Horns and drums are back at Chicago jazz clubs
Loop North News


(Above) Dana Hall’s Black Fire performs at Andy’s Jazz Club in River North on October 1, 2013. Photo by P.J. Mixer. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

Jazz holds a special place in Chicago hearts. For many, jazz and Chicago are synonymous.

13-Jun-21 – Since March 2020, many jazz clubs and other entertainment venues in Chicago have been dark due to COVID-19. But now with vaccines, low case numbers, and Chicago reopening, horns and drums are again being heard.

Jazz clubs pivoted to deal with changing regulations and have worked to keep their patrons, musicians, and staff safe from the coronavirus. Winter’s Jazz Club in Streeterville requires proof of vaccination from patrons before they enter. Andy’s Jazz Club in River North requires reservations and charges a four percent cleaning and sanitation surcharge.

Starting in the late 1910s, jazz musicians flocked to Chicago to play at clubs and other establishments around the city.

“People say that New Orleans was the birthplace [of jazz]. It was raised, however, in Chicago,” said Andy Schumm, musician and band leader of Chicago Cellar Boys.

Chicago Cellar Boys

(Left) Chicago Cellar Boys. From left in photo: Paul Asaro, Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, John Otto, and John Donatowicz. Photo obtained from Chicago Cellar Boys.

Many of the greatest musicians of the Jazz Era came to Chicago. King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band played from 1917 to 1922 and included jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.

“Chicago was an everything hub, as the national center of rail travel. Tourists flocked here, and as the second-biggest city in the country, it also had the second-biggest potential audience for any art form, including jazz,” explained Bill Savage, Professor of Instruction at Northwestern University and a Chicago historian.

But jazz was very much an underground music in the 1920s, Savage noted, when jazz musicians were finding their scenes in New York.

“Because any place serving alcohol was breaking the law, all sorts of other taboos were also flouted, including sexual mores and racial mixing,” said Savage (right). “Most jazz musicians were still African Americans, though whites were flocking to the music as well, and jazz was the house music of any big speakeasy. ‘Black and Tan’ clubs catered to mixed-race audiences.”

Bill Savage

In the 1920s, no respectable music school would have taught jazz, according to Savage. “Now you can get a degree in it at Northwestern. The underground music of American cities is now rap and hip-hop. Jazz is old and white and respectable. As is always the case with aesthetic/cultural revolutions, the avant garde becomes the old guard.”

Photo obtained from Dr. Neal Samors

As the decades passed, jazz became more mainstream, aided in part by government programs to export jazz around the world. Jazz clubs found their way to downtown Chicago. Londonhouse (left), now a hotel in the Loop, was home to a jazz club from 1946 to 1975.

But jazz clubs still abound throughout the city – including Winter’s, which opened four years ago, and Andy’s. And after a year of staying at home, people may feel more inclined to go out to their local jazz club and support local talent.

Schumm and Chicago Cellar Boys will be playing at Winter’s on July 7 at 7:30 p.m.

By Elisa Shoenberger | Loop North News | bowlerhatfox@gmail.com


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