Best place to see jazz in Chicago?
February 28, 2005 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Just where is the best place to see jazz in Chicago? My Australian father-in-law is coming for a visit to the US for the first time and is a huge jazz fan. My husband and I will be taking him to Chicago. I have never been there myself, and am looking for some suggestions.

He's 69, and we're 35, so we need some sort of happy-medium place. Also, suggestions for any other "must see" places while we're there? I've read the AskMe archives of other "what to do in Chicago?" questions, but given our specific demographics, perhaps the suggestions might change.
posted by cyniczny to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (13 answers total)
I forgot to add: we'll be in Chicago May 21-23, if that helps.
posted by cyniczny at 6:59 PM on February 28, 2005

Let CitySearch be thy guide...
posted by onalark at 7:24 PM on February 28, 2005

The Empty Bottle has a jazz series programmed or curated or somehow overseen by Ken Vandermark every Wednesday. It's usually quite cheap--$5 to $10. On Tuesdays they have an improvised music series which is also very good. Tickets usually run about $3. Depending on the night it might be pretty out, though. (Even though I now see you won't be here on a Tuesday or Wednesday I'll leave this part in. There are usually good concerts related to jazz on Thursdays at 3030, too.)

The Jazz Showcase downtown usually has bigger-name acts playing two sets a night on the weekends, at 9 and 11. I've never been there but it looks pretty classy. The Green Mill on the north side and HotHouse in the south loop are also good.

The Velvet Lounge, which I've never been to so I can't really comment on in much detail, is owned by Fred Anderson, a tenor saxophonist and (I gather) something of a legend in Chicago circles, is reputed to be good, too.
posted by kenko at 7:56 PM on February 28, 2005

The Green Mill. There is no other answer. Although I'm a big fan of the series at the Empty Bottle. You could also check out some of the smaller clubs listed here [self link]
posted by corpse at 8:00 PM on February 28, 2005

I second (and/or third) the Green Mill.

Another resource which may help you is Metromix. It is an excellent database of Chicago events, culture, bars, festivals, etc. Dig around in there for reviews and descriptions of any place you might have in mind.

Additionally, here is a brief listing of Jazz clubs and upcoming concerts via the Chicago Reader.
posted by mathis23 at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2005

Green Mill all the way.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:20 PM on February 28, 2005

The Green Mill. Yes, there is no other answer.

However, know that Chicago is more known for the Blues, so there are more options there: Kingston Mines, some place on the South Side that the Rolling Stones always hang out at when they play in Chicago, etc.
posted by scazza at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2005

There is another answer: Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge. Nothing against the Green Mill, of course, but you have the chance to see Fred play if you go to the Velvet, which is not to be missed. The Sunday Jazz Jam is often the best show in town.
posted by goatdog at 8:28 PM on February 28, 2005

House of Blues would seem be the natural choice ... though I've never been, and it may have all the authenticity of a Hard Rock Cafe for all I know.
posted by crunchland at 8:49 PM on February 28, 2005

[I]t may have all the authenticity of a Hard Rock Cafe for all I know.

I've been there once, and yeah, pretty much. It's basically a generic and somewhat overpriced 1500-person rock & roll venue, at least most of the time.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:01 PM on February 28, 2005

I'd definitely avoid the House of Blues - it's a bit plastic and manufactured.

The Green Mill is, as has been noted, probably your best bet. It's been a jazz club and lounge since the 40's (if not longer). It also happens to be next door to the historic Uptown Theater - it's an abandoned hulk now, but there's an ongoing effort to restore the place. Indeed, the whole neighborhood is quite historically significant. It's been eaten away by a Starbucks and a new Borders bookstore, but it's still an interesting place to walk around.

The Hothouse is rather hit-or-miss: make sure you check out what's playing before you go. Otherwise you could walk into a strange avant garde "noise jazz" experiment that you might not enjoy. The Chicago Reader is your friend - definitely pick one up when you get here.

I can't speak to the Velvet Lounge, but I've heard very good things. Given goatdog's recommendation I might try to swing by this Sunday.

And since I feel the need to add something to this thread rather than simply commenting on the comments of others, you might try the Green Dolphin. Generally not my favorite place to go, but depending on what's playing you might find it to your liking.
posted by aladfar at 11:03 PM on February 28, 2005

The Green Mill has been around since the 20s as all of the Al Capone memoribilia found in the joint describes. It was, in fact, a speakeasy. Beautiful place to listen to Jazz and drink. The only problem is that it is out of the way on the far north side. The Empty Bottle wednesday night shows were amazing 7 years ago when I used to live 1 block away from the bar. Next door there was a great listen restaurant called Bite, as well. Is the Bop Shop stil around?
posted by sic at 4:21 AM on March 1, 2005

Make sure you go to the Jazz Record Mart -- it's the best jazz record store I've ever seen.
posted by Vidiot at 9:24 AM on March 3, 2005

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