A slightly more palatable Pier

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I’ve had to visit Navy Pier twice since December and, boy, it’s every bit as annoying and claustrophobic as I remember. It was particularly bad right before Christmas, with holiday tourists sucking up the food court treats and basking in the Winter Wonderland vibe. Yes, there’s no good reason to go there, and I won’t even pretend that a new series of lunchtime concerts on Thursdays will offset the tastelessness. But if you have biz on the Pier, you might be able to hear something that will calm your almost certainly frazzled nerves.     

Starting this Thursday, January 18, through March 22, the Crystal Gardens play host to a series of free concerts (PDF) from some of the city’s better international artists. The Django Reinhardt-styled Gypsy jazz of Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan kicks things off this week, and among the upcoming highlights are sets by the great Senegalese kora player Morikeba Kouyate (February 1) and Mosaic Trio, one of several groups led by the Moroccan qanun player Hicham Chami (March 8). For more info you can call 312-595-PIER.

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