Sunday, January 28, 2007

A night in Uptown

When my neighbors emailed me this past week about going to a jazz show at the Green Mill I was extremely excited. Not only is this one of my favorite places in the whole city, but I also have not been in over a year. When I first moved to Chicago, I lived in Uptown just down the street from the club, and used to go quite often then. But since I moved out of that neighborhood, my trips have not been nearly as frequent.

We set our plans for Saturday night, and 8:00 was when the band, Chevere, was to go on. The moment we walked in, I instantly was reminded of all the things that make me love the Green Mill so much. It has dark wood interior walls, low lighting, pretty smoky, everyone is dressed up, and many of the women are in furs. You instantly feel like you have been transported back 50 years. The bouncer at the door has always been the same guy, as I remember it. He wears a bearclaw on a chain around his neck, and is not someone you would want to meet in an ally...or anywhere outside of the club for that matter. Cover was $12, and it is far worth it for the atmosphere and exceptional music and company. We got the last seat in the house; an arc-shaped booth near the door. Good for close sitting, and easy access to the bar and floor. I decided to drink Manhattans, and the music began.

I am a novice jazz fan. I love the sound of it, but know little more than the few classic jazz performers of the 30s and 40s, and know even somewhat more of the jazz+funk artists of the 70s. Chevere was amazing. When I saw online that they had congas and timbales, I was even more excited. It was a very classic sounding jazz, with subtle (and at times not so subtle) hints of latin influence. People were dancing, and swinging, and having such a lovely time. The atmosphere is fantastic. One friend commented that it felt like we were in an episode of the Love Boat; she was very right.

The Green Mill is a great place to take out-of-town visitors to give them a real taste of Chicago. This was a regular Al Capone hangout, and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Al Capone supposedly had a trap door for a quick escape if the police came looking for him, and this trap door is still intact, though I have never seen it. In fact this entire block is infused with rich Chicago history. The Uptown theatre, though closed currently, is right next door, and hosted some great acts. The Riviera is a theatre on the next block, and still has concerts and programs going on. The Aragon ballroom is a concert hall a block away, and has been around for over 80 years, and has been everything from a ballroom to a boxing rink to a disco.

I will definitely step my nights out in Uptown up a notch. I forgot what I was missing! Incidentally, the Uptown Lounge is a great place as well, just east of Lawrence/Broadway Ave. They have remodeled fairly recently, and the djs they have are excellent for such a friendly place.

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