As temperatures fall and Chicago’s jazz scene heats up, sax man Frank Catalano delivers the lowdown on the city’s top venues for live jams.
Younger musicians like vibraphonist Stefon Harris join veterans such as alto saxophonist Bobby Watson and trumpeter Roy Hargrove nightly at the Jazz Showcase.
Chicago saxophonist Frank Catalano released his first solo album on the city’s Delmark label at the tender age of 19. In the nearly two decades since, the tenor sax man has recorded or toured with legends of jazz (Von Freeman, Louie Bellson) and industrial music (Ministry) and staked out a bandleader career on six albums. He recently scored a number-one hit on iTunes with a John Coltrane tribute record featuring former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (check them out live this month in their Super Band Concert, November 14 at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., 773-381-4551). A weekly late-night resident at the famed Green Mill, Catalano knows where to scope out a good cocktail and great jazz. Coming up, his favorite venues in Chicago’s thriving jazz scene:
Audiences flock to Constellation for its adventurous jazz shows.
“The Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway St., 773-878-5552) is a personal must-experience place in my book. It’s a really special place—it feels like you’re walking back in time to the 1930s, to Prohibition. The music there runs every night until 3:30 or 4 am, so I love it as a late-night person. Everybody likes to sit in the Al Capone booth, but if I am going to listen to somebody, I sit at the huge wraparound bar.” Frank’s pick: Fareed Haque, November 21-22.
“I had the opportunity to start my career at Andy’s Jazz Club (11 E. Hubbard St., 312-642-6805) at the age of 17, sitting in with Charles Earland. I like to point out that if you’re under 21 and have a parent with you, they’ll let you into the 5 o’clock set. They actually have eight hours of music (usually bebop and mainstream jazz) a night, and that’s pretty amazing. I’ve never heard a bad band at Andy’s.” Frank’s pick: John Bany Sessions, November 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.
Josh Berman (cornet) and Damon Locks at Constellation as part of the 3-on-3 series.
“I used to live in Roscoe Village, so I remember Constellation (3111 N. Western Ave.) when it was the Viaduct Theater. It opened in 2013, and it sounds great; they make it performer-friendly. Drummer Mike Reed, who owns the venue, plays in a variety of groups that are pushing the boundaries and supports those types of artists. People who are looking for more adventurous jazz will be happy there.” Frank’s pick: Frode Gjerstad Trio, November 19.
“Elastic Arts Foundation (2830 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-772-3616) isn’t a club—it’s more of a small concert situation. I like the spirit, the energy, and the vibe that the presenters use when coming up with shows. They’re really doing it for the love of the music. And that whole area in Logan Square is blowing up. They regularly book things that are not mainstream across a wide spectrum of musical styles, ranging from avant-garde to fusion.” Frank’s pick: The New Philippine Rondalla Ensemble, November 2.
“Joe Segal has been bringing famous jazz musicians to Chicago since 1947. Most people who like jazz, whether they live in the United States or not, have heard of the Jazz Showcase (806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234). Jazz Showcase has been fostering and bringing in legendary players as well as employing great Chicago musicians. The building has moved a bunch of times; now it’s nicely located at Dearborn Station. We owe a debt of gratitude to this club, where jazz fans have been able to experience a lot of legendary talent over the years. That’s very special for sure.” Frank’s pick: John Abercrombie Quartet, November 1-2.