Menu Full of Music

Bradhead 2013 Tall-1040127Happy Valentine’s Day, you crazy lovebirds!

This coming week, on Wednesday, February 19th, Bradley Williams’ New 21st Century Review collectively continues its weekly Wednesday shows at the sublime Jazz Showcase here in Chicago.

This week I’d like to address a certain feature unique to our presentation, the Musical Menu,  copies of which you’ll find distributed on the tables when you arrive at this beautiful club.

click me!
Musical Menu – click me!

Once upon  a time, a person with whom I was very close, following my my career with interest (though not an experienced ‘Jazz Fan’,) made a remark to me. She said, and I paraphrase, “I like the music but I never know what they’re playing or where it comes from, so it’s hard to remember or identify later.” I thought, yes, this is true of a lot of Jazz performances. There can be a bit of the ‘exclusive club’ vibe which can lead folks who otherwise like the music feeling shut out and a little unsatisfied. And perhaps a potential  fan discouraged.

When developing the concept of the Review, her comment rang in my ears.  After all, if you go to a play or an opera you typically are offered a program with important background info and personnel. I says to myself, I says, “Self, there’s got to be a better way.” Why not share the carefully drafted plan of musical attack with the audience, the benefit being that they not only have the useful information at their fingertips but might look ahead to upcoming numbers and even the next set after the intermission? And so – I did.

The Musical Menus are also posted on the website each week in  advance of the shows. They change, though, like any menu, certain favorite dishes stay. An audience member, when regretfully leaving, can pocket one and savor the musical panorama, maybe even share it with a friend. My omniscient narrator, who writes the stuff, seems to enjoy the job.

Now you and your children, and your children’s children, will never again have to guess their way through a 21st Century Review performance. Is that a Happy Ending or what?

By the way, the doodle of myself that we use for the upper left-hand graphic on the Musical Menu was done by my wonderful artist CIMG0902-picsayfriend, Karen Thomas, also a long-time Chicagoan. We have known each other since childhood and her work appears in several of my album projects.  Although I think she intended this particular piece as a draft I instantly became enamored with the “if Charles Dickens and Ben Franklin had a baby” look.

Luther - linocut by Karen Thomas copyright Karen Thomas
“Luther Eats”
Karen Thomas
(click for gallery)


This is her original linocut entitled “Luther Eats.” It does not represent me  but will soon become world-known.


Early warning – watch for the Compleat Hystory of the 21st Century Review, an account in many parts, appearing in a blog near you very soon.


The Valentine Vortex

Bradhead 2013 Tall-1040127Bradley Williams here! Welcome to my first blog entry here at The New 21st Century Review site. Those that know me know I have little difficulty expounding at length on any available subject, so, in spite of my initial resistance, perhaps it’s a perfect match. It does seem appropriate that this post occurs during the commercially-supported celebration of romance and love because so much of the music we form and perform circles around these subjects.

The motivating force behind this blog is to spread the word about our new endeavor here in Chicago, Bradley Williams’ New 21st Century Review in a recurring Wednesday performance at the legendary Jazz Showcase.

The New 21st Century Review Band
The New 21st Century Review Band
click for Jazz Showcase

 Our show features myself as omniscient narrator and host, our three very fine vocalists, Gingi Lahera, Jennifer Graham and Manny Baker, and a fantastic 7-piece band performing a wide spectrum WDCB_Jazz_URL-pngof Jazz-influenced music spanning the last 100 years,  including original works of my own. With the support and encouragement of Dr. Joe and Wayne Segal, the owners of the Jazz Showcase, we’ve initiated a signature evening of great Chicago talent, and are striving to create a local musical institution. We’re also fortunate to have, as our radio sponsor, the fine folks at WDCB in Glen Ellyn.

      1. Funny Valentine Snippet
Jennifer Graham
Jennifer Graham

This Valentine’s week, for example, our show features Jennifer Graham singing my original piano/vocal arrangement of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine,” the archetypical yet worthy chestnut.

Gingi Lahera
Gingi Lahera

 Gingi Lahera offers up the sunny, idealistic 30’s “A Precious Little Thing.” You might guess what that thing is…


      2. A Precious Little Thing snippet

And our junior vocalist, the Detroit-bred Emmanuelle Baker, whips out Dinah Washington’s “Such a Night,” an account of a one-night infatuation. Then there’s our ensemble piece, the classic “There Ain’t No Flies On Me.” Doesn’t get more steamy than that…

fly girls 1
My “Fly” Girls, Gingi and Manny

In fact – perhaps the only number that lacks romantic intention is my mock police procedural TV theme “Investigation,” but there’s a romance in crime too, no?

      3. Investigation - Bradley Williams

A personal favorite song-of-romance is one I get to sing (surprise,) Billy Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You.” As is pointed out in the show – the words every woman wants to hear.

On other grounds than our wonderful Review:

Permit me to resurrect a Valentine graphic effort of which this ‘digital-dabbler’ is inordinately proud: the abduction of the “I Love Lucy” heart paired with Gingi Lahera and I squared off with bows and arrows for our recent record “Personality.” We’re so delighted she’s re-joined the current version of the 21st Century Review. Gingi, my wife Amy and I, all being Sagittarians, know the danger of the sharpened arrow (AKA the ‘tendency to be too direct’) as does our pal, the Sinister Doctor Cupid.


 ( / order this CD?)

Finally – thanks for reading this initial effort and join the fun by posting your comments. We have to make sure this blog thing works.