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Legendary Chicago Jazz Club Closes After 59 Years

The Jazz Showcase, Chicago’s oldest jazz venue, has closed after 59 years of operation. In spite of financial help from the city of Chicago, the club lost its lease in the fall. While the club’s owner and founder, Joe Segal, has announced plans to relocate the legendary club, an appropriate location has not yet been found. Its last show was held on New Year’s Eve and featured saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman with Henry Johnson’s Organ Express.

The club opened its doors in 1947 and has hosted some of the most famous jazz musicians of all-time, including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. “It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Jazz Showcase to Chicago,” stated Windy City journalist and jazz musician John Corbett, according to Reuters’ James B. Kelleher. “We don’t have the network or infrastructure of mainstream jazz clubs that a city like New York has, which is bizarre because we have a great vibrant jazz scene. But in terms of the places where you can go see, every night, great mainstream jazz, there aren’t that many.”

Although the Jazz Showcase has relocated several times in the past, this is the first time in a decade that the club does not have immediate plans for relocation, despite three months of searching. A benefit to raise money for the club is scheduled for March; however, if and when the club reopens, it will be more subdued than before, with less international acts and more open mic nights.

News of the club’s indefinite closing has left many jazz enthusiasts dismayed, including 1999 MacArthur Fellowship Award winner Ken Vandermark, who lamented, “it would be a huge blow if he’s not able to find some place and not get some support for that. I would be really, really saddened by that.”

Photo by Wayne Segal

Originally Published