If you're looking for a Chicago analog to Okayplayer-- the
loose-knit, Philadelphia-based musical community centered on the Roots
but also embracing Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and many others --
the nine-piece band Vertikal is a strong contender. Founded by local
guitarist Anthony Allamandola and featuring a DJ, a three-piece horn
section and two diverse front people with the sultry-voiced Stacy Rene
and the spoken-word artist Ben Butta Jones.
Dedicated to bridging the gap between hip-hop and jazz but also
incorporating elements of funk, neo-soul, Latin, rock and blues, the
mixed-gender, multi-ethnic band nonetheless churns out some surprisingly
seamless and very accomplished grooves on tracks such as "Ready or Not"
and "Time Chasin'," currently streaming from its Web site, www.my
space.com/VERTIKALCHICAGO, and definitely in need of wider release.