Because it's big and especially because it's free, the Chicago Jazz Festival regularly decimates attendance at local paid-admission jazz spots; but a couple years ago, Joe Segal finally figured out how to make it work for him. Since many of the festival's performers stay at the Blackstone Hotel, and since Segal's Jazz Showcase occupies a room off that hotel's lobby, he hired a house rhythm section and actively solicited the big-name stars to drop by and jam. After the panoramic pressures of Grant Park many musicians thrive on the packed intimacy of the Showcase; what's more, the galvanic Ira Sullivan will be leading the sessions, and that should turn the whole scene up a couple notches. The first year was terrific; George Benson, Tete Montoliu, several members of Eddie Palmieri's band took part, and the word was just getting out--which meant that you could still get in. Now that people are expecting such top-flight participation--last year, for instance, saw Wynton Marsalis square off against three other trumpet stars on and around the Showcase stage--plan to arrive early if you hope to get a seat. (By the way, during one such epic matchup, I suggested to a musician from Manhattan that for this one week a year the Blackstone was like New York; he looked at me in surprise and said, "This never happens in New York.") Wednesday through next Sunday, September 4, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Arthur Hiller.