Chicago's Blackstone Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, befitting an edifice known as "The House of Presidents." Today, though, a number of people know the Blackstone as the house of Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, an intimate room on the second floor that has been hosting jazz musicians since 1980.

Just this fall, Segal, who has been a jazz fixture in Chicago for almost a half-century, has scheduled the likes of Joshua Redman, McCoy Turner, the Ray Brown Trio (with Benny Green and Jeff Hamilton), John Schofield, Jimmy McGriff, T.S. Monk, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Williams, Joe Henderson, the Roy Hargrove Quintet and the Maynard Ferguson Big Band (even though I can't imagine how the diminutive room can survive Ferguson's decibels).Recently my brother and I were walking from Soldier Field - where we had just witnessed the Vikings pound the Bears in a truly horrible National Football League game - to an area where we might find a taxi. The weather was unseasonably warm, and the sighting of the Blackstone (636 S. Michigan Ave.) beckoned to us as an oasis for a quaff or two.

Such a respite proved to be secondary, though, as we discovered that guitarist Kenny Burrell would be providing a 4 p.m. matinee. Plans to catch the 4:30 train to suburban Wilmette were quickly rescheduled for the 6:30 ride and, after paying the $15 cover, we settled back for 90 minutes of delight in the non-smoking Showcase.

I was mildly disappointed to discover Burrell would be sharing the time with the Harry Allen Quartet (John Bunch piano, veteran bassist Eddie DeHaas and Duffy Jackson, the most atypical jazz drummer I have ever seen - he looks as if he should be playing with a polka band at the country fair, but he gleefully pounds the skins into submission).

Any disappointment about Allen's presence soon evaporated though, as his rich, full sound on the tenor sax soon had the listeners in a trancelike state. His rendition of "Chelsea Bridge" was extraordinarily beautiful, and I knew I had to hear more.

View Comments

I have obtained a CD titled "The Intimacy of the Blues - A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn's Music, Vol. 2" (Progressive PCD-7102) featuring the Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet. There's nothing fancy here, just a tender, straightforward treatment of 16 tracks by Strayhorn and Ellington. Listening to this album is truly the lush life.

- JOSHUA REDMAN is arguably the most highly promoted jazzman on the scene today, and I hope Warner Bros. isn't pushing him too quickly. Obviously he is a great young talent, but he has been around a short time and the incessant spotlight may hinder his moving at his pace, not that of Warner. His latest release, "Mood Swing" (Warner CD 45643-2), is his most adventuresome so far, but it may not be his best. The 11 tracks are written by Redman and they differ wildly in mood, with some hitting the target and others just missing. Yet, at the same time, it's laudatory that Redman is exploring rather than basking in his early successes. Redman continues to head the pride of young lions.

And right there with Redman is trumpeter Wallace Roney, whose latest release, "Misterios" (Warner CD 45641-2), is understandably being linked to the Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic "Sketches of Spain." Roney first met Davis in 1983 and appeared with Miles at the heralded Montreux Jazz Festival where Roney, in addition to his solo time, stood nearby if the dying Miles faltered. Herbie Hancock one said that Miles "loved Wallace and that says something right there." Obviously the affection was mutual, as proven by this album, even though Roney wisely doesn't mimic but is his own man on this excellent release, with a supporting cast that features, among others, Geri Allen on piano and Antoine Roney and Ravi Coltrane on tenor.

- PIANIST JOE SAMPLE renews memories of his early days with the Jazz Crusaders in "Did You Feel Like That" (Warner CD 45729-2), a tightly-packaged horn-filled presentation of 10 tracks, backed by the Soul Committee. Oscar Brasher is on trumpet. Joel Peskin tenor sax and Steve Gadd and Freddie Washington on drums and bass.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.