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Salt Shed Opening Kept Folks Shaking In The Sunshine

Written by on August 3, 2022

Makaya McCraven, courtesy of the artist.

Tuesday’s opening of the Salt Shed, located at the former site of Morton Salt Complex along the Chicago River, was an archetypally #SummertimeChi happening. Because the indoor venue is not yet complete, their slate of summer performances (including an appearance from Jorja Smith) will occur via a well-appointed outdoor setup, featuring food trucks and an arcade of indoor vendors including Tiny Opal Vintage and Black women-owned Semicolon Books. Last night’s set absolutely shimmered, supported by a triple bill that showcased the exciting connectivity between Chicago and London’s young jazz scenes.

Black British saxophonist/composer Nubya Garcia opened the evening with a roots reggae flecked set that broke open when she launched into “The Message Continues” from her 2020 album The Source. Her saxophone, piped through a voice box, elicited an audible gasp from the crowd. Chicago’s own Akenya sat in, wowing audiences with her stratospheric vocal range. The set closed out with a stirring version of “Pace”, which was the perfect showcase for the band, which included Greg Spero on fender rhodes, Sam Jones on drums and Daniel Casimir on upright bass. I wrote about “The Pace” for Vocalo in 2020.

Fellow Black Brits Sons of Kemet were next on the bill, who recently made waves with the announcement that they will be breaking up. Their epic saxophone and tuba-led, spirit-fueled dance music set (that deftly weaves a sonic tapestry with multiple Black Diasporal threads including reggae, highlife and New Orleans Second Line music) delighted house heads, Rastafari, general attendees and the tie dye-clad Dead Head in standing in front of me alike.

Shabaka Hutchings (sax and flute) and Theon Cross (tuba) supplied intricate interplay and sheer ingenuity that will be missed in a live setting.

The evening was topped off by Chicago’s own Makaya McCraven, after returning triumphiant from a performance at Newport Jazz over the weekend. As always, McCraven and bassist Junius Paul locked into a tight rhythm unit that revealed their close relationship, built over many years together. McCraven’s glittering set featured somewhat stripped down material from his soon-to-be released album, In These Times.

Construction of The Salt Shed is slated to be complete in 2023, and outdoor interim performances are scheduled until September 24. More information is available on the Salt Shed’s website.


Written by Ayana Contreras

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