cheering crowds inside Ravinia’s Pavillion and around it on the jammed lawns, Friday, a day after turning 91.

Tony Bennett wows the Ravinia Festival day after his 91st birthday. Photo by Pedro de Jesus for Ravinia.
Tony Bennett wows the Ravinia Festival crowd day after his 91st birthday. Photo by Pedro de Jesus for Ravinia.

“I travel all over but this is my favorite place,” Bennett told the crowd. Indeed, Ravinia Festival is where Bennett has been coming on or day after his Aug. 3 birthday.

Starting with some fine jazz from The Tony Bennett Quartet followed by  a few songs from daughter Antonia Bennett, the iconic pop star was introduced as he’s been in recent concerts by the voice of mentor Frank Sinatra saying he’s “the best.”

After a long standing ovation, the crowd was treated to one notable Bennett hit after another from “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Someone Who Needs Me”  to “Who can I Turn to,” “Because of You and “The Shadow of Your Smile.”

Some were just a few lines such as “Rags to Riches.” Most others were the whole song.

Sometimes his voice was pure, sometimes, raspy, but Bennett showed he still had it with terrific voice control in amazingly long-held notes. Also, there were nice repeats of key words in his emphatic style as in “The Way You Look Tonight. Tonight! Tonight!”

He did a great “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)” with jazz, pop and classical pianist Tim Ray sitting in for this season tour regular Billy Stritch.

Ray, who has accompanied Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt and played with Rufus Reid and with the Boston Pops was fun to watch and listen to during solo turns on the piano.

The concert wasn’t all pop. Bennett moved to jazz with “Stepping Out With My Baby” with Ray, as Bennett pointed out, in the style of Duke Ellington.

The blues feeling came with a gorgeous “In My Solitude” done with Bennett’s long-time guitar player, Gray Sargent. Bennett and Sargent did several songs together as a well-matched pair.

Also good to hear were quartet regulars Marshall Wood on bass and Harold Jones on drums in brief shout-outs.

Then there were the audience chuckles as when Bennett started in with “As I approach the prime of my life” in the fine song, “This Is All I Ask.”

It ends with the wonderful words that seem to sum up this multi grammy-winner’s staying power: “And let the music play, As long as there’s a song to sing, and I will stay younger than Spring.”

But with the last words of what some consider his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” the lights came on and the audience applauded thinking the concert was over. However, Bennett continued the joyous evening with a couple more songs.

When it ended for good, the Pavilion audience kept standing and applauding as Bennett left the stage but encores were not to be. Except for short band solos and riffs, he had sung straight through from 9 to 10 p.m. with seemingly endless energy.

And it was easy to believe the final lyrics of “This Is All I Ask.”

 

 

Ravinia Festival still draws the crowds

 

With such top drawing festivals and names as Pitchfork, Windy City Smokeout and Jimmy Buffett (among several others) filling  parks and fields all over Chicago this past weekend, you might think that a north suburban music outpost would not be jammed.

Yet Ravinia Festival in Highland Park packed them in for James Arthur, Fitz & The Tantrums and OneRepbulic, Saturday, and its Tchaikovsky Spectacular played by the CSO, Sunday.

Ravinia Festival was jammed an hour before the Tchaikovsky Spectacular Sunday. Jodie Jacobs photos
Ravinia Festival was jammed an hour before the Tchaikovsky Spectacular, Sunday. Jodie Jacobs photos

“Every inch of space and lawn was filled,” said a One Republic fan describing the Saturday scene.

If understandable for the pop rock genre, it might have come as a surprise to classical music lovers that the same was true on Sunday as visitors kept filing in and looking for even a few inches to sit and picnic.

The luckier folks, or make that those in the know, staked out their space two hours ahead of Sunday’s early, 5 p.m. concert start.

Spread out with a yummy-looking picnic under the trees before the crowds descended were The Nelson family who came from Chesterton and  West Lafayette, IN and from Evanston.

“We all came last year,” said Wendy Nelson, Evanston. The rest chimed in with “We enjoyed it so much wanted to do it again,” said Laura Nelson, West Lafayette; “You know, Purdue University,” husband Jeffrey said. They were there with parents Eileen and Roger Nelson, Chesterton. “I’m the patriarch,” said Roger.

The Nelson family, Jeffrey, Laura, Eileen, Wendy and Roger, arrived at Ravinia early to chat and find a choice picnic spot, Sunday.
The Nelson family, Jeffrey, Laura, Eileen, Wendy and Roger, arrived at Ravinia early to chat and find a choice picnic spot, Sunday.

By 4 p.m. the lawn was a sea of humanity. After the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, a sterling piano performance of Concerto No. 1 by Simon Trpceskiand and the Francesca da Rimini fantasy, came the 1812 Overture with real cannons in a roped off area.

When the smoke faded and the last note played, some people left to catch the Union Pacific North Line train but that didn’t make much of a dent in the crowd that still enjoyed getting together and picnicking on the lawn.

“Great concert,” said a guy from Glen Ellyn on his way to the parking lot.

Well, there are a lot more chances to come to Ravinia, this summer.

Long time Highland Parker Dan Pierce, a former IL State Representative and former Highland Park mayor, strides outside Ravinia's pavilion Sunday.
Long time Highland Parker Dan Pierce, a former IL State Representative and former Highland Park mayor, strides outside Ravinia’s pavilion Sunday.

The CSO returns July 18 with Yefim Bronfman playing Brahm’s Piano Conderto No. 2. The orchestra which makes Ravinia its summer home, will be back for several more concerts including July 20-21 to play Beethoven and Sibelius programs.

