The Legendary Jazz Showcase Returns!

Junior Mance Opens Joe's New Location

Chicago, IL
Thursday (Opening Night) June 12 (James)
& Sunday June 15, 2008 (Mary Lou)

Mary Lou Wade
Mary Lou Wade
Jazz Showcase
The Showcase is Back!!!
James Walker
James Walker

Story and Photos by James Walker

"At Last" would have been an appropriate opening number by Junior Mance and his local bandmates as they had the distinct honor of reopening Joe Segal's fabled Jazz Showcase on June 12th. The Showcase closed its doors at its Grand Ave location on New Years Eve 2006 with a promise to rise from the ashes in the near future. There were some who began to doubt if that day would ever happen, but for those who really know Joe Segal, eventually that day would arrive.

Without much fanfare or advertisement, former Evanstonian, Junior Mance was chosen to perform in this beautiful South Loop Dearborn Station room, as he had done on many occasions before at Segal's other locations. Joining Mance were vibist Stu Katz, drummer Joel Spencer, bassist Eddie de Haas, and one of Chicago's busiest saxophonists, Eric Schneider.

With Mance only arriving in town the afternoon of this inaugural affair, it was evident that these veteran sidemen would be invaluable during the first performance. Occasionally, they huddled to discuss what to play, but once the first note was struck, these true professionals were in a zone. Nevertheless, there was one noticeable exception when the timing between Mance and his rhythm section was a bit off. Other than that little "hiccup," they played straight through without even announcing the titles. It was like five cats sitting down at a jam session, just having a good time. No explosive solos, just 90 minutes of beautiful ballads and standards.

Although Mance was the featured performer, saxophonist Eric Schneider stood out with some fine sax and clarinet playing all evening. The former Count Basie band member was recently seen by this writer performing at the Blues Festival with Red Holloway and Plas Johnson, in addition to several gigs at the Checker Jazz sets at the Checkerboard Lounge.

It was also apparent by the packed house that the Jazz Showcase fans were just happy that this aesthetically appealing room had finally reopened. Elongated in shape, this room has great sightlines with a very good sound system and acoustics. No columns blocking sight lines, with every seat affording audience members a great view. As is usually the case when a new venue opens, there were a few glitches. Unfortunately, the airflow was not at optimum level to keep the room cool on this, one of the hottest days of the year. The other was the lack of alcohol sales. The Segals promised that both would be rectified by the second night. Again, this didn't seem to bother the jazz "thirsty" fans as they were elated to have their "Showcase" back.

The room is beautifully decorated with Joe's historic jazz photos, posters and banners. Of course, there could not be a Showcase without the "Bird" (giant Charlie Parker poster) overseeing the proceedings from back of the bandstand. "Bird" appeared to be pleased with the opening as he wore that familiar little smile. Also larger than life were photos of Wes Montgomery, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie.

Unlike Segal's former clubs, the new Showcase will feature National acts on Thursday through Sunday, with local talent donning the stage Monday through Wednesday. Show times will be 7pm and 9pm, with a 4pm Sunday matinee. The exact address is 806 S. Plymouth Ct. in Dearborn Station. The phone number is (312) 360-0234. For detailed information about future engagements, refer to their Web site at www.jazzshowcase.com. Congratulations and welcome back Jazz Showcase!!!!!!!!

Story by Mary Lou Wade
Photos by James Walker

It might have been Father's Day on the opening Sunday of the New Jazz Showcase, but for this Reviewer/Grandmother it was a sweet celebratory gift.

Located in the old train station at Polk and Plymouth just a half block east of Dearborn, Joe and Wayne Segal have created a terrific gathering spot in the thriving South Loop.

Sitting on a hard wooden chair at one of the familiar round tables sipping my club soda with a dash of cranberry juice, I felt I had found my home again. Dappled sunlight illuminated the huge restored picture of Charlie Parker, and the many posters, photographs, and banners hung on the warm yellow walls. Joe greeted a crowd of parents, singles, teens, pre-schoolers and old timers with sincere appreciation for our patience and support. He told us the Showcase would be opened nightly, but with headliners only on the weekends. He and Wayne hope to encourage college kids and neighborhood folks to visit on weeknights when the ten dollars will be the entry fee. When Joe forgot the name of an upcoming musician he said; "You know, another guy! I apologize because I have that CRS disease when you Can't Remember Stuff." It's certainly understandable, since he has been bringing Jazz to Chicago since 1947, starting at Roosevelt College.

And the music! So great! The ever young, yet almost 80 year old, Junior Mance, took commanding control of the keyboard. Dashing and distinguished, with his bald head, white goatee, black rimmed specs, muscled forearms and fast moving fingers, he was accompanied by Joel Spencer on drums, Eddie De Haas on bass, Stu Katz on vibes and one of my all time favorites, Eric Schneider on sax. They played "Lover Come Back to Me" and Neal Hefty's "Little Darlin'," (which everyone around me recognized but no one knew the title) "All The Things You Are" and, appropriately for the occasion, "Song for My Father" by Horace Silver. There was closeness and bantering among the musicians, and Schneider jokingly informed the audience that they weren’t doing gang signals but indicating changes of keys, which differ from Chicago to New York, where Junior Mance now lives, though he was born in Evanston.

The people attending this glorious afternoon were all ardent fans, with the exception of the adorable twelve-year-old girl who was engrossed in reading "The Penderwicks" and a few tots in strollers. The Segals encourage upcoming jazz fans by letting kids under twelve in free at the four o'clock Sunday matinee. I'm planning to be there frequently and, hopefully, a grandchild or two will accompany me.

Junior Mance
Junior Mance
Junior Mance Group & Charlie Parker
Junior Mance Group & Charlie
Junior Mance group
Junior Mance opens the new Showcase
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Coltrane looks on
Coltrane looks on
Stu Katz
Stu Katz
Wes Montgomery
Wes approves
Duke Ellington
So does Duke

Joe Segal
Owner Joe Segal

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Contact Brad Walseth and JazzChicago.net at bwalseth60@aol.com

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