The Bill O’Connell Chicago Skyliners Big Band celebrates 21 years of monthly performances Sunday at Fitzgerald’s night club in Berwyn,Ill., where they have been a popular attraction the second Sunday of every month since 1991.
When Fitzgerald’s first opened its doors at 6615 West Roosevelt Road, on the site once famous as being home to The Deer Lodge Jazz Club, the first music to be featured was big band to honor the history of the venue it had replaced. Although the public soon welcomed the variety of new musical styles added to the expanded menu by Bill Fitzgerald and his staff – blues, rock, folk, etc. – they let it be known that jazz was still desired and expected at their favorite watering hole.
When the Chicago Skyliners – now Blue Birdland Jazz recording artists – first formed in 1988, it was not intended to be a big money-making project, but rather a vehicle to help keep the big band sound alive for new generations. For the past two-plus decades, that is exactly what the dedicated and talented musicians of band leader Bill O’Connell have been doing with their monthly gigs as the cornerstone of Fitzgerald’s perennial Sunday big band jazz series.
The Chicago Skyliners’ repertoire features original compositions from their own four CD releases (available at: www.chicagoskylinersbigband.com), plus favorites from the catalogs of such iconic big band leaders as Artie Shaw, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, and Glen Miller. They also pepper the live sets with the music of such contemporary artists as Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severenson, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, and such ground breaking jazz-rock groups as Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Ides of March.
The group’s usual second Sunday of the month slot has been moved to the first weekend for this month only, to mark the anniversary of their first Fitzgerald’s performance. Showtime is 6 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for 17 and under. More: (708) 788-2118 or www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.
• While writing of Fitzgerald’s - Pezband, the iconic Oak Park group who pioneered and spearheaded the “power-pop” scene along with Cheap Trick, Off Broadway and Shoes back in the late 1970s, will be turning up their amps at the fabled Berwyn music haunt at 9 p.m. tonight with special guest, Tomorrow The Moon. More: www.facebook.com/Pezband.
• Former Northwest Indiana metal guitarist Kenny Gannon (regionally famous for his years in the recording/touring band Gravelbone), emailed “The Local Scene” with news he is now a producer at MidCity Sounds Studio in Los Angeles and has a new hard rock/metal group called Heroes And Liars.
The band features Hammond’s Gannon on lead guitar, Sin 7 (ex-Vanilla Ice and Methods of Mayhem) on rhythm guitar, Ron Holley (ex-Sickfrown) on bass, and Canadian export Kelly Dodd keeping the beat. Keep up with Gannon and crew at: www.facebook.com/pages/Heroes-and-Liars.
• Here’s a new place for local music makers to showcase their wares. The Jelly Pancake House (936 Joliet Street) in Dyer is now hosting a monthly “Open Stage Night” for all ages with no cover charge. The event is held the last Thursday of each month from 8 to 11 p.m. Sign up early to assure a playing slot. More: (219) 865-3200.
• My condolences to legendary rock guitarist, Joe Jammer, in regards to the Dec. 17 death of his beloved mother, Mrs. Faye Wright, age 89. His mother, who resided in the Scottsdale neighborhood, was the primary reason Joe returned to live in his native Chicago so many years ago.