H-F musicians, listeners enjoy comeback after long pandemic limitations

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H-F musicians, listeners enjoy comeback after long pandemic limitations

July 12, 2021 - 21:06
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Live music is back.

Most festivals and regular venues canceled live music or moved to virtual performances during the worst of the pandemic in 2020, but when restrictions eased in June, the musicians returned to play.

Among the first live performances was the first of three Trail Mix concerts at Izaak Walton on June 18. Two more concerts are planned for Aug. 13 and Oct. 1.

The Park Sessions band perform jazz, blues and R&B music for listeners at Irwin Park on July 2. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The Park Sessions band perform jazz, blues and R&B music for listeners at Irwin Park on July 2. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The first Starry Nights concert sponsored by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District was July 8. Another show, featuring Feel Good Party Band will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 22.

Two more Irwin Park concerts will be performed by the Community Band at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, July 15 and July 29.

The second annual Porch Fest is set for Saturday, Aug. 28. The event will move to a different neighborhood this year. The organizers plan the event so guests can walk between venues. A story with more details will be posted in coming weeks.

The Independence Day weekend brought another surge of outdoor performances.

On Friday, July 2, Sam Calhoon brought his latest project, The Park Sessions, to Irwin Park in Homewood with the group's mix of jazz, blues and R&B.   

"We started playing at the park a few weeks ago, just as a way to get out of the house with some friends and make music," he said. "It was totally for fun. As we played more into the night, we were awed at how many people were stopping to listen, and even some who were dancing along with the music.

"It felt so good to be bringing live music to our community again."

He said someone posted video of the band on a local social media group, and that helped bring more people to the park for their performances. 

The Park Sessions band on July 2 included, from left, Manny Gonzalez, guitar; Sam Calhoon, bass; Kendall Carter, guitar;  Will Lawton on drums (behind Carter), Ken Nakamura, saxophone; and Winston Doss,  trumpet. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The Park Sessions band on July 2 included, from left, Manny Gonzalez, guitar; Sam Calhoon, bass; Kendall Carter, guitar;  Will Lawton on drums (behind Carter), Ken Nakamura, saxophone; and Winston Doss,  trumpet. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The rotation of musicians might change, but the sessions will continue when possible  this summer, he said.

On July 2, the lineup included Kendall Carter and Manny Gonzalez on guitar, Ken Nakamura on saxophone, Will Lawton on drums, Winston Doss on trumpet and Calhoon on bass.

Calhoon was the founder and leader of TiMELeSS, one of the area's most popular bands in the two years prior to the pandemic. 

TiMELeSS is not as active now after lead singer Alex Reese moved away to go to school, he said, but The Park Sessions include similar music.

The group is planning to perform at the first Wednesday night edition of the Homewood Farmers Market on July 21 and again on Aug. 4. 

The following day, live music returned to the Saturday farmers market, with longtime regular MG Bailey taking the first session and the McDowell Brothers playing the second.

Bailey was gearing up for a tour, which he launched with a performance on July 9 at the Flossmoor Community House. 

Listeners gather in lawn chairs and blankets to listen to The Park Sessions band, led by Sam Calhoon. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Listeners gather in lawn chairs and blankets to listen to The Park Sessions band, led by Sam Calhoon. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The McDowell Brothers, Carlton on guitar and Peyton on bass, were named Most Talented Teens in the 2017 Chicago Music Award contest.

Although the market had been rapidly shedding pandemic restrictions in previous weeks, Market Manager Kate Duff said the return of live music made it seem like the market was complete again.

"This is what we've been waiting for," said Homewood Events Manager Allisa Opyd. 

The July 10 farmers market included solo performances by Jeff Maharry of Work in Progress and Mark Alexander.