From the blog

On to another new year!

It’s that time again… a brand new year!  I just want to take a few minutes to think back about 2017 and think forward to 2018!

2017 started slow from a performance perspective.  Kyle Krause and I applied for a grant to put together and premier a concerto for steelpan and orchestra and I was introduced to Callaloo Chicago.  The monthly Jazz Trials at the Law Office continued with decent crowds early in the year.  The most exciting stuff in first quarter was getting completed pieces Aaron Gage and Jason Mulligan (more on that further down). 

I first performed with Callaloo in April and have subbed in on a few gigs since.  The band is made up of a percussion ensemble (marimba, 2-3 steelpans, drumset, percussion) with bass and guitar.  The music is almost entirely original repertoire by Scott Johnson of UpBeat Music in Chicago.  The band covers a huge variety of styles and does a great job of mixing in Scott’s signature “twists” and occasional odd-metered bars in the music.  I’m sure I’ll play with Callaloo from time to time going forward.  It’s a really fun group of guys to hang and make music with!

Early in the year, I had a few different subbing gigs that were new to me.  I played in the house band for Rochelle Pops Choir concert.  We played the suite from the Carol King musical, Beauty and the Beast and a number of other pops choir tunes.  I also assisted my good friend Scott McConnell in teaching the CYSO Steelbands for a day!  That was a blast.  It was really cool to see how the Chicago Youth Symphony’s steelband program is developing and pushing steelband into new communities in our area.  Malika Green is the usual director of the program.  I was glad to sub for her for one day while she was out of town on a Fullbright!

Summer also brought a few new experiences.  I flew to LA in May (ok, “late spring”) to play with Tracy Thronton’s Pan Rocks Project LA.  We did a full EP recording and video shoot at Ocean Studios in Burbank.  I posted a lot about this particular project as it was happening so I won’t go on and on about it. The only thing I will say is that the total video view count for every clip we have released so far is close to 200,000!  Tracy launched a full website about the project a while back.  Check it out HERE.

Throughout the summer I played a few jobbing dates, including some weddings and other small events.  I performed in Indiana with Ed Brann’s Rumba Ensemble that featured Don Skoog and a number of students from the Contemporary Music Project.  The Jazz Trials also celebrated its One Year Anniversary!  I’m so glad that the Jazz Trials has been successful and found a niche in both participants and audience.  We got a write-up in the Aurora Beacon News that can be seen online HERE.

Fall came with a few cool things as well.  I’ve been calling The Law Office my “home venue” since it is both VERY close to home and the stage on which I perform most frequently.  In August, I brought in Paa Kow and the band for a quick stop on their tour-to-the-east-coast.  It was a fun party in Yorkville on a Tuesday with a good size crowd.  The band sounded and felt amazing, as usual, and this show was the unofficial release of the Cookpot album in my hometown!  Recording for that project was fun, so I was really glad to bring the band in to give my friends a chance to hear them live and buy the record.  If you haven’t heard it (I’m only on 2 tracks, but the rest of the album is awesome!) it’s available on iTunes and directly from Paa Kow.  They even did a limited release on vinyl!

The end of the year got busy, as it usually does.  I subbed with Salsa del Norte for a fundraiser in DeKalb, restored some marching snare drums for a customer up north and even played at PASIC in a mass steelband.  PASIC was a cool experience as always.  This time the mass band was organized by Rick Kurasz from Western Illinois University and featured all-new (or new-ish) repertoire written specifically for the steelband.  Most of the composers of the 10-song set performed in the band and we had guest solo by Andy Narell!  Andy had been inducted into the PAS Hall of Fame the night before for his many contributions to the steelpan community and jazz education over the span of his career.

The last big event for me for the year was my Caribbean Jazz show at my home venue!  I was asked over the summer about doing an “Evening with Mike Schwebke” at the Law Office and I thought long and hard about what I might want to do.  The obvious choice was just to learn and play some of my favorite tunes, so I put together a band to play some of my favorite Caribbean Jazz tunes.  Most of the tunes rarely get played in the US at all, and I certainly don’t have many chances to play them… this opportunity was perfect!  I also wrote a lot about this as it built up to the show, so I won’t ramble.  However, keep an eye out for some recordings of the show and possible future dates for the band!  Including a couple possible festival dates this summer!

Thanks for checking in and reading my looooong post.  This year was filled with all kinds of craziness, but we all look forward to the future of better health, safety and opportunites.

Check in again soon, I’m adding a lot of website content this week.  So if it has been a while since you checked out all the pages on my site, take second and look around for something new!

— oh, I almost forgot.  That new music from Jason and Aaron I mentioned earlier.  I will make a formal announcement as the details get confirmed, but I will be giving a New Music for Steelpan recital this fall! 

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