Awesome piano: Thollem McDonas and Frank Abbinanti; awesome art openings/events at the Fine Arts Building

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From our Chicago correspondent:

Just saw the phenomenal Thollem McDonas play at the awesome Pianoforte gallery in Chicago, with pianist Frank Abbinanti. Thollem McDonas plays all sorts of piano; his sound ranges from classical to experimental indie music, prog rock, death metal, it’s hard to explain, but it’s fantastic. I imagine fans of any classical to music like Sonic Youth and Don Caballero and Slayer would enjoy his playing. Frank Abbinati is also awesome though I can’t find any videos of his stuff on YouTube. His playing was amazing though kind of scary! My wife liked Frank Abbinati’s performance the best and I liked Thollem McDonas’ performance the best, so it was a great night all around. Check out these videos of Thollem McDonas playing. I bought two of his CDs last night which I haven’t listened to yet. I heard him first on the WNUR, Northwestern University, and lo and behold, I found out he was playing the same week in Chicago! He lives in the Bay Area and travels playing around a lot, so if you like any kind of music, make sure you see him, it’s quite a treat.

The piano show was put on by the Pianoforte Foundation, which puts on lots of piano shows in a variety of venues, and they have a piano showroom/store also in the building, as well as their performance studio where we saw the show.
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The show was in the Fine Arts Building, a hidden treasure on Michigan Ave in the Loop in Chicago, just a few blocks from the park and the downtown library. It’s amazing; a whole building with tons of art galleries, music stores and performance spaces, and every second friday each month they have a killer open house kind of thing, where all these galleries etc put on shows and have wine and cheese and art openings. It’s like a dream, kind of a multi-level art opening/hotel/co-op/mall/party. You literally can walk up and down the stairs and there are art shows and openings on every floor with great art, nice people, wine and cheese, etc. Going up and down on the elevators you can look out onto each floor thinking, “Wow, that looks amazing, I’d better stop off on that floor later!”
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Ah, their website blurb reads, “The Fine Arts Building in Chicago is a haven for artists. Established in 1885, it has become an all artists colony that promotes all the arts.” It’s an f’n arts colony! That is a great description. I kept thinking of the Happiness Hotel in the Muppets Movie, I’ll have to see if that is an apt comparison, I saw it so long ago.

A great night all around and quite a find. If you like music and art at all, you will probably enjoy visiting second fridays at the Fine Arts building!

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Top photo by mascaracan. Other two by ihynz

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Jay-Z Blueprint 3 Review: It’s Awesome! (after a few listens)

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Wow…what a surprise, Jay-Z came through and delivers an awesome album! I actually like this more than the Black Album (which I thought was kind of spotty) and way, way, way more than his last two forgettable albums, American Gangster and Kingdom Come. I actually was indifferent to/or hated much of Blueprint 3 on the first listen and a half. The next day, I started to really like it.

Jay-Z’s lyrics are as far-ranging, insightful, and wittier than ever (“I’m in the hall already, on the wall already, I’m a work of art, I’m a Warhol already”), and his delivery is better than ever. He sounded kind of half-assed and indifferent on his last few albums, he finally is rapping with much more obvious intent and effort, it really comes across. Very good lyrics.

Standouts tracks are What We Talkin’ About (could be a great Daft Punk song with all of its dramatic synths and disco/post-punk drum beat), Thank You (sounds very 1994 Tribe Called Quest/Pharcyde/Souls of Mischief), D.O.A. (awesome prog rock/jazz/fusion/psychadelic rock sample action), and Run This Town (more awesome prog rock/jazz/fusion/psychadelic rock sample action).

The only noticeable lack is…no Just Blaze beats!!! WTF??? Okay, time to start planning for Blueprint 3.5 or 4, with more Just Blaze on the boards. Luckily, Kanye West paried with No I.D. is an amazing production team, producing way better tracks together than on their own. None of the producers are letdowns on this album. Most significantly, the whole thing works as an album, it flows real well, it’s very cohesive, you can listen to the whole thing from start to finish, on repeat even, for a very, very good listen. Haven’t listened to an album from start to finish like this in a really long time. What a surprise and quite welcome, who would have thought? This sort of resets hip hop back to like 2002 or so when it was a much more viable art form than of the last few confused years…

Here’s Jay-Z on Kool Keith! One of the few to acknowledge Kool Keith’s ongoing (though obviously sporadic) genius:

Q: With a successful Blueprint 3, you could really make it cool to be a 40-year-old rapper. But, playing devil’s advocate, success could also encourage 40-year-old rappers who should hang it up to continue rhyming professionally, because Jay did it. Ever consider that possibility?…Understood, but you’re one of the few rappers whose movement is still followed by artists old and young. How conscious are you of that position?

A: I think that, as long as the heart is in it. Because even if you miss it, it’s art. Like, Kool Keith, he may not sell any records, ever. But I think his type of art is needed, and there are people who follow his music. I think, when it’s done… Larry Holmes in the ring for money, that type of thing, then I don’t want to see that. But, like I said, if the genre needs the game to be stretched out, ’cause you have those guys who are 35 years old trying to make the smiley face or whatever, competing with Soulja Boy.
http://www.xxlmag.com/online/?p=56297

Someone needs to make a Rather Good video of D.O.A. with cats playing all the instruments!!!

Check out some of the original samples, the prog rock/fusion/psychadelic tracks are incredible, such as by the 4 Levels of Existence (incredible guitar action and killer solo! and Janko Nilovic & Dave Sucky). Here are the original samples:
mp3s: Kevin Nottingham: Blueprint 3 original samples

*UPDATE: Just Blaze is set to produce 4-5 tracks on Eminem’s Remedy 2 album! I’ve never been an Eminem fan, but this is what Jay-z should have done, should have had 4-5 Just Blaze tracks on Blueprint 3!*