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Mister Al / Blog

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

I found myself in downtown Cleveland last weekend with a couple spare hours so I footed it down to the lakefront and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Say what you will about the concept of such a thing, or the selection of the inductees; the museum collection at the Hall is off the chart cool! Some highlights: Delta Blues Guitars, Hank Williams' Suits, Elvis' VW Trike, ZZ Top Guitars, Surf Ballroom Poster, Alan Freed section, Les Paul Experimental Electric Guitars, Jimi Hendrix stuff, Otis Redding plane pieces with his name painted (gave me chills), Spinet piano (Million Dollar Quartet) and console from Sun Studios, Kurt Cobain death certificate (sad), Johnny Cash Tour Bus, Janis Joplin hand painted Porsche, John Lennon 3/4 scale guitar and tons more. It struck me that these artifacts are "things", not music; but they are iconic things that trigger deep emotions. Check out the live radio show broadcast (I love watching live radio broadcasts) The inductee exhibit is a long sloping hall with the Hall of Famer's autographs styled in glowing white onto black glass. Classy and contemplative, and puts them all in an equal light. If you go try to catch it when it's not busy; one can easily spend half a day, maybe more. I M Pei building is spectacular. Staff is fantastic. Lounge Lives

Bryant's-Milwaukee

The free postcard they offer at Bryant's has a vintage ad for Four Roses Whiskey on the front, and written on the reverse: "Milwaukee's oldest cocktail lounge, open since 1938. Everyone enjoys the two floors of atmosphere, swinging sounds, and unmatched cocktails at Bryant's Cocktail Lounge". I recently shot a film on location at Bryant's so I can't speak to the music or the beverages, but the atmosphere is Super Deluxe Swanky. This place is a genuine time machine. The only item I saw newer than from 1970 was one Sony component installed behind the bar. Everything from the brass sconces, flocked wall paper, tastefully risque artwork and crescent shaped booths was vintage Lounge-alicious. The upper floor (where the actors hung out between takes) had 3 large open picture windows, and on a partly cloudy day, the room was still dark. Rumor is the bartenders know what they are doing. Check it out when you're in Milwaukee. Closed on Mondays. Lounge Lives!

Chicago Prime Italian

The fine folks at Chicago Prime have a new restaurant/lounge in Schaumburg, this one is Italian themed. Nice high ceilings & an open floor plan; Lounge Music fills the entire space including the dining room. The Live Pete Show was entertaining on Thursday so I stopped in to check out the scene. Friendly staff! GM John stopped by to say hello. Live Pete was singing beneath a video monitor featuring the Bulls game, but it wasn't as distracting as one might think. (I once caught a Blues Band at the Cubby Bear. The band played in front of a projected big screen with the Blackhawks game reflecting off the entire band. Sweet Home Chicago!) Added entertainment was found at the bar as a middle aged gal and her senior citizen beau made out like freshmen. Lots of hand slapping. Lounge Lives!

Mac's on Slade

The name is just the beginning, Mac is the owner of a great music showcase bar & restaurant on Slade Street in Palatine, IL. Not a huge place but an excellent spot to catch some local music, have a decent meal (I am very fond of the Red Beans & Rice, don't miss the rack of hot sauces on the wall) or some liquid refreshment. Not a lounge exactly, more like a Chicago Blues or Jazz Bar in it's layout. Mac is a music fan/bass player himself and the vibe here is very pro-musician. Fun decor with "house" instruments onstage and deco lamps illuminating the bands. Open mic on Tuesday, Acoustic night on Thursday, Solo Acts, Duos & Bands on the weekend. Highly recommended by Mister Al. Lounge Lives!-along with Rock, Blues, Jazz etc.

Smooth Jazz Fades Out

I used to enjoy listening to WNUA in Chicago, the Smooth Jazz station. My girlfriend (now wife) & I even attended the Smooth Jazz Brunch remote broadcast with Rick O' Dell at the Hotel Nikko. I loved Sade and adopted her hit "Smooth Operator" as my secret theme song. WNUA would also play some "out there" music from Mars Lazar & the atmospheric StarStreams. In other words, within the format, they took some programming chances. Then they drifted.... cut out lesser known artists and went with a sax heavy mix plus great....but already well exposed down-tempo soul. There was even a strange updated version of the modern jazz classic "Take Five" that I swear sounded like 4/4 time. Really? The music became smooth alright, so smooth it was flat. As for the Jazz part, it never really was. Most smooth jazz songs were an interplay between a soloist and a synthesizer, which is fine...but that's not jazz. Now it's gone. 'NUA staffers & setlists briefly rallied at a smaller station on the Northshore, then that went away too. Trends come & go. Whats the next wave of easy listening, relaxing tuneage? Hmmmm.

The Terrace @ Sam & Harry's

I climbed the long stairway to The Terrace on the south side of Sam & Harry's in Schaumburg. Overlooking the Jane Addams Tollway, The Terrace holds a collection of patio couches, cocktail tables, wicker chairs and umbrellas. A planter box with foliage hides the passing traffic but can't stop the noise of thousands of cars, trucks and the occasional pack of bikes. The Terrace hosts live music on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 til 9; bands, deejays, whatever will entertain the convention goers visiting the Renaissance Hotel. Prices are pricey. Fixed price lunch at $22, specialty cocktails at $12, microbrews $6.50 and up and wine $8 and up. Homemade potato chips and a nice french onion and garlic dip is only .99 cents and seems like the deal of the century. Hazy afternoon sun, the drone of speeding traffic and cocktails on The Terrace...it seemed very LA, which following a lingering Illinois winter was fine with me. Lounge Lives!

ZuZu's Tea House

Last week I stopped in to Madame Zuzu's Tea House in Braeside. Nice new and tidy spot on the north shore. Beautiful wooden bar for ordering your tea & pastries; upright piano for players. Music every Friday & Saturday and Open Mic every other Thursday. Not another soul there during my winter lunch but probably packed after a Ravinia concert. Nice cane back chairs & tables to enjoy your tea. Eclectic Asian meets Victorian decor. Vegan menu. My brownie tasted like it was missing something....probably butter and eggs. Pricey; $9.00 bought herbal tea, a brownie and a little something for the server. Great place post concert or Cook County Botanical Gardens. Lounge Lives.

Mister Al Guitar Tuning

I'm changing the name of my guitar tuning to "Mister Al". Previously I called it Mistral in honor of Django Reinhardt, since the tuning allows a player to form jazzy extended chords with just two fingers. There was some confusion out there in Guitarland though because Django played in Standard Tuning. Some guitar tunings acquire names (open G is called Sebastapol-Standard tuning is called Spanish) beyond the technical description. So now a guitar tuning in stacked thirds (minor-major-minor-major-etc) is known as Mister Al. Lounge Lives!

The Apuli Brothers at Mac's on Slade

Last night at Mac's on Slade in Palatine, Il. I caught a set by the duo The Apuli Brothers. Wow! Sort of a cross between John Mayer & Los Lonely Boys; these guys are really in sync with each other. Very nice original songs as well. It's fun watching them trade the electric guitar too, between songs. Both guys sing & play, and give an all around positive upbeat vibe that's very optimistic. The future looks bright for The Apuli Brothers.

Chicago Gourmet Event

I had a nice weekend at the Chicago Gourmet show in Millenium Park. Lots of great food and beverages along with perfect weather. DJ was OK. Lounge Lives!