27

Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part I: New Orleans and Chicago

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
The Jazz Showcase claims to be the oldest jazz club in Chicago despite opening decades after the Green Mill. Owned and managed by NEA Jazz Master Joe Segal, it has long been the venue for new talent as well as top names in jazz. Roy Hargrove, Chris Potter, James Carter, McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Randy Weston, Bill Evans, Sun Ra, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Sonny Stitt, Joe Lovano, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and Ahmad Jamal constitute just a fraction of the well-known performers at the Jazz Showcase.

The HotHouse was a multi-purpose club on Balbo Avenue. With an immense main room and dance floor, the club hosted Roscoe Mitchell, Gil Scott-Heron, Henry Threadgill, Susie Ibarra, Dewey Redman and many others before losing its space in 2007. Since that time, HotHouse has continued to host events from remote locations but only a small percentage are jazz-specific.

Fred Anderson and the Velvet Lounge

I met the legendary free jazz/avant-garde saxophonist Fred Anderson on one of my visits to his Velvet Lounge on the Southside of Chicago. Anderson regularly made a point of greeting guests at his unassuming club on East Cermack, where the walls featured multiple portraits of Charlie Parker -Anderson's inspiration. The Louisiana native was self-taught on the saxophone and developed into an influential artist in the 1960s Chicago scene. Anderson was a founder and working member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). He established his career recording on two Joseph Jarman albums on the Delmark label: Song For (1967) and As If It Were the Seasons (1968). In the early 1970s Anderson formed his namesake sextet, a group that included trombonist George Lewis and drummer Hamid Drake. His first release as a leader was Another Place (Moers, 1978) and he went on to record twenty-five albums before his death in 2010.

Anderson made a conscious decision to stay close to his family and support them with a regular income, so in 1983, he purchased the Velvet Lounge. What made the club unique was its unabashed commitment to providing a Chicago venue dedicated to free jazz, the avant-garde and experimental music. Anderson himself performed frequently at the lounge and recorded three live albums on site. A fourth release A Night at the Velvet Lounge: Made in Chicago 2007 (Estrada Poznańska, 2009), was actually recorded in Poznań, Poland, at the second "Made in Chicago Festival."

Anderson mentored a number of younger musicians who have since become notable artists. Using the lounge as a platform, he had featured Drake, Harrison Bankhead, David Boykin, Nicole Mitchell, George Lewis, and Greg Ward among many others. Following Anderson's passing, the club was sold to new owners, who—while keeping the Velvet Lounge name—immediately discontinued jazz performances.

Andy's Jazz Club

Originally a saloon that catered to Chicago's booming newspaper publishing population, Andy's opened in 1951 north of the Loop. Entrepreneur Andy Rizzuto sold the property to an investment group in 1975 along with the rights to the name. The new owners introduced an extensive program of live jazz performances, and with the arrival of jazz promoters Penny Tyler and John Defauw in 1977, a three-times-daily schedule of "Jazz at Noon," "Jazz at Five" and "Jazz at Nine" was established. With its convenient location and a late afternoon show for commuters, Andy's became a Chicago institution.

The striking visual, upon entering Andy's, is its vast size. With rich wood, classic club lighting and exceptional acoustics, it is an ideal setting for the local talent that takes the stage seven days a week. Performers are most often local Chicago talent but top names such as Larry Coryell and Von Freeman have also played Andy's. On a night in September, 2014, I attended a show by trumpeter Marquis Hill, a winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition who has gone on to record five albums as a leader. Relatively unknown at that time, Hill's development is emblematic of the opportunity for exposure that Andy's Jazz Club provides to young Chicago musicians.

Associated Recordings

Riverboat Jazz (Cool Note, 2008)

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part I: New Orleans and Chicago Under the Radar Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part I:...
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 29, 2017
Read Flame Keepers: National Jazz Museum in Harlem Under the Radar Flame Keepers: National Jazz Museum in Harlem
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 28, 2017
Read The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 2 Under the Radar The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 2
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 5, 2017
Read The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 1 Under the Radar The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 1
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 20, 2017
Read Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2 Under the Radar Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Dai Liang, aka A Bu: Beijing Prodigy" Under the Radar Dai Liang, aka A Bu: Beijing Prodigy
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2" Under the Radar Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 2" Under the Radar The Politics of Dancing: Jazz and Protest, Part 2
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 5, 2017
Read "Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part I: New Orleans and Chicago" Under the Radar Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part I:...
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Flame Keepers: National Jazz Museum in Harlem" Under the Radar Flame Keepers: National Jazz Museum in Harlem
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 28, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.