BTW, Tony Bennett returns Aug. 4. Hootie & the Blowfish founder Darius Rucker is at Ravinia the next night, Aug. 5.

Santana, the famed guitarist of Latin, rock an jazz fusion, is there Aug. 11-12  and  heartland rocker/rock and roll hall-of-famer John Mellencamp is coming for the first time to Ravinia Aug. 26-27.

Ravinia Festival is at 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park. For more schedule information, tickets, prices and parking, call (847) 266-5000 and visit Ravinia.

 

Around Town mid June 2017

 

From bike riding to strawberry munching and concerts in a garden to music on a lawn, summer fun is tempting us to find our outdoor muse during or after work.

Chicago Botanic Garden soothes smooths away stress after work. Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Chicago Botanic Garden soothes smooths away stress after work. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

Bike to work

First, don’t be surprised if you see more groups of bikers around Chicago, this week. The annual Bike commuter Challenger is upon us asking people to ride a bike to work instead of a train or car. To participate in its fun events and “pit stops” go to Bikedown to register.

 

TGI M/T after work music

Then, for a different way to enjoy a balmy early evening, check out music with a Latin or Swing beat at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Different nights and different weeks feature different musical sounds and bands. For example, Mondays  at 5:30 p.m. there are carillon bells  and Tuesday, the music shifts over to the Esplanade for bluegrass or big band sounds.

Visit Chicago Botanic Garden Evenings for more information. The concerts are free but unless you are a member there is a parking fee per car. The Chicago Botanic Garden is east of Edens Expressway at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe.

Ravinia Festival's lawn is a great place to meet friends for an after-work supper.
Ravinia Festival’s lawn is a great place to meet friends for an after-work supper.

 

After-work stress-relieving music

Or get a lawn ticket (best price is ahead of time, not at the gate) to hear perfect after-work music at Ravinia Festival in Highland park.

The Julliard String Quartet is June 20. It’s in the Martin Theatre but usually those programs are broadcast on the lawn.

In the Pavilion are Gypsy Kings June 23, Common June 24, Michael McDonald and Boz Scraggs June 27 and Diana Krall June 28.

For show times and other info visit Ravinia.

 

Have a Strawberry weekend

Long Grove festivals are a chance to see the village.
Long Grove festivals are a chance to see the village.

 

If everything or anything strawberry excites the taste buds, go over to downtown Long Grove, a cute historic village northwest of Chicago, June 23-25.

Along with lots of booths with strawberry sandwiches and desserts there will be several music stages and stuff for kids. Entry is $5 anyone over age 12.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Strawberry fest’s center is at  308 Old McHenry Rd, Long Grove. Visit Long Grove for more information.

 

U2, Blues, Ravinia favs Diana Krall and OneRepublic, Pitchfork and Lollapalooza heat up Chicago summer nights

Get out the calendar to mark the 2017 summer music festivals you hope to catch. Copy the ticket info and good luck.

Blues comes to Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in June. Jodie Jacobs photo
Blues comes to Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in June. Jodie Jacobs photo

First, U2 + The Lumineers will be at Soldier Field June 3-4. Yes, they will be doing “The Joshua Tree” in its entirety.See  U2 + The Lumineers 

Then the Chicago Blues Festival is in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (201 Randolph St.) in Millennium Park June 9-11. It’s free admission. Headliners include Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with special guest James Cotton. Also headlining are Rhymefest, William Bell, Gary Clark Jr., Rhiannon Giddens and Ronnie Baker Brooks. For tickets and other info visit Blues.

Next, is Ravinia, the wonderful outdoor music park in Highland Park.  For the full schedule click Ravinia.

John Legend’s “Darkness and Light Tour” is June 10. It opens with Grammy-nominated artist Gallant.

The multi-Oscar-nominated film,”La La Land,” will be shown under the stars on large screens accompanied by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Stelluto on June 18.

Gipsy Kings, a group that blends flamenco with pop and Latin rhythms comes Friday, June 23.

Tickets will soon be available for Ravinia Music Festival headliners. Jodie Jacobs photo
Tickets will soon be available for Ravinia Music Festival headliners. Jodie Jacobs photo

Diana Krall, a five-time Grammy-winning jazz pianist and vocalist comes June 28,

The Moody Blues do “Days of Future Passed” June 30.

OneRepublic & Fitz and The Tantrums are on stage July 14-15.

Blondie and Garbage start their 2017 “Rage and Rapture” tour at Ravinia July 22.

American Acoustic with Punch Brothers, I’m With Her and Julian Lage  are Aug. 14.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on May 9. Donors can request tickets March 22 depending on their giving level. For more information including early request dates. Visit Ravinia.
The Pitchfork Music Festival is back in Union Park July 14-16. Visit Pitchfork Music Festival  Headliners include. LCD Soundsystem,  A Tribe Called Quest and Solange

In addition Pitchfork is collaborating with Saint Heron, for an art installation, film screening, artist talks, late night jazz jam sessions. Visit Pitchfork for tickets and collaboration sites.

Lollapalooza  returns to Grant Park Aug. 3-6. Visit Lolla for tickets and

 

Music: Tony Bennett still going strong at 90

Ravinia Festival was jammed inside the pavilion and out on the lawn last Saturday, but with Tony Bennett caressing the “mic” backed by his outstanding jazz/pop quartet, the atmosphere was nightclub intimate.

Tony Bennett at Ravinia Festival. Also in photo are pianist Mike Renzi and drummer Howard Jones. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia
Tony Bennett at Ravinia Festival. Also in photo are pianist Mike Renzi and drummer Howard Jones. Photo by Russell Jenkins for Ravinia

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