Monday, August 24, 2009

Chicagoland Events for the Week Ahead, as heard at

It's the last Smooth Jazz blast of summer, "Smooth Jazz at South Shore," featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler and Rick Braun, at Washington Park in Michigan City, this Saturday, August 29.

Taste of Highland Park and the annual Port Clinton Art Festival in downtown Highland Park, August 28-30.

The annual Viva Chicago Latin Music Festival in Grant Park, August 29 and 30.

Taste of Greece 2009 on Halsted Street between Van Buren and Monroe, August 29 and 30.

The Fleet Feet Sports Supersprint Triathlon and McDonald's Kids Triathlon at Foster Avenue Beach, Sunday, August 29.

The Bucktown Arts Fest at Senior Citizens' Park, Oakley Avenue and Lyndale Street, August 29 and 30.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Forty Years Ago This Month

August 15-18, 1969 - Bethel, New York

David Sanborn was there.

David Sanborn could fill a book with all the unique experiences he'd had in his career. When he came by the WNUA studios in 1995 and joined me on the air during my midday show, little did I know, however, that we'd spend some time talking about something I wouldn't expect coming out of the mouth of a Smooth Jazzer. The man told me he played Woodstock! Yup, the original one--the one that's marking its 40th anniversary this month.

In the late 1960s David was a member of the famed Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which was booked to perform at Woodstock on Sunday, August 17. He recalled for my audience and me that day the group had to fly into the park in a helicopter, since the freeway was closed. It was a sight he won't soon forget, he and the band "coming over the hill and seeing half a million people below, all spread out on this field." Never before had he seen a crowd that size.

The whole experience must have left a positive impression on David. He left Butterfield's group in 1971 and moved to Woodstock, where he lived until the mid '70s, when he relocated to Manhattan.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chicagoland Events for the Week Ahead, as heard at

Summer weekends are winding down, but there's no shortage of weekend fun in Chicagoland:

The 8th annual Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (above), on Glenwood Between Lunt and Farwell, August 21-23.

Lakeview Music Fest, at Sheffield and Addison, August 22-23. (773-868-3010)

The Lincoln Park Firemen's Cook-Off, the Lincoln Park Market, 2500 North Clark Street, August 22-23.

The 60th annual Greek Festival at the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2727 West Winona, August 21-23. (773-561-5992)

And next weekend, "Smooth Jazz at South Shore," featuring Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler and Rick Braun, at Washington Park, Michigan City, Indiana, Saturday, August 29.

Ring A Bell?

I'm sure you remember the TV commercial showing a father joyfully rolling through a department store on a shopping cart singing "It's the most wonderful time of the year". The "father" is ecstatic that the kids would soon be going back to school.

Some of you have already experienced this "wonderful time". Your kids attend year-round schools. For the rest of you, it's just around the corner.

Each year it takes a minute to realize that you're actually sipping a cup of coffee and the only sound in the room is the soundtrack of your life coming from ChiTown Smooth AHHHH.

Whatever else comes your way that day, this moment is ALL YOURS. Enjoy. Meantime we'll look for a Smooth Jazz version of "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year".

Smoothly yours,
Danae Alexander

Friday, August 14, 2009

Smooth Jazz's Summer Swan Song

Jonathan Butler

Rick Braun

Richard Elliot

For several years it's heralded the end of summer for Smooth Jazz fans in a big way. "Smooth Jazz at South Shore" is an incredible evening of live music on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan in Michigan City, Indiana. This year's event features three performers who never disappoint: powerhouse saxman Richard Elliot, smooth-as-silk trumpeter Rick Braun and awesome singer/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Butler as "Jazz Attack" on Saturday, August 29, at 7:30 p.m.

"Smooth Jazz at South Shore" was the brainchild of Bernie Scott, a local businessman and proprietor of The Joy of Flowers in Michigan City. Through his tireless efforts each year, Smooth Jazz fans in Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland get to enjoy an evening with the genre's premiere artists, and several important charities in the area benefit from a portion of the proceeds. It's a definite win-win for Smooth Jazz and several worthy organizations. Last year's event, for example, raised over $100,000 for the Sand Castle Shelter for Children and Families, the Stepping Stone Shelter for Women and the American Red Cross, LaPorte County Chapter.

My wife, Lori, and I attended our first "Smooth Jazz at South Shore" concert last August, when Nick Colionne and Mindi Abair were the headliners. Bernie and his staff put on such a good show that we're looking forward to being back this year. We hope you decide to come join us, too. I guarantee you'll enjoy their hospitality and, with the excitement of "Jazz Attack," I can think of no better way to wrap up our summer.

