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Chicago Acid Jazz Collective Liquid Soul Reconnects At Music For Mars

Written by on November 17, 2023

Update Nov. 21, 2023, 11:00 AM: Mars Williams has passed away on Nov. 20, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Williams was 68 years old. Music For Mars on Nov. 25 will still go on in honor of Williams’ life and legacy.

Update Nov. 20, 2023, 1:09 PM: Over the weekend (after publication), the Metro announced the members of Guns N’ Roses and The Psychedelic Furs scheduled to perform will no longer be in attendance. Ticket holders were notified by the venue via email.

On Nov. 25, the Grammy-nominated Chicago acid jazz band Liquid Soul and friends will reconnect with a performance to benefit band leader Mars Williams’ medical fund.

Ahead of the benefit performance, several Liquid Soul members sat down with Vocalo host and founding member Jesse De La Peña.

Looking back on their decades-long careers, Liquid Soul members Brian “MCB” Quarles, Dirty MF, Tommy Klein and Ron Haynes, with fellow former member Jesse De La Peña, can see they’ve traversed genres and eras alongside one another. 

Boasting a 30-year history, the collective was co-founded in 1993 by guitarist Tommy Klein and Jesse De La Peña, and were joined some time later by saxophonist Mars Williams. In the years since, Liquid Soul has had more than two dozen members, helped pioneer the acid jazz movement, performed all over the world and received a Grammy nomination under “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” for their 2000 album Here’s the Deal.

Liquid Soul band members pose at the 20th anniversary at the Double Door in January 2013. Randy Korwin/@rmkphoto

On Nov. 25, several of the many band members throughout its history are coming together for a fundraiser to benefit Mars Williams’ cancer treatment fund. The Music for Mars benefit will bring many of Williams’ friends and collaborators to the stage at the Metro, including Jesse De La Peña; The Joe Marcinek Band; Richard Butler and Zachary Alford of the Psychedelic Furs; and Jeff Coffin of Dave Matthews Band, to name a few. This event is not just about music, but is about supporting a friend.

“Mars has been battling cancer,” Brian “MCB” Quarles shared in a conversation with Jesse De La Peña. “As bandmates and friends, we decided let’s come together and celebrate Mars, and bring some awareness to this battle that he’s going through and try to raise some money, as well.”

Mars Williams playing “An Ayler Xmas” at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music on December 21, 2019. 2019 © Peter Gannushkin

Williams and his beloved saxophone are featured on several popular tracks of the ’80s, including The Waitresses’ tracks “I Know What Boys Like” and “Square Pegs,” and he has been the saxophonist for English rock band The Psychedelic Furs since 1986.

In their early days, Liquid Soul would perform around Chicago at the formerly-existing Culture Club and Elbo Room. As time evolved, the group began to experiment with genres beyond acid jazz and added new members. Dirty MF, a Chicago MC joined the band and helped it touch the city’s hip-hop scene.

“I got an invitation to come to the studio to do [the song] ‘Afro Loop,’” Dirty MF told De La Peña. “I don’t know how I was chosen, but Jesse was like, ‘We want you to come do this song’ and I’m like, ‘Alright.’… I got there and I remember [Jesse] and Mars, you guys were like, ‘Rap about jazz’… and that was it. We cut that song.”

Though Liquid Soul has achieved much success over the past three decades, many of its former and current members attribute their success to Mars Williams. The Nov. 25 show will be all-encompassing, featuring the band’s signature acid jazz sound, as well as notes of funk, rock and hip-hop. For more information and ticket details, visit

Interview and audio production by Jesse De La Peña

Written introduction by Blake Hall and Morgan Ciocca

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