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When Grupo Cha Cha performs tonight at Ravisloe Country Club, area music lovers will have a chance to see the catalyst that led to the arrival of the True Muse jazz concert series in Homewood. 

It was a case of jazz bringing together a small group of people with vision and prone to taking action. 

It was a case of carpe musica.

And it could lead to bigger things for Homewood, if community leaders have their way. 

Homewood’s musical trustee, 
Anne Colton, on drums, with 
her husband, Bob, on bass, 
performing last year with 
Sideways Panda. Colton was 
instrumental in bringing the 
True Muse jazz concert 
series to Homewood.

In June 2014, Grupo Cha Cha performed at the Open Door Theater in Oak Park as part of True Muse Production’s Women in Jazz series. 

It happened that Homewood videographer and village Trustee Anne Colton had done some video work for the group and went to see them perform. 

Colton is a jazz musician herself, playing saxophone and piano. She and her husband, Bob, coordinate monthly jazz services at Faith Lutheran Church.

“I grew up with jazz,” she said. “Jazz is a core part of my childhood. In high school I was in the jazz quintet while everybody else was in garage bands.”

So after Grupo Cha Cha’s set, she introduced herself to the producer, Linda Solotaire, to offer her compliments on the concert. 

Solotaire had started producing concerts at the theater five years before and was thinking about seeking more venues for the successful series. She mentioned to Colton that she was thinking about hosting concerts in a northern suburb.

“I immediately took off my jazz hat and put on my trustee hat,” Colton said. She suggested Solotaire consider bringing her jazz concerts to Homewood.

“A week later, I was having lunch with her and Mayor (Richard) Hofeld and Allisa Opyd (village events manager),” Solotaire said. “They were saying they want to bring more arts to Homewood.”

Linda Solotaire, jazz singer 
and arts entrepreneuer, 
has produced the True Muse 
concert series at Ravisloe 
since it began in November 
(Provided photo)

After Hofeld heard the concert series  idea, he got on the phone immediately and called Ravisloe owner Claude Gendreau. When Gendreau heard the idea, he quickly agreed to make Ravisloe Country Club available as the venue.

Ravisloe already hosts music events, including a summer concert series sponsored by Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. He saw the jazz series as a way to build on that foundation.
For Colton, the combination — Homewood, jazz, Ravisloe — seemed like a natural fit. 

“Jazz is timeless music and Ravisloe is such a timeless place,” she said. 

And Gendreau, Colton and Hofeld envision the series as a step toward a more ambitious goal — making Homewood a South Suburban art and entertainment destination. 

“The ultimate goal is to have a mini-Ravinia at the country club,” Gendreau said, referring to the famous music venue in Highland Park. “We’re a long way from that.”

But Colton thinks it’s a goal worth pursuing, noting that Homewood shares many characteristics with northern suburbs that have been successful at using the arts as engines of economic development.

“We’re diverse, educated and we have an affinity for cultural events,” Colton said of the community. “And people just don’t know about us.”

The village and the Ravisloe venue were a good fit for Solotaire’s mission, too. The purpose of the True Muse series is to showcase the varied and very talented jazz artists in Chicago, introducing them to new audiences and giving them a setting in which they have the freedom to show what they can do.

“The thing about jazz is it gives artists the most room to explore,” Solotaire said. “If you ask 10 people what is jazz you’ll get 10 different answers — and they’ll all be right.”

She said when she started the series at Open Door Theater, she made the case that to be successful music offerings have to be on the calendar regularly.

“It’s going to be difficult to develop an audience unless you have a regular rhythm,” she said. 

So far, the series has given Homewood-area music lovers a sampling of the diversity and quality of local jazz artists, starting in November with Le Percolateur, a gypsy jazz group, and followed by Robin Watson’s tribute to Billie Holiday, the lively Latin sound of Suenos, the peaceful solo Brazilian guitar work of Paulinho Garcia, two performances of jazz standards by Solotaire and one by Abigail Riccards.

Following Grupo Cha Cha will be two more Women in Jazz concerts — Kimberly Gordon on May 28 and Linda Tate on June 11.

The rhythm is there. Now Solotaire is hoping more and more people will discover what an opportunity the series is. These performers are regulars at Chicago’s jazz clubs. Those of us who have seen some of the concerts so far can attest to the quality of the music and the passion of the performers.

“Once you get home at the end of the day, you don’t want to go schlepping back to the city” for entertainment, Solotaire said. 

Instead, fine jazz is available right in town. 
Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]

Order True Muse concert tickets

Related stories:
Gypsy jazz concert kicks off new music series at Ravisloe (HF Chronicle, Nov. 12, 2014)
True Muse concert Jan. 22 at Ravisloe to feature Latin sounds of Sueños (HF Chronicle, Jan. 13, 2015)
True Muse: From sad to sassy, Robin Watson conjures the soul of Billie Holiday (HF Chronicle, Jan. 22, 2015)
Linda Solotaire Sextet concert to feature the music of Johnny Mercer at Ravisloe (HF Chronicle, April 14, 2015)

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