There are lots of places to hear live jazz in the Windy City (1). Some experiences are not to be missed. You can sit in Al Capone’s booth and listen to whomever is sharing the stage with Ceres, goddess of the harvest and fertility, at the oldest jazz club in the world, Green Mill in Uptown (2). You could venture into the South Loop, slip into the elegant Jazz Showcase (3) and slide into one of their plush leather chairs to stare at the big picture over the stage of Charlie Parker cradling his sax then wish you had a tiny fraction of his cool. Someday, the Fat Babies will emerge from their COVID hibernation so you can check out their swing that’ll make you think the 20s are roaring again (4). But if it’s just plain fun you seek, take the Red Line north to Rogers Park, get off at the Morse stop and walk around the corner to 6970 Glenwood to knock on the door of Le Piano (5). They’ve closed off that block of Glenwood to traffic, so if the weather’s nice and you want to hear your jazz outside, you can sit in their tables there. Occupying an old brick industrial building with high ceilings and a front face of windows that go nearly floor to ceiling, the owners have installed a magnificent grand piano and scattered touches than invoke Paris’ Latin Quarter. The bartender knows how to whip up a sazarac, and their wine list is 4 times as long as their spare menu, on which every item is sumptuous. It doesn’t take many to fill up the place, with little tables right up front by the musicians and booths back a bit for those who prefer comfort to contact. Sitting close has its advantages. You can talk to the musicians as they’re setting up and you might even get pulled into the show, as Kathy and I were when here last November, invited to lay under the piano as it was played, the better to feel the vibrations from that grand instrument. Although I don’t recall doing so, it’s an experience you can order off the menu: “The Happy Ending” (6). Le Piano is far more than a piano bar, with a schedule that features a cabaret night, Brazilian Latin jazz, retro blues and jazz, and our favorites, the Chad Willetts band. Chad owns the place. See his band here as we watched them Friday night.
No, they weren’t playing the blues. For 30 years in music, Chad is pretty shy vis-à-vis YouTube. He drives his band from behind a drum kit, but plays a pretty nice piano, too (7). This 3 ½’ clip purports to be about the “under the piano” experience but is also a nice intro to everything about Le Piano (8). So next time you’re in Chi-town, head north and check this place out. Your evening will have a happy ending even if you chose not to crawl under the piano.
1. Ike B. Chi Jazz. WordPress 5/23/21. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/05/23/chi-jazz/
2. Green Mill cocktail lounge. https://greenmilljazz.com/
3. Jazz Showcase. https://www.jazzshowcase.com/
4. The Fat Babies. http://thefatbabies.com/the-fat-babies-band-uptown/
5. Le Piano. https://www.lepianochicago.com/
6. Lie under a piano at this jazz club. abc7 Chicago 2/6/20. https://abc7chicago.com/chicago-piano-happy-ending/5906571/
7, Chad Willets at the Chicago Knickerbocker Hotel. YouTube 1/4/13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxdGvm8lJeg
8. Lay Under a Piano at this Jazz Club | Localish. YouTube 10/20/20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOU-2R-P-nI&t=57s
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