In Logan Square, a new mural plus outdoor music at Logan Square Studio -

Neil Tesser - Jazz Examiner - Sept. 4, 2013



Lanny Grilly doesn’t do things halfway. He also doesn’t do much in the usual way – as Wednesday night’s gala unveiling of an outdoor, building-sized mural, overlooking a new outdoor performance space in Logan Square, should indicate.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. And pay attention: there might be a quiz.

Grilly is a 60-something, motorbike-riding drummer, bandleader, carpenter, studio builder and engineer, and now performance-space entrepreneur. (His previous lives included a stint as a point-of-purchase display sales exec and, thirty years back, as proprietor of a long-gone restaurant-nightclub called Benchley’s on Broadway, in the Edgewater neighborhood.)

A few years ago Grilly moved into a Milwaukee Avenue workspace which contained a small but successful hand-cream manufacturing company owned by the family of Jeff Kier, a pianist-composer (and regular musical collaborator of Grilly's). The company still operates out of the building, but Grilly and Kier have turned the rest of the space into a recording studio.

The recording studio has attracted classical, jazz, and acoustic musicians because of the unique acoustics created by the 100+ year old plaster walls and ceiling, which are covered by the original tin

plating, and it's suspended wood floor.


And over the last year or so, Grilly has been using the small studio space to present music – mainly offshoots of his own Grilly Brothers band, which reunited in 2009 after a three-decade hiatus – and other performances, including this bizarre puppet theater troupe (Roughhouse), earlier this year.

In the course of loading equipment in and out of the building’s rear entrance, Grilly came up with an idea that’s typically (and in this case literally) outside the box: Why not use the large concrete parking lot behind the building – an area that measures about 45 x 60 feet – as an outdoor space for music and theater? And why not grace the entire enterprise with a humongous, epic mural depicting “the emergence of the modern jazz masters”?

Why not, indeed?

Grilly engaged a young muralist and printmaker named Stefan Johanson to create the work on the wall of the building that borders the property on the south; currently under wraps, the painting will be unveiled by the artist during the official inauguration of the new performance space.

Normally, something like this would cost nothing to those attending; most of the Logan Square Studio's shows, which normally occur on Wednesdays and weekends, are in fact free. This one carries a suggested donation of $12, but not for commercial purposes. Grilly has purposed the event to raise funds and awareness of Huntington’s Disease (sometimes known as Woody Guthrie’s Disease), in conjunction with this weekend’s half-marathon raising money for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

The event takes place Wednesday from 7 till 10 at Logan Square Studio, 2341 N. Milwaukee Avenue, and will feature music by Jeff Kier and the Grilly Brothers band, plus the Logan Square New Music Ensemble, a large-ish classical chamber group performing original compositions.

(note: the above article has been revised to reflect the name change of the studio from "Orchestra Hall Studio" to "Logan Square Studio")