A benefit to having family near Chicago is that on every visit, I get a good Chicago fix.
Last night I ventured in to the new Jazz Showcase to hear Jimmy and Tootie Heath and it was just beyond words. First, a few words about the venue. I have a long history with the Showcase, going back to its tenure at The Blackstone Hotel, through its location on Grand. It was the first jazz club I ever went to thanks to their very progressive and still in place All Ages policy. I have heard too many heavies there to count but some of the standouts include: James Moody, Elvin Jones, David Liebman, Ira Sullivan, Tom Harrell, Dave Holland, Joe Lovano and John Scofield. I even had the great opportunity to perform there for a week. When I was at NIU, the Jazz Ensemble had a long standing performance there the week of the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic - this is when the Showcase was at The Blackstone - and I played there with Jon Faddis doing all of Dizzy's Big Band rep. I was very happy to read that the Showcase was back in action at Dearborn Station in the South Loop.
The room is great. Not a bad seat in the house and the sound is to die for. It is still a pantheon of jazz history with pictures and playbills of "Showcases past" and enormous photos of Bird and Trane still watch over all proceedings.
Jimmy Heath was just KILLIN!!!!! If you have the chance, RUN, do not walk, stroll or otherwise prevaricate to hear him. The man is a walking Rosetta stone of the jazz language of the past 60 years. His vocabulary is deeply rooted in Bebop but he has kept pace with the rhythmic, sonic and harmonic progression since the Bebop era. He has a rich, dark sound with, to my ear, overtones of Trane and Joe Henderson but not sounding at all derivative. The harmonic language, while rooted in Bebop, was very forward thinking and always grounded in a sense of melody that can sometimes be lacking in very harmonic playing. His rhythmic interaction with Tootie was just off the map. These two were completing each other's sentences left and right. Something that comes for YEARS of playing and developing together.
The only disappointment was the size of the audience. There were probably 25-30 people in the club, and for a town like Chicago on a Friday night, I would have expected more.
Through Sunday at The Jazz Showcase
806 S. Plymouth Ct.
Chicago IL 60605
Sets at 8 & 10 on Saturday
4, 8 & 10 on Sunday