As if I needed another reason to crush on Robert Downey Jr., turns out he has a killer singing voice too?

Back in October of 2011 Sting celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. He was joined on his favorite tunes by fellow superstars Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen… and Robert Downey Jr.

Turns out Sting and RDJ have been pals for awhile now. Back in 2006, both appeared on Ellen to promote the film “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints,” with Sting as executive producer, and starring RDJ. It was there that RDJ expressed his thanks to Sting for helping through his experience in prison. RDJ said, “Your album, Brand New Day, came out and it was just so strange because it was never really a brand new day (for me); it was the same day all over again. But that helped me so much because it was such a beautiful and hopeful album.”

RDJ joined Sting and his band at his birthday concert on a killer cover of The Police song “Driven To Tears.” Footage of this performance was recently discovered and has gone viral. It’s hot. Check out the vid below, then go listen to Robert Downey Jr’s 2004 album “The Futurist.”

This week’s Music Monday shall be known as “Tunes Tuesday.” Because it’s Tuesday. Sometimes you gotta shake things up a bit, keep ‘em guessing. Yeah, that’s why it’s a day late… on purpose.

This week’s pick comes to us courtesy of Jeff Stitely himself: it’s the jazz trio The Bad Plus.

He saw them in Chicago at the Jazz Showcase 3-4 weeks ago, after his interest was piqued through his 11 year old daughter. Jeff’s daughter is in a billion dance classes, and is currently doing a modern dance choreographed to the CD version of the song “Flim.”

The Bad Plus consists of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King. Their music combines elements of modern avant-garde jazz with rock and pop influences. They have recorded killer versions of songs by Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Rush, Neil Young, David Bowie, Queen, Radiohead, and Tears For Fears.

Check out their version of “Everybody Wants To Rule the World.” This was recorded live at The Basement Night Club in Sydney, Australia.

And here is the song that started it all: “Flim.”

If you feel like road-tripping, the trio will be back in Illinois in March at The University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, in  Champaign-Urbana, IL. Watch them combine forces with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

 

It was my turn to pick the song for Music Monday this week. Hurray! (This is Sarah, by the way. Nice to meet you.)

Since it’s always hard to choose just one song, I picked something that covers the bases. This is “Evolution of Music” by the insanely talented a cappella group Pentatonix:

A Cappella is defined as “without musical instrument,” and while accurate, that definition barely does it justice. A Cappella has become more mainstream in the past few years, with hit shows like The Sing Off  and Glee, and the the movie Pitch Perfect. Ben Folds, one of the judges on The Sing Off, recently wrote a blog post that can explain this phenomenon way better than I can. Check it out here.

Pentatonix is made up of five vocalists, Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola.  The group is named after the pentatonic scale, a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave, a concept the group believed matched their membership. They replaced the “c” on the end of the word with an “x” to make it more appealing.

The group gained real notoriety when they won the third season of The Sing Off. They also have a pretty significant online presence on YouTube; check out the rest of their videos here. If you want to see them live, they are kicking off a worldwide tour in 2014.

In homage to the holiday season, here is Pentatonix’s version of “Carol of the Bells.”

 

 

Our very own Mike Arnopol, bassist for Stitely Orchestra, turned us on to this amazing funk and R&B musician, Jon Cleary.

Cleary is an accomplished pianist, vocalist, and song-writer, and is currently playing with The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. He was born in England and bred in New Orleans, where he spends most of his time performing, save for the occasional tour of Australia or gig in Paris, France.

We at Stitely aren’t the only ones who think he’s amazing. His performing and recording credits also include work with B.B. King, Keb Mo, India Arie, Ryan Adams, and Bonnie Raitt. Cleary was a touring member of  Raitt’s band since 1999 and appeared on the albums Silver Lining and Souls Alike on which Raitt covered several of Cleary originals.

Even Rolling Stone Magazine think he’s the jam, saying “Cleary can be an absolute monster on his own, but Cleary’s full combo R&B is as broad, deep and roiling as the Mississippi river, the combined swinging product of local keyboard tradition, Cleary’s vocal-songwriting flair for moody Seventies soul and the spunky-Meters roll of his Gentlemen.”

Check out this clip below of Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen live, recorded at The Basement Night Club in Sydney Australia. It’s funkalicious!!

Jason Derulo has given the world its next top wedding song: “Marry Me.” Not to be confused with Train’s “Marry Me,” or Bruno Mars’s “Marry You,” or Paula Abdul’s “Will You Marry Me Boy” (OK, you probably weren’t thinking about the last one), it is the second single released from his third studio album Tattoos (2013).

jason derulo

Jason wrote the song for longtime girlfriend Jordin Sparks about his intention to marry her… so that should tide her over for now, right?

I first heard this song on satellite radio while cruising down the highway. It didn’t strike me as anything special musically, but when I saw the title “Marry Me,” I stayed tuned in. Being in this industry, it seems like a no-brainer that this song will be requested. After listening to the lyrics, it doesn’t really seem that ideal for a wedding, in my humble opinion. I mean, he hasn’t actually asked if she’ll marry him yet, he’s talking about doing it in the future when he’s set financially, so there’s no need to rush (as if Jason Derulo doesn’t have enough money). Romantic? Meh.

