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Karen Mason returns to Chicago for a nostalgic musical journey

Even when one talks to singer Karen Mason on the phone, as I did recently to chat about her upcoming show at Davenport’s in Wicker Park, there is a musical lilt to the veteran cabaret star’s voice. That’s especially true whenever Mason laughs or chuckles — something she does quite a bit.

It is very clear Mason is very happy to be returning to the Chicago area for four shows at Davenport’s beginning Tuesday, in a town where the musician launched her career, not long after her growing-up years in Arlington Heights. Mason was delightfully nostalgic as she talked about the show she and a longtime friend and collaborator, songwriter Louis Rosen, have created: “Mason & Rosen, Two Friends: Love of Song.”



When: 8 p.m. Oct. 20 and 22-24

Where: Davenport’s Piano Bar, 1383 N. Milwaukee

Tickets: $28 plus two drink minimum

Info: (773) 278-1830;



Describing 2015 as one of the most “creatively satisfying years” she’s experienced in a long time, Mason explained that the Davenport’s show idea was born out of a program she and Mason staged at New York’s famous 92nd Street Y earlier this year.

“Louis and I have known each other since 1976,” said Mason, mentioning that her former musical partner, Brian Lasser (who died in 1992), and Rosen were fellow alumni of Bowen High School on the South Side.

Mason and Lasser were long mainstays at the former Lawrence of Oregano on Diversey, where, as Mason put it, she and Lasser first met and clicked and where “you got pasta salad and a few tunes!”

When Rosen asked Mason to be in the 92nd Street Y show, he sent her a few demo CDs of songs he’d written, leading the singer to call him back and ask, “Louis, the voice on the demo sounds familiar, but I can’t put my finger on who it is.”

Rosen was obviously very amused, as he told her, “Karen, that’s you — from 1976!” Mason was astonished, joking, “I couldn’t imagine it was me. I thought the person singing sounded SO affected!”

Once Mason and Rosen reunited on that musical program, she said, “it really rekindled our old friendship. We had so much fun rehearsing. It reignited our lovely, combined sensibility of our Chicago roots. We have so much shared history, and that gave us the idea: ‘Let’s go back to Chicago and do some of this.’ ”

Hence this show at Davenport’s.

Mason explained the program she and Rosen have planned will include an homage to Lasser, “as we will be including a number of his songs, though it will mostly be Louis’ songs.”

Asked about the mix of the musical offerings, Mason quipped, “Well, you know songwriters. They like to write the ballads, but Louis also frequently writes with a funny sense of humor, so not all of the music will be quite so down.

“Plus with Brian’s music in there, we’ll have plenty of uptempos in the show. I think it is a very nice mix of music.”