A great night for a jazz fan

A great night for a jazz fan

Jamie Howison is currently on a brief study leave, based at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. From this update it will be abundantly clear that he’s not spending all of his time in the library…

I’m in Chicago for a week and a bit, doing research for a proposed book exploring the connections between blues music and the biblical psalms. One of the people I’d contacted for an interview is Howard Reich, the longtime jazz (and blues and gospel…) writer for the Chicago Tribune. A couple of months ago I sent him an email message right out of the blue, and to my delight he responded almost instantly. He told me that he would be quite happy to meet for lunch during my Chicago sojourn, and that I should get back in touch a bit closer to my time in the city. When I contacted him early last week, he suggested that he’d like to take me to The Jazz Showcase to hear a set by the John Abercrombie Quartet, which he was reviewing for the Tribune… okay, I’m in!

CT ct-Howard-Reich.JPGWe met for dinner before the show, and had a most enjoyable conversation about the shape of music in the city. Because my research is on the blues, he confessed that he really was primarily a jazz guy, and only a “visitor” to worlds of blues and gospel. While that may be the case, as I’d already discovered from his written work – and specifically in a series of pieces in his book Let Freedom Swing – he’s a rather insightful visitor. I ended up with a nice little list of blues people to contact for possible interviews, as well as something of a custom-made itinerary of live music for the next six nights.

I’d have to say that going to the Jazz Showcase in the company of Howard Reich made for a very unique experience. He’s a very well-known figure around the Chicago scene, so from the moment we walked in the door he was greeted by name by person after person after person. No sooner had we placed our jackets at his “usual table” – at the back of the room, pretty much in the centre, where the sound was both clear and balanced – than he was taking me up to the bar to meet the long-time owner of the place, Joe Segal. Segal has been running the Showcase in various locations since 1947, and along with legendary musicians Charles Lloyd, George Coleman and Carla Bley, has recently been named a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. Over the course of our five minute conversation it wasn’t hard to get a sense that jazz runs in Segal’s veins, and looking around the room at the photographs of all of the musicians who’ve played there over the past 67 years I began to realize just how much of the tradition this man has experienced. A great moment.

The set by John Abercrombie’s Quartet was very fine. Consisting mostly of originals from their 2013 release 39 Steps, there were moments when the interplay between Abercrombie’s guitar and piano were so evocative as to be almost transcendent. I look forward to reading Howard’s review in the Tribune.

Riding the train back to my room on campus, I couldn’t help but marvel at the warmth and hospitality I’d been shown over the course of the evening. And now I’ve got another six days to see about tracking down some of those contacts Howard gave to me… oh, and to do a bit more conventional research in the library…

One Response to A great night for a jazz fan

  1. Robert says:

    John Abercrombie in a night club and Joey Barron on drums! How awe some is that!!

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