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The Gig: The Blue Egg

Nate Chinen muses on the unique appeal of the small neighborhood jazz club

The Blue Egg was a jazz club on the south side of Chicago, lightly scuffed but lovingly tended, a neighborhood joint with a mixed clientele. Musicians gathered there to earn their pay and sharpen their trade, treating the place like a combination work site, grand lodge, corner bar and town square. It was, in other words, like so many other small-time establishments in urban communities across the country, nondescript in its adherence to type—unless you were one of the regulars who knew the place top to bottom, in which case “nondescript” was the furthest thing from the truth.

Jazz scholars and cultural anthropologists have excluded the Blue Egg from the historical record, though they can’t reasonably be faulted, since it never really existed. I conjured the club for a short story in a creative writing class during my junior year of high school. At that time I had been to Chicago just once, for a college-scouting trip, without actually visiting any jazz haunts.

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Originally Published
Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen is the director of editorial content for WBGO and a longtime contributor to JazzTimes, which published 125 installments of his column “The Gig” between 2004 and 2017. For 12 years, he was a critic for The New York Times; prior to that, he wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, the Philadelphia City Paper, and several other publications. He is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) and the co-author of George Wein’s autobiography Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (2003).