In the last few years, I would say that I have celebrated the Fourth of July in non-traditional ways. When I say traditional, I mean going to a cookout, and watching the fireworks from wherever the party is. However, sometimes different ways of celebrating keep it fresh from year to year.
Last weekend, when I was hanging out with one of my friends, we had considered activities to do, including upcoming Ravinia concerts, that might be enjoyable for a future rendezvous. We considered a few concerts in August, such as The Beach Boys, but there was one much closer concert which caught my eye: “Dave Koz and Friends Present Summer Horns 2014,” scheduled for July 4. This friend already had plans on the fourth, but I was bereft of plans until then–what an opportunity for me!
When I was younger, smooth jazz grew on me as a genre that I liked. This is directly related to my fascination with weather, given that it was played on every Local on the 8’s on The Weather Channel. I didn’t know the name of any of the songs, however, that played on the station, but the general sound of it definitely tickled my fancy.
I have been to Ravinia three times before: classical concert in 2010, Idina Menzel with CSO on July 8, 2012 (and I’m intentionally timing a post based on something that happened that day for a few days from now!), and Israel Solidarity Day on ל”ג בעומר, תשע”ג (Lag b’Omer in 5773, corresponding to April 28, 2013). Each was a different experience, but all of them were quite enjoyable! Each of those times, I took the Metra with at least one of my friends/acquaintances up to the concert/event.
Since I went at it alone this time, I figured that I should just ride my bike–the weather was absolutely perfect–sunny without a cloud in sight, and temperatures in the mid-70s Fahrenheit. I rode along the serene Green Bay Trail, which was fairly devoid of pedestrian and bicycle activity. It reminds me of riding the Jamaica North trail along the west side of Lincoln.
I got my ticket once I got there after a Long 40 Minutes(TM), entered the park, and traversed the Martin Theatre clockwise in order to find a spot on the lawn in front of the Pavilion. I could not see the stage from my vantage point, but I arrived early enough to eat my picnic dinner (fried chicken and grapes (!)) before the concert began.
The concert started at 20:05 with a guitar solo, which was a little unexpected for me, and I couldn’t see who it was playing from my vantage point. However, after I finished eating, I walked over to the edge of the Pavilion, and was able to see the stage. The company started with a jazz-ified medley of some “funk” songs from the ’70s, although I didn’t write down all of them that were within the medley. This post, after all, is not intended as a playlist!
The songs were more than just the smooth jazz that I am used to from Pandora and The Weather Channel. Indeed, some of them sounded like Saxtributions on popular songs from the ’60s and ’70s. There were Stevie Wonder songs, James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, and more. However, all of them were purely instrumental, which was perfectly fine by me.
The show is much more than just the music, however. Watching the quartet interact with each other, as well as the percussion, bass, and keyboard, makes it a full experience. During the fifth song (of which I did not catch the name), there was some hand-play among the saxophonists, which I found somewhat endearing or amusing. They walked around the stage and often swayed the saxes from left to right, much like what I see in marching or pep bands! During the penultimate song, they all marched through the aisles of the Pavilion, and someone standing next to me commented on how impressive that was, particularly for Mindi who was wearing high heels.
Given that we are in Chicagoland and the night was Independence Day, two aptly-themed songs were done. Anti-respectively, these were “God Bless America” and a Chicago Transit Authority medley of “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is” and “25 or 6 to 4.” This was very enjoyable, as it gave a much different feeling than either the live CTA version or studio version that I have on my computer, OR the Northwestern OR Nebraska pep bands. Every rendition has its own appeal!
All in all, it shows that even popular songs that might normally grit on me (e.g. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams) are up my alley when the words are stripped and/or the performance is jazz-ified. This might not be effective for EVERY song underneath the planet, but it can’t hurt!
Dave Koz said that at the end of the show, they would be doing an autograph and meet-and-greet session. This was something I was more than willing to stick around for, as I was INDEPENDENT of the train and parking-lot shuttles. I bought the Summer Horns and Wild Heart CDs, and then waited in line for the autographs. The security person was telling us, “The steps: One–get your merchandise or items to be autographed. Two–have the CDs open. Three–if you want a picture, wait until everyone has gotten autographs.”
A few more announcements about last trains blared over the loudspeakers while I was in line: “The last southbound train will be at 10:38 PM and the last northbound train will be at 11:21 PM.” It was clearly pre-recorded or synthesized, but it sounded like the woman had a British accent. Go figure! As you know, voice-overs tend to amuse me, and I will often try to imitate them.
The line was not too long, and it shortened from the back. The crew appeared at about 22:40 or so. (It didn’t matter to me what time it was. I knew I would get a second wind.) So, the line moved pretty quickly, as I got autographs from Mindi, Gerald, Richard, and Dave, together with handshakes and quick small talk. Before returning to the line for a photo, I found a restroom and then saw that the line was quite short for photos–hooray! I posted the quintet photo on Facebook, but might as well reproduce it here as well for my readers who do not have Facebook and/or are not following me there:
From left: Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Noah Weiss, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright
With all of that done, I checked my watch and it was 23:30. Given that it was still going to be a “Long Ride Home,” I had little choice but to be “Kickin’ It Up.” I had the head lamp as well as the handlebar lights available to “Show Me The Way,” given that the “City Lights” were nowhere to be found on the starlit Sheridan Road. In fact, on my entire Long-40-Minute Ride Home, there were only three southbound cars that passed me. I didn’t get home in time for the end of Independence Day, and this is now officially the latest that I have ever been out on my bike. I’m much more comfortable doing this on the North Shore than I would in the city.
I am so glad that I went to this concert, and in some sense, I might have passed over it if I hadn’t looked carefully at the Ravinia schedule last weekend!
Today is the one-hundred and eighty-sixth day of M.M.X.I.V. That makes twenty-six weeks and four days.