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Chicago, Illinois

Chicago: Jazz

From the legendary King Oliver/Louis Armstrong performances at Lincoln Gardens to the radical avant-garde work of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Windy City has long sustained a rich history of jazz.

Chicago’s jazz venues feature anything that a listener may desire, from a candlelit evening of 1920’s swing at Katerina’s, to a soulful organ trio at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. Chicago not only features some of the best jazz clubs in the country but is also home to many restaurants that have great jazz and delectable meals on a nightly basis. Many of these venues have student rates and, with the eclectic mix of jazz artists and venues, any fan can find a great show for a good price any night of the week.

Chicago, one of America’s great college cities, is also home to many excellent college jazz programs, including those at Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University, Columbia College, and Northern Illinois University. Many of these schools feature excellent guest jazz artists and student concerts, not to mention the city’s thriving scene of young jazz musicians, who contribute to the many weekly jam sessions in the city’s best clubs and restaurants.

Please follow the links below to discover more about Chicago’s legendary jazz scene, including jazz clubs, cabaret acts, festivals, and restaurants. Information is included on club logistics, event calendars, admission rates, age requirements, showtimes, transportation/parking, and venue history. (Daniel Healy)

Chicago Jazz: Jazz Around Chicago

Below are our Chicago Jazz recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, venue history and other points of interest in Chicago Art.

Andys Jazz Club

Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant

Andy’s began its life in the early 50’s as a hangout for local newspapermen. In the late 70’s, the area was bought out by investors, but Andy’s held on to its name and its original vibe. Local jazz promoters Penny Tyler and John Defauw saw an opportunity in Andy’s and began producing lunchtime jazz sessions, which soon expanded to three shows a day, every day of the week. ...more...

chicago blues festival

Chicago Blues Festival (Chicago, IL)

(June 8-10, 2012) The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world and is also the largest of Chicago’s music festivals. The inaugural festival in 1984, celebrating the life of Muddy Waters, attracted 165,000 people and today, the event’s attendance has begun to broach the 1 million mark. Concerts take place over three days in Grant Park in mid June. ...more...

chicago jazz festival

Chicago Jazz Festival (Chicago, IL)

(August 30-September 2, 2012) When Duke Ellington died in 1974, a group of musicians gathered in Grant Park to commemorate the incredible musician’s life. Thousands of jazz lovers came out to celebrate and the festival was a resounding success. Several other jazz festivals at different venues in Chicago followed and the city eventually proposed a conglomerate event that combined these festivals into what has become the Chicago Jazz Festival, the largest open-admission jazz festival in the world. ...more...


Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret

A cabaret and a piano bar in the style of some of NYC’s finest venues (complete with singing waitstaff), Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret brings some of the finest (and occasionally, the cheapest) cabaret-style entertainment to be found in the Windy City. The schedule in the piano bar is filled out with open-mic nights, by-request songsters and tribute acts. Check for which nights have drink specials and head down to perform your favorite Cole Porter tune. ...more...

green mill

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

If you find yourself in a mobster sort of mood after gawking at the late-night Zoot Suiters, head to Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, one of the Chicago’s (and the world’s) oldest jazz venues, having existed in some iteration since 1907. Arrive early to soak up the atmosphere where Al Capone and his henchmen used to lord over this former speakeasy. Throughout the last century, the venue played host to a plethora of big-name musicians (Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor) and served as a favorite haunt of the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson. ...more...

illiana club

Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz

The origins of the Illiana Club can be traced to a roadhouse on Route 30 outside of Dyer, Indiana by the name of the Inn Place. Owned by Jerry Fuller, clarinetist in a number of fine mid-20th century swing jazz groups including that of trombonist Jack Teagarden, the Inn Place featured live jazz four to five nights a week. In 1973, seeing the enthusiasm of members of the Indianapolis Jazz Club upon a visit to the roadhouse venue, three jazz enthusiasts and Inn Place regulars proposed to create a club dedicated to traditional jazz that served the Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland area. ...more...

jazz institute

Jazz Institute of Chicago

The Jazz Institute of Chicago presents a number of jazz events throughout the year in conjunction with major organizations all around the city, including the JazzCity free concert series, the Made In Chicago series at Millenium Park, a jazz club tour, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and their own fundraising gala, which awards significant contributors to the jazz community, including musicians, educators and students ...more...

jazz showcase

Jazz Showcase

The historic Jazz Showcase features some of Chicago’s finest as well as national touring acts on the weekends. The club itself has been around since the late 40’s and during its early years, played host to a number of the now legends of jazz. Monday through Wednesday you may find everything from big bands to world music ensembles and Thursday through Sunday you’ll find some of the best straight ahead, bebop, cool and everything in between. ...more...



An intimate venue in Chicago’s North Center, Katerina’s is replete with good food, great drinks and excellent jazz. The music will occasionally span the gap between jazz and world music, but rest assured, whatever you’re seeing is worth a listen. The food can be a bit pricey once you add in the drinks and the cover charge (generally $5–$10), but the caliber of the music makes it all worthwhile. ...more...

little bucharest

Little Bucharest

Little Bucharest has been a fixture in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood for over thirty years. Originally a high-energy Romanian bistro opened in 1970, Little Bucharest closed in 2004, reopening in recent years with a menu and atmosphere reflecting a vibrant intersection of American and European cultures. Original owner Branko Podrumedic recruited reputable Chicago chef Andre Christopher to update the menu at Little Bucharest upon its reopening, combining Old World Romanian flavors with lighter, contemporary bistro fare. ...more...

m lounge

M Lounge

M Lounge is a great little bar near Chicago’s Southside with live jazz on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 7–10 p.m. Never a cover, the Lounge is a nice spot for a quiet evening with a glass of wine and other laid back patrons. Check out the drink specials on their jazz nights. The decor makes the venue feel a little like someone’s (tastefully decorated) living room, which, in our opinion wouldn’t be bad place at all to hear some great jazz. ...more...

new apartment lounge

New Apartment Lounge

Like any good subject of a jazz biopic (or sports film), what this little venue lacks in class it makes up for in heart. Most of the week, The New Apartment Lounge is simply a Chicago dive bar, but Tuesday nights light up with the sounds of Von Freeman and his band, along with dozens of other jazz hopefuls, vying to sit in with the legendary tenor sax player’s ensemble. The music starts around 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and the drinks are always cheap (there is a one-drink minimum). Stop by for a taste of something out of Chicago legend. ...more...



The Society for the Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston (SPACE) is an organization and venue created by musicians for musicians. SPACE features some of the best and most compelling music from the Chicago area and beyond, often representing the outermost edges of musical expression available today. On alternate nights, one might see an improvising jazz group, folk storyteller, virtuosic bluegrass ensemble, or a solo electronic cellist. ...more...

velvet lounge

The Velvet Lounge

While the Velvet Lounge was forced out of its original location by encroaching condominiums, the club has lost very little of the classic vibe that helped shape the face of modern free jazz. The new location is just around the corner and is still owned and operated by the indomitable Fred Anderson, a noted tenor-sax player and seminal figure in the 1960s’ jazz scene. The club has played host to a variety of local legends, such as Anderson, Hamid Drake, Art Taylor, and Jim Baker. ...more...

umbrella music

Umbrella Music

Since its inception, Umbrella Music has played an integral part in Chicago’s incredibly fertile jazz and improvised music community. It was formed in 2006 by a collective of musicians dedicated to presenting new and compelling music from the Chicago area and worldwide, and promoting the city as an international hub for creative music. ...more...