THE BLUES AIN'T A COLOR Set for Uncommon Ground, 3/20

THE BLUES AIN'T A COLOR Set for Uncommon Ground, 3/20

"The Blues Ain't A Color" is an hour-long collage, sketches of those living the blues in many-colored hues, comprised of original songs and poetry by Denise La Grassa, which chronicles the day-to-day struggles of predominantly African-American characters from yesterday and today, "an entertaining way to learn about the history of the blues and racism" (Chicago Reader). "The Blues Ain't A Color" is set for Chicago's Uncommon Ground on Thursday, March 20, 2014, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $10, 773-465-9801,

WITH: "The Blues Ain't A Color" is evolving and now includes video commentary on current racial issues by Sister Simone Campbell, lobbyist, poet, attorney and member of the Sisters of Social Service. Her 2012 "Nuns on the Bus" tour of nine states opposed the "Ryan Budget," which was approved by the House of Representatives and would decimate programs for people in need. To promote the tour, Campbell appeared on "The Daily Show," "The "Colbert Report" and "Sixty Minutes."

The Jazz-Theater musical features a three-piece ensemble that underscores and punctuates La Grassa's text. Wall-to-wall paintings by Swiss artist Maria Kern ( will be projected behind the performance, and short media inserts by Andrew Stengele will add abstract accents to the piece, including a clip from Oliver Nelson, Jr., son of famous jazz arranger/ composer Oliver Nelson, Sr., one of the first African-American composers for television.

In addition to La Grassa, musicians include composer/guitarist John Kregor, upright bassist Daniel Thatcher and drummer Bob Parlier. The music is by La Grassa, with some songs co-written by Kregor, including Davina's Song, I've Had It with the Blues, Color is the Difference, Spinning Jenny, The Blues Ain't A Color, and Vain Game.

"The Blues Ain't A Color" was staged at the Armory Free Theatre at the University of Illinois under the direction of Associate Theater Professor Lisa Dixon. Dale Calandra directed this new media presentation that features additional music and text. First production preview at

Denise La Grassa has performed her original music and poetry in many of the Windy City's finest jazz haunts for the past 25 years, as well as in New York City, Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. She has also toured with The Second City, won three Emmy Awards for her work as a producer at Chicago's PBS affiliate WTTW, and been nominated for many others there as well as at Urbana's public station WILL. She has recorded three original jazz CD's, including April Dreams, which charted for 13 weeks on the national Roots Music Report jazz chart, peaking at number 5. She's currently a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where she also received a Master of Music degree.

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