For information on tickets, please click here. See you on the 29th!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chicagoland Events for the Week Ahead, as heard at

The annual Air & Water Show at North Avenue Beach, August 15 and 16.

Edison Park Fest, around the Edison Park Metra station in the northwest side neighborhood, August 14-16.

Windy City Ribs Festival, with live music and good food, at Union Park, 1501 West Randolph, August 14-16.

Green Music Fest at Eckhart Park, 1330 West Chicago Avenue, August 15 & 16.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's New at

Peter White - “Bright”

CD: Good Day (Peak Records) (Release date: 9/8/09)

One of our favorite six-stringers is back with a CD of original compositions, drawing from what Peter describes as “my backlog of material—songs that I'd never finished, some going as far back as ten or fifteen years.” Peter adds, “I discovered that I had a lot of gems that I really wanted to show to the world.” The first single, “Bright,” is dedicated to the memory of Wayman Tisdale.

Here's "Rick's Pick to Click," the track I feel has the best chance to stick:

Jonathan Fritzen - “VIP”

CD: VIP (Nordic Night Records)

Multi-instrumentalist (but mainly pianist) Jonathan Fritzen hails from Stockholm. This is his second solo CD, and--here's my prediction--it's going to be his Smooth Jazz breakthrough track.

Freddie Washington - “In the Moment”

CD: In the Moment (RFW Records)

This is our introduction to the talented bassist currently on tour with Steely Dan. You can catch Freddie in action with the group at their Chicago Theatre shows August 31 through September 5.


Four80East - “Roll On”

CD: Roll On (Native Language Records)

The Toronto-based group made their debut in 1997 with “Eastside.”

Nils - “Up Close & Personal”

CD: Up Close And Personal (Baja/TSR Records)

It's another cool west coast groove by the guitarist whose past hits include "Pacific Coast Highway" and "Summer Nights."

You'll hear all of these fresh, new tracks just added to the playlist.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chicagoland Events for the Week Ahead, as heard at

The annual Ginza Festival, a celebration of Japanese culture, at the Midwest Buddhist Temple on West Menomonee, August 7-9.

Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park with music and art, August 7-9.

It's the annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic on King Drive from 39th to 51st on August 8.

Enjoy your week and weekend!

Monday, August 3, 2009

On This Date in Smooth Jazz History

The date was August 3, 1987. It was a Monday then, just like it is today. The time was 5:00 p.m. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing? Do you have an alibi?

I was working for what was then WCLR (these days it's called "The Mix"), sitting with Assistant Program Director Suzy Mayzel and Program Director Dave Ervin in his office back when their facility was up in Skokie on Gross Point Road. We were all gathered around the stereo, listening intently for the launch of a new radio station. For the weeks leading up to August 3, 1987, there had been much talk in the local and national press about the new radio format that would soon be coming to Chicago--a format that had taken Los Angeles and San Francisco by storm a few months earlier. Based on contemporary instrumental music and eclectic vocals, "Music for a New Age" as a full-time format was set to debut in Chicago at 95.5FM at 5:00.

To the strains of David Sanborn's "Chicago Song," WNUA 95.5 made its debut that August afternoon. Little did we know at the time that the station would become a Chicago staple and enjoy a magnificent run that would take it all the way to May 22, 2009.

The launch of WNUA was especially significant to me, because I had been hosting a weekend show on WCLR that featured essentially the same music. My show, "The Sunday Lite Brunch," debuted in February of 1987, six months before the start of WNUA. In just those few months on the air the Lite Brunch show had received such good reviews in the local papers and an outpouring of support from listeners (a thousand letters in the first six months) that I knew we were onto something. And, as soon as I heard the first few notes of "Chicago Song" coming from 95.5, I realized that, presented as a 24/7 format, "Music for a New Age" would have incredible potential.

"The Sunday Lite Brunch" would continue on WCLR through February of 1989, when it fell victim to a format and call letter change at the station. Another New Age outlet which took to the air in 1987, 106.7 "The Wave" (WTWV) in Des Plaines, would also hang on for a couple of years before switching to Christian Contemporary music. By 1990, WNUA was the only Chicago station in the format, a distinction it held until May 22, 2009, when it flipped to Spanish Adult Contemporary.

The 23 year history of WNUA was marked by memorable music, exciting contests and events and an audience whose devotion to the station was second to none. For Danae Alexander and me (and everybody else who was on the air) it was easily the best experience of our careers.

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