Charlie Coffeen of Sidewalk Chalk gives Dilla’s Donuts the big-band treatment | Gossip Wolf | Chicago Reader

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Charlie Coffeen of Sidewalk Chalk gives Dilla’s Donuts the big-band treatment

Plus: John Walt’s arts mentorship foundation hosts a fund-raising dinner on the anniversary of the rapper’s death, and fashion crew Crystal Gravy throw a runway show at Punk Rock Prom.

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Sidewalk Chalk keyboardist Charlie Coffeen has put together a 15-piece group to play J Dilla’s Donuts top to bottom. - EMMA MEYER
  • Emma Meyer
  • Sidewalk Chalk keyboardist Charlie Coffeen has put together a 15-piece group to play J Dilla’s Donuts top to bottom.

Detroit producer and rapper James Dewitt Yancey—better known as J Dilla—died in 2006 from complications of a rare blood disorder. His stature continues to grow, though, and on Friday, February 9, at Thalia Hall, a 15-piece band led by Sidewalk Chalk keyboardist Charlie Coffeen will re-create Dilla's classic 2006 instrumental album Donuts in its entirety. Some of Coffeen's Sidewalk Chalk bandmates are helping out: trombonist David Ben-Porat wrote the horn parts, and Sam Trump is one of three featured singers. Grammy winner Robert "Sput" Searight, who's worked with Sidewalk Chalk as a producer, plays drums. "Dilla's songs are just as worthy of theoretical analysis as a Mozart sonata," Coffeen says. "An MPC is just as valuable and culturally important as, say, a cello or a French horn."

Rapper, singer, and Pivot Gang cofounder Walter Long Jr., aka John Walt and Dinner With John, was stabbed to death a year ago on February 8. This Thursday, February 8, the Lakeview location of Chicago's Pizza (3114 N. Lincoln) hosts a benefit called Dinner With John to raise money for the John Walt Foundation, which aims to develop creative mentorship programs and provide scholarships annually to five young aspiring artists. Tickets cost $40, which covers dinner, dessert, and two drinks; you can buy them in advance at bit.ly/dinner_john.

Chicago fashion crew Crystal Gravy—designers Sara Fagala, Eliza Epstein, Heather McCall, and Benji Morino—have been making clothes with rock 'n' roll attitude since 2015. Their Etsy shop includes "hot shorts" sewn from metal T-shirts and vegan leather, velvet lace-up bell-bottoms, and head-turning bodysuits—imagine a Frederick's of Hollywood in a Grateful Dead parking lot. On Wednesday, February 14, Crystal Gravy presents a Disco Fantasy runway show at East Room's Punk Rock Prom; also on the bill are the Lizzies, Easy Habits, Stuyedeyed, and Slushy.  v

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