November 4, 2013 • 21 Arts & Culture
McDougald revives sexy, vintage jazz scene LIBBY BUCK Assistant Arts & Culture Editor HIKING UP HER black lace corset for
maximum cleavage while pursing her bright red lips, Chicago-based jazz vocalist Erin McDougald nonchalantly counted off to her dapperlooking backup quintet—“A one, two, three, four”—before elegantly and skillfully setting off into a jazz performance that refurbished the delightful, smoky sounds of the past. Her sultry set recalled the spirits of jazz legends such as Von Freeman, Franz Jackson and Wilbur Campbell, who once frequented the club, out of the woodwork at her Oct. 28 performance at the candlelit Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway. McDougald, a ’00 Columbia music performance graduate of the Music Department, has made a noble entrance into Chicago’s jazz scene with her soulful vocals that recall singers of the ’30s and ’40s in an authentically trained sound, which is low yet still feminine—a trait absent from most of today’s pop singers who rely heavily upon auto-tune to make them sound better. Having put out three studio albums in six years while performing at hole-in-the-wall clubs, McDougald has developed a dignified name for herself in the city. Seemingly untouched since the ’40s, The Green Mill’s décor conjures images of flapper girls bouncing around the club, teasing men with cigarette holders dangling from their mouths, lipstick-marked cocktail glasses in hand. But standing before the green velvet-upholstered booths, intricate and antique crown molding and pristine white tablecloths, McDougald looked like a ghost haunting the club from Al Capone’s days as a regular at the venue. The band—consisting of drummer Charles Heath, pianist and guitarist Rob Block, bassist Josh Ramos and trumpeter Victor Garcia—unfurled romantic jazz melodies while McDougald belted away with strong, breathy vocals in classic tracks such as “Thou Swell” and “Route 66.” Her range was broad and mature in the tradition of Billie Holiday; her flawless, professional voice resonated through the packed venue and out to the dead streets of Uptown. Lightly racing piano riffs and high-pitched, bold trumpet lines over raspy, low bass with persistently thumping drums created an indulgent sound. As if he were joyously screaming through his trumpet, Garcia pushed every bit of breath he had out into a lively performance. The rest of the band members were just as animated and passionate; they all traded turns with solos, playing as if they were fighting with their instruments. As she grew more comfortable onstage, McDougald’s performance grew raunchier. She sprinkled comments like “Do I look flatchested in this?” about the corset she was just shy of popping out of, throughout the last legs of the
performance, letting glimmers of the real Erin shine through. Giving seductive winks and kissy faces at anyone daring enough to lock eyes, her sexpot personality and overtly theatrical nature mesmerized everyone in the club. McDougald confidently swung through ballsy covers such as “Superwoman” by Stevie Wonder and “Sometimes I’m Happy” from the Broadway musical “Hit the Deck.” These ambitious covers were reworked in a way that evidently combined her love of older swing and bebop jazz with
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Samantha Tadelman THE CHRONICLE Jazz vocalist Erin McDougald recalls the smooth sound of the golden jazz era during her Oct. 28 performance at the historic Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway.
November 4, 2013 • 21