Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase.

Joe Segal and Dizzy Gillespie

It’s a toss-up which is more of an institution in Chicago: The Jazz Showcase, or the man who owns it, Joe Segal. The club has kept name-brand jazz alive in Chicago for six decades now, but it has been chased by rising rents from one location to another during that time. Until this week, it had been MIA for over a year, after losing its lease on its previous location. But it’s back, on S. Dearborn, and in some ways better than ever, according to this Chicago Tribune review by critic Howard Reich.

Joe Segal is now 82, and while he has brought his son Wayne into the business, essential to the Jazz Showcase experience have always been Joe’s wonderfully sardonic introductions. The last time I saw him, a little more than a year ago when singer Ernestine Anderson performed at his club, he was still in top form. I hope whatever vitamins and/or fish oil he’s taking, he keeps taking them.

Jazz Showcase posterMy first Jazz Showcase evening was shortly after I settled in Chicago. I heard the Woody Herman Big Band at the club’s Rush Street location, and the power of that band’s sound in that small space is still ringing in my ears. (In the best way possible.) I’ve followed Joe and his club from one location to another through the years, and look forward to visiting the latest incarnation. For Joe, the club has always been about the music—barmaids are there when needed but unobtrusive, bartenders keep the blenders and shakers pretty quiet during sets, acoustics and sightlines have always been good, smoking was banned a good decade and a half before the law made it necessary, etc. Long may it groove. If you are visiting Chicago, a visit to The Jazz Showcase should be on the top of your list of things to do.


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