Jeff Pinzino has been around music his entire life.
The Beverly resident’s mother ran a music school when he was growing up in suburban Homewood, and he started playing the harmonica when he was 11, later starting a blues band in college.
Pinzino plays a variety of instruments and different types of music, but his love of the blues inspired him to start a non-profit organization that he hopes brings that style of music into more neighborhoods and introduces it to young people.
Chicago Blues Revival was founded last November, and this summer, Pinzino launched a series of blues concerts that will play at local block parties.
The first concert was held at the block party near Pinzino’s home on the 10500 block of South Oakley Avenue on July 28. He hopes to continue the series well into the fall.
“Music has just always been a big part of my life,” Pinzino said. “It’s brought me joy in so many different ways—and all different styles of music. But, as a harmonica player, blues is the soul of that instrument. Blues has sustained me as a musician for years and years—and as a listener and a fan. We live in the blues capital of the world, and my sense is we should take advantage of Chicago’s homegrown music.”
The Smiley Tillmon Band, a Chicago-based group that plays around the country, performed at the opening show, with neighbors bringing chairs and food out to the street to take in a pleasant evening of music.
Pinzino has another concert booked, and he hopes to host five total through August, September and October. He said the concerts are part of a “Fair Trade Music” initiative.
The Chicago Federation of Musicians set standards of pay and fair treatment for musicians, and concert organizers who meet those standards receive a Fair Trade Music logo to promote the shows.
For the block parties, Chicago Blues Revival covers two-thirds of the cost of the band’s performance while handling contracting, set-up, the sound system and payment for one hour of music. Block-party organizers pay for the other third, which can range from $150 to $300.
Pinzino has lived in Beverly for 13 years, and he often plays with his band, The New Deal, at fundraisers and the 95th Street Farmers Market. He believes this community is the ideal spot for blues concerts—and if all goes well this year, he wants to expand the series to other neighborhoods next year.
“We love the neighborhood,” Pinzino said. “Part of the reason that we wanted to pilot the block parties here is because Beverly is such a community-friendly neighborhood. It’s got a culture of block parties. Because Beverly has a reputation for being an integrated neighborhood, we think that the blues finds a natural home in this community, as well as many others in Chicago.”
Pinzino connected with the Smiley Tillmon Band through bass player Tom Rezetko, who lives in Beverly.
Rezetko joins Smiley Tillmon (guitar/vocals), Kate Moss (guitar) and George Baumann (drums) in the band, which formed in 2007.
Tillmon, a Jefferson County, Ga., native, has performed the blues for over five decades.
Rezetko enjoys playing with him and was happy to launch Pinzino’s concert series.
“I think it makes the party certainly a little bit better if you can get some live music,” Rezetko said. “You bring in a guy like Smiley, who’s played professionally for 60 years, and it’s outside, too; it’s just kind of nice.”
He hopes Pinzino’s project finds a niche.
“It certainly does have a lot of potential,” Rezetko said. “I think it really does pick up the block party.”
Pinzino said that other types of music, including jazz and classical music, have organizations in the city that support them.
He believes the blues deserves the same.
“This is Chicago’s music,” Pinzino said. “We want to find ways for people in neighborhoods to support it and enjoy it.”
For more information, contact Pinzino at firstname.lastname@example.org.