A jazzy night in Chicago
Spent one night in the famous club Chicago Jazz Showcase and get some feeling of jazz. Dig into the history of jazz and understand its evolution. Pay attention to jazz in Chicago nowadays and in the future.
Intro: Spent one night in the famous club Chicago Jazz Showcase and get some feeling of jazz.
Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2022. I’m your host, Yuxiang Pei, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Physical Sciences Department. Today we will be exploring the topic of a jazzy night in Chicago.
I had always thought jazz an amazing form of music where each instrument plays its role, and they combine together in a syncopated manner to create the characteristic swing and complex chords. This kind of combination allows for enough tempo changes and rich emotion to be incorporated into music, which makes me think jazz the most flexible and self-expressing music form. Tonight, I will head for Jazz Showcase, a famous and active jazz club in Chicago loop, which takes only 20 min from school by bus.
Now I went down the south Plymouth Street and I could see the classical sign of club with the contour of a saxophonist and a trumpeter. The event begins at 8:30, still half an hour from start but there are already some people waiting inside and chatting with each other. Most of them whites, some of them seem to be frequent costumers. There are bunches of round tables with flaming candle protected with glass, which will dance together with the jazz rhythm. A large wooden stage at the very front decorated in blue and purple lights holding an old piano, a large cello and a shiny set of jazz drums, waiting for the players to come. A poster featuring Charlie Parker the yardbird stays at the center of stage cz we know that August is the month of Charlie Parker.
The show tonight is called Peter Saxe Trio, and Peter is a famous and devoted jazz pianist who interprets jazz classics with audience for over three decades. George Fludas is in charge of the drums and Larry Kohut takes care of the bass. As the trio went on, I easily got excited with the beat of “old folks” or lost myself in the soft rhythm of “my foolish heart”.
The slogan of Jazz Showcase goes as “Where Jazz lives in Chicago”, which could be seen inside the club, and this gives us a lot of hints and questions. Does it mean that jazz already become dim in other places? Does it mean that Jazz once lived somewhere else or jazz persistently live there? Will Jazz be living here in the future?…
To understand the evolution, we first got to know how jazz come into been in Chicago. According to the article A Brief History Of Jazz In Chicago, start from the beginning of 20th century, people were drawn to Chicago for its wealthy manufacturing, railroad and industries, known as the Great Migration. The African American population nearly doubled in the Windy City and brought with them their jazz and blues. As is said in Peter Gerler’s article, When Jazz Moved to Chicago, The World War I and the Chicago Defender let thousands of black immigrants see a chance to get out from under the white man’s boot and find a better life, with steady, decently paying jobs. And The South Side began booming with new music and dance venues; it offered black folk a chance for release and to live in community among themselves.
Now that we know why the African American community and their culture began to prosper in Chicago. However, what is the internal link between the migration, and jazz the music form? How did musicians play a role during the migration? In any case, according to the article When Jazz Moved to Chicago, half a century after Emancipation, black folks wanted position. They may even have begun to reject some music form which recalled them of the old times, the plantation. They wanted to join a new century and enjoy a new sense of freedom. And as Gary Krist has described in his famous book Empire of Sin, “Jazz was, in a very real sense, an expression of defiance, a projection of black male power that rebelled against the increasing efforts to marginalize and suppress the race.” … And no wonder Chicago the metropolitan was the right place for people to get a feeling of new and freedom, and the 1920’s quickly became jazz’s age. I will summary that jazz provides the African Americans a music form to express their pursuing of new life and freedom, with an unexpressed theme of “forgetting the past”. And these feelings endowed Chicago jazz with its featured “hot jazz” style, with heavy bass and guitar, longer solos, and fast tempos, making Chicago’s music a separate and special branch of music in the 1920s, according to the article, What was the Chicago style of jazz?.
Then what factors contribute to the change of jazz in Chicago? What factors might lead to the possible decadence of jazz in Chicago? According to Wikipedia, jazz still kept evolving during World War II: a small group of young musicians developed a more up-tempo, improvisational style of jazz known as bebop and saxophonist Charlie Parker is one of the most influential Bepop musicians. But after World War II, jazz followed a decline in popularity and admiration in Chicago and many musicians relocated to New York City, which was quickly becoming the new epicenter of jazz. How jazz and World War II affect each other has another long story to tell. I will briefly mention the setbacks as, the difficulties in travelling during wars and high tax might led to the close down of a bunch of clubs. I did not carefully compare the influence of war between Chicago and New York, but it is a concrete fact that Chicago jazz start to decay after war. As a club founded in 1947 and witnessed the ups and maybe mostly downs of Chicago Jazz, Jazz Showcase has the slogan “Where Jazz lives in Chicago”. We might feel the persistency in making its music in this slogan.
Till date, the city of Chicago still maintains its rich cultural history of jazz music. To preserve the culture, the Chicago city hosts an annual Chicago Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend. So, where jazz lives in Chicago nowadays? In nightclubs, festivals and local talent. (Chicago’s Jazz Culture – Express the Unexpressed) You have plenty of time and resources to have your jazz fix. (A Brief History Of Jazz In Chicago)
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