Sometimes we get requests for songs, where the chorus or most high-profile part of the song seems romantic or appropriate when it’s really not. We always encourage people to put a lot of thought into their song choices, to listen to all of the lyrics, especially during a special dance when their guests are paying close attention.

This is just food for thought. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately about what makes the bride and groom happy. It’s their day after all.

Check out the song below:

Today Jeff shared with us one of his favorite albums: Timeless by John Abercrombie. Recorded in June of 1974 with John on guitar, Jan Hammer on piano and organ, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, it was a lovely, peaceful soundtrack to the snow falling outside our office window.

When naming the album “Timeless” Mr. Abercrombie really hit the nail on the head; nearly 40 years later it more than holds up. We particularly enjoyed “Love Song, a beautiful and soulful, improvised tune. Check it out below.

Formed in 2002 by singer Grace Potter, drummer Matt Burr and guitarist Scott Tournet, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals began their career as an indie band. They got their start in Vermont, self-producing their own albums and playing as many as 200 gigs a year in the jam bands and music festivals circuits. They started gaining traction, and in 2005 they signed with Hollywood Records.

They started gaining commercial success, especially in 2007 with the release of their album, “This Is Somewhere.” That year, the band appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Furthering the truth that you’re nobody ’til you’re on TV, GP&TN continued to rise when their songs were featured on All My Children, Kyle XY, One Tree Hill, Brothers & Sisters, ER, and Grey’s Anatomy.

In 2010, Grace re-wrote some of the lyrics to the song “Something That I Want,” and Disney chose it to be featured during the closing credits of their animated feature Tangled,” which Potter sang by herself. Potter has kind of a Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt thing going on, and it’s definitely working for her and the band.

Check out their single Low Road, the clip our lovely Peggy introduced us to.

In the spirit of continuing to be inspired by re-imaginings of popular songs, I give you the group Lake Street Dive. Jeff introduced us to their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back” this morning, and we were tickled pink.

Lake Street Dive first got together when they were students at Boston’s New England Conservatory. The group is made up of drummer Mike Calabrese, bassist Bridget Kearney, vocalist Rachael Price, and trumpet-guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson.

They are currently on tour in the US – though not in Chicago anytime soon, unfortunately. If you happen to be overseas starting November 22nd, maybe you can catch them in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Amsterdam, Paris Dublin, or the U.K. A bunch of jet-setters they are. They’re on their way to stardom; Katie Couric recently tweeted about them, so you know, it’s just a matter of time before they’re superstars. It would be well-deserved.

 

Check out their gorgeous take on “I Want You Back” right here:

Over the years, Sweden has given the world some killer bands – all to varying degrees depending on your taste in music – Roxette, Ace Of Base, Europe, The Cardigans, and of course, ABBA.

This most recent Swedish group takes the Princess Cake. Ladies and Gentlemen… Dirty Loops.

This trio of young, fantastic musicians is causing a stir all over the world. Millions of fans have discovered them online through their videos and recordings. See, they take songs by well-known artists like Adele and Lady Gaga, twist them, turn them, and make them their own.

I, like most people, first saw these guys on YouTube tearing up a version of Britney Spears’ Circus. Not sure how you feel about the Britney Spears version, but I always thought it was, like most of her music, FINE. I think she peaked in 1999, but I digress. These guys made me love that song. It’s the jam. It’s here.

I titled this post “Cleans Up” because they are finally getting the recognition they deserve – Music mogul David Foster signed them to his Verve Music Group, and last year they embarked on Asia Tour 2012 alongside Chaka Khan and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. With David Foster on your side, the sky’s the limit.

They are currently working on their debut release. It was slated to be released “early 2013.” It’s September. Why do you make me wait, guys? Sigh.

I hope this is inspiring to all you artists out there, vying to become internet sensations and parlay that into legit success. It happens. Not always for the good – isn’t that how Justin Bieber was found? – but this time, the internet got it right.

Here’s another example of musical genius at work:

Our lovely event booking manager, Carly, is spending her last week with us mulling over her most important final decision: her Music Monday pick. It was worth all those sleepless nights, Carly.

This week’s featured artist is indie alternative singer/songwriter Basia Bulat. This multi-talented lady not only sings, she plays the guitar, piano, ukelele, autoharp, hammered dulcimer and charango. Follow the links under those instrument names if you’re like me and had never heard of them before now.

A musician since the age of three, Basia counts her influences as Motown, Stax, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, and her very own piano teacher Mom.

Hailing from Ontario, Bulat has toured across Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Australia. This fall she’ll be promoting the October 1 release of her new album Tall Tall Shadow. Listen to the title track here and pre-order the album here.

If you’re interested in seeing this 29-year old siren local and live in Chicago, head over to Schubas on November 7.

In the meantime, check out her beautiful song “Heart of My Own,” from her album titled the same name, released in 2010.