For decades now, the city of Chicago has been at the forefront of the American jazz movement. During World War 1, African American musicians traveled north along the Mississippi River as a part of the Great Migration, settling into northern cities such as Chicago. Along with them came the sounds of New Orleans dixieland jazz, eventually morphing into a new sub-genre called "Hot Jazz," which was the popular sound on the Chicago jazz scene throughout the 1920's. Musicians such as King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton & Louis Armstrong helped cement Chicago as a staple in American jazz music. Since the 1920's, the jazz scene here in Chicago has undergone many changes. However, one thing that has remained constant over the past century is that the jazz scene in Chicago has not only stayed around, but is alive and thriving to this day. Here is a list of 6 music venues that are doing their part in keeping Chicago's rich jazz heritage alive and well.
1. Norman's Bistro
Located on 43rd street in the Kenwood neighborhood, Norman's Bistro is known for its brazilian and creole dishes, relaxed atmosphere, and excellent wine selection. However, they are also known for their sunday night jazz jam sessions. The jam session at Norman's is a very intense environment for musicians, and you will find that some of the top musicians in the city show up to play here. If you're looking for fine dining in a laid back environment along with some jaw dropping musicianship for your viewing pleasure, this may be the spot for you!
Norman's Bistro, 1001 E 43rd Street., (773) 966-5821
2. Winter's Jazz Club
Opening in November of 2016, this jazz club is by far the newest venue on the list. However, after only being open for 2 years, they are already attracting a lot of the biggest names on the local scene. This club provides seating for 125 people, and with its no talking rule during sets, it really provides an intimate listening experience for any jazz fan. They state on their website that they aim towards bringing the older, more traditional sounds of jazz back, aiming for the sounds of swing, big band and straight ahead jazz. They hire a lot of vocalists as well. Winter's serves as a wonderful example that jazz music is still in high demand in this city!
Winter's Jazz Club, 465 McClurg Court., (312) 344-1270
3. Andy's Jazz Club
Andy's Jazz Club is one of the premier jazz clubs in all of Chicago. Anybody who knows anything about Chicago jazz will know about Andy's. Doubling as a bar and restaurant, it has a full food and drink menu. Seating might be hard to come by as this place is frequently filled. Andy's has more of a restaurant atmosphere, and is more laid back than some of the other venues on this list. Patrons do talk during sets. The day-time/dinner shows are for people of all ages, while the late night shows are strictly 21+. For the up-and-comers, Andy's also hosts jam sessions every Sunday night which is one of the most popular jazz jams in the city, especially for younger players. Much like the other clubs on this list, Andy's is frequented by some of the finest jazz musicians in the city. Some musicians even have residencies there. Chicago Saxophonist Mike Smith, for example, has a weekly residency at Andy's and has been performing there for over 30 years!
Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St., (312)-642-6805
4. Chicago Jazz Showcase
Around since 1947, this South Loop club is one of the most iconic music venues in all of Chicago. With the walls plastered with pictures of jazz legends, you really feel like you are transporting back in time when you walk inside the Jazz Showcase. This club hosts the top jazz acts in the city, along with touring artists who are internationally recognized. The list of legends who have performed here is seemingly endless. Robert Glasper, Sonny Stitt, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon and many more have all graced this stage. This club might provide the most intimate listening experience of all of the venues on this list. At night, the club is dimly lit with the exception of the stage, and it really puts the spotlight on the performer. The Jazz Showcase offers student discounts for all shows that are Monday-Wednesday, and they also offer Sunday matinees which are meant for families. At these matinee shows, kids who are 12 and younger can get in for free. If you like a classier venue with an intimate listening experience, this is definitely the place for you!
Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court., 312-360-0234
5. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
Another well known venue is the Green Mill Cocktail lounge located in the Uptown neighborhood. Once the popular hangout of mobsters such as Al Capone, the Green Mill still prides itself on keeping its 1930's-40's theme to this day. This north side club is the quintessential after hours jazz club, with sets often going until 1 AM. They do have a strict 21+ policy when it comes to their shows, however. Much like the Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill has attracted jazz musicians from all over the country as well as the world. However, the Green Mill is known for more than just jazz. It is also home to the longest running weekly poetry slam in the country, dating back to 1986. This slam happens every Sunday night, and almost always brings a full house.
Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, 4802 N Broadway Ave., 773-878-5552
Another north side music club, Constellation is located in the Roscoe Village neighborhood. This club is a lot more progressive than the other clubs on this list. Constellation is known for having a lot more experimental acts. Anything from fusion bands influenced by middle eastern music to zen-funk bands can appear on their calendar, as they truly are looking for cutting edge performers. However, they do have straight ahead jazz acts as well. Constellation has a full bar, and also have have weekly drink specials. Constellation is its own kind of music venue, and every music fan should stop on in at least once.
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