Bud Billiken’s come and gone, the aisles of school supplies are looking picked over and many store mannequins are sporting fall colors. Where ya going summer? Still, there's plenty of culture in and outdoors to enjoy this week.
1. Matt Ulery has gotten some rave reviews for his double disc By A Little Light. Thursday the bassist will bring an expanded ensemble to perform in Millennium Park, as part of the Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz series. The album is what sounds like an impossible blend of musical styles and periods, from classical Romantic composers (which seem to be having a moment – here’s another musician re-working the Romantics) to minimalist American music and Eastern European folk. Everything I’ve heard on the album has the air of a movie soundtrack, another source of inspiration from Ulery. If you prefer your music indoors, Ulery will also play the Green Mill (Monday) and the Jazz Showcase (Wednesday) before Thursday’s show at the Pritzker Pavilion.
2. Staying with our light in August theme, a remarkable film plays Thursday at Doc Films at the University of Chicago. Let There Be Light is the final of three war documentaries made by John Houston, consists mainly of a series of unscripted interviews with soldiers being treated at a military hospital in Long Island, New York. All of them are suffering from psychological wounds (we call it PTSD, those soldiers were considered “nervously wounded,” or suffering from “shell shock”). Houston’s film was put together with the help of screenwriter Charles Kaufmann and the great cinematographer Stanley Cortez (among other cinematic accomplishments, Cortez is responsible for the incredible photography of The Night of the Hunter).
Censored until 1980, Let There Be Light circulated in degraded form (a 16 mm copy of the original 35 mm print, with a distorted soundtrack) until its recent restoration by the National Film Preservation Foundation. You can also watch it online at the NFPF site until August 31st. While there, I encourage you to take a look at The Reawakening, a 1919 film about the rehabilitation of World War I veterans at Fort Sheridan hospital north of Chicago.
3. There’s a film connection at the South Shore Summer Festival, a one-day celebration this coming Saturday. Cuba Gooding Sr., father of the movie star, will appear along with his band The Main Ingredient. Their big hit is “Everybody Plays the Fool” which aptly sums up some of the more unfortunate turns of his son’s career (he got a better gig in the recent Red Tails). Also appearing, Chico DeBarge, younger brother of the 80s-era DeBarge musical-siblings clan.
4. Just like white shoes and seersucker, art deserves a summer airing, which seems to be the logic behind a couple of current shows. Both Northwestern University and the Art Institute of Chicago decided to pull some treasures out of their respective vaults, which means you’ll get a rare opportunity to see some cool works on paper.
Art on Paper: Prints, Drawings and Photographs from the Block Museum is up at Northwestern University's Block Museum through August 26th, and includes work by Andy Warhol, Robert Mappelthorpe and Laura Letinsky of the University of Chicago.
Rarely Seen Works on Paper at the The Art Institute of Chicago includes a gorgeous collage by Romare Bearden, Martin Kippenberger’s sketches on various hotel stationery, and work by UIC art professor Julia Fish. The show runs through next January. But if you go this Thursday after work, stick around for PechaKucha, which takes place in the Modern Wing from 6-8 p.m. Crafty creative types will share their mindsets – in the classic '20 slides at 20 seconds per frame' format of PK.
5. Everyone is analyzing the fiscal and intellectual priorities (and the connections therein) of the GOP’s just named candidate for Vice President, Paul Ryan. Ryan has both claimed and renounced the writings of objectivist philosopher and uber-capitalist Ayn Rand, particularly as detailed in her book Atlas Shrugged. The novel is epic and all I remember from my college days read are the plentiful odes to the beauty of roadside billboards. But the fervor also reminded me of another “randian”: local celebrity chef and self-made man Charlie Trotter. Trotter will shutter his remaining restaurants at the end of August to embark on a master’s degree in philosophy and political theory. Not sure whether Rand will be a major part of studies, which at last word he’ll undertake at Northwestern University.
6. Just as funeral arrangements were being announced for legendary music producer Carl Davis, along comes word of the death of another great Chicago musical light. Condolences to the family of the great jazz tenor saxaphonist, Von Freeman.