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Where to hear great Blues and Jazz in Chicago



Music lovers crowd Chicago’s blues and jazz clubs where legendary figures as Von Freeman, Franz Jackson and Eddy Clearwater have played.

The city’s annual Chicago Blues Fest and Chicago Jazz Fest are popular free events that take place during the summer. Past performers of the Blues Fest include Ray Charles, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor while the Jazz Fest shows off Chicago's vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.

Luckily one doesn’t need to wait for the free festivals to enjoy live music in Chicago. Many clubs offer nightly performances 365 days a year.

Green Mill is perfect for those who appreciate live jazz in a speakeasy atmosphere while Rosa's Lounge lets you enjoy live blues without the unnecessary pretentiousness of a club-like atmosphere.

Kingston Mines offers free or discounted cover to students, members of the military and seniors. Tourists staying at downtown hotels can walk to Blue Chicago, Winter's Jazz Club or Andy's Jazz Club. Blues aficionados will want to explore Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, the historic site of Chess Records while they're in town. 

Chicago’s jazz and blues clubs are cozy, dimly lit and have genuine character. Don’t be surprised if you’re seated alongside one of Chicago’s greats who is enjoying the music on his or her day off or just after finishing their own set.


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Open at 8 pm and the electric blues kick-off at 9:30 pm nearly every night of the week at B.L.U.E.S. It's a tiny Lincoln Park spot so it can get crowded, but the intimate atmosphere adds to its appeal. The walls are covered in the history of blues and Chicago music icons and small tables bring you close to other blues fans (one of whom might be a blues artist having a drink and chilling). The club features emerging and well-known local artists such as Pistol Pete, Eddie Shaw and Vance "Guitar" Kelly. Shows are highly interactive and there's always plenty of righteous merch for sale.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: It wouldn't be unusual if you find yourself seated next to a well-known blues artist in this tiny club.

Jacky's expert tip: There are metered as well as free street parking on Halsted or use the Home Depot parking garage Friday-Saturday for $10 (one block north on Halsted).

Read more about B.L.U.E.S. →


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Lincoln Park


Kingston Mines is the largest and oldest continuously operating blues club in Chicago, so it's a must for fans of the genre. Magic Slim, Koko Taylor, Sugar Blue, Billy Branch, Junior Wells and scads of blues' legends have packed the house with nonstop blues seven nights a week. Local blues and jazz artists often stop by here after their sets at other clubs. Home to the blues since 1968, the club includes a late night kitchen that serves bites, chicken and shrimp right up to the end of the night. A Blues Jam happens Sunday nights and admission is free. Students (21+)/faculty get in free Sunday -Thursday night and enjoy discounted admission Friday/Saturday; those 65+ get a discount all week and US military (current and separated)/police/firefighters get in free all week long. The cover charge covers two bands on two stages and music until 3:30am (Sunday-Friday) and 4:30am (Saturday).

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: Local blues and jazz artists often stop by here after their sets at other clubs and the party continues into the morning hours.

Jacky's expert tip: Admission is free or discounted for students, seniors, military, police, firefighters and If you come in within three days of your actual birthday, your admission is free.

Read more about Kingston Mines →




From Dizzy Gillespie to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, jazz legends have been playing owner Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase since 1947. The club has moved multiple times over the decades but has settled in comfortably in an acoustically refined South Loop locale. Audiences are reverent (don't even think about talking during a set, or you'll get shushed and stink eyed). Chicago acts play regularly and even big-name tours often pick up local musicians to round out their bands, guaranteeing a devoted local following. Determined to spread the faith to the next generation of jazz fans, the Showcase invites families to the Sunday 4 p.m. matinee provided the fans-in-the-making observe the unwritten "no-talking" rule. The club accepts cash at the door (you can also purchase tickets online with your credit card ) and they take plastic for bar service.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: The Jazz Showcase is the oldest historic jazz club in Chicago welcoming top international, national and local musicians.

Jacky's expert tip: Kids under 12 bebop for free during Sunday matinee.

Read more about Jazz Showcase →


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If this club worked for Bowie and Clapton, it'll do you just fine. Buddy Guy, a hero to Clapton, plays at his club in January but don't let that stop you from enjoying local and national musicians performing seven nights a week. Don't be shy because of the club's exterior - it's polished inside and more than a few bros and tourists fill the seats along with lifelong lovers of the blues. Peruse the mellow blues joint's calendar online and you'll see it jam-packed with great artists. Enjoy New-Orleans-inspired food and great music with free, all-ages acoustic shows, too. Fascinating memorabilia dot the walls of the cavernous room while pool tables and a Southern kitchen serving po' boys and jambalaya keep patrons satisfied. Despite its touristy reputation, it's a great place to see live blues in comfort.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: For a city known for its blues, Buddy Guy's Legends is a great venue to hear live music.

Jacky's expert tip: All ages are allowed in until 8 p.m. when it becomes strictly 21 and up. Legends does not accept reservations so show up early.

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Whereas most other jazz clubs are strictly a listen and drink experience, Andy's Jazz Club, originally opened in 1951 to entertain the pressman from the burgeoning newspaper industry, also offers an American dinner menu. The options range from steak and salmon to nice bites like chips and guac or truffle fries to nibble with a cocktail. Local performers cover a range of styles from traditional and swing to bop, fusion, Latin and even beatbox sax seven nights a week. For those who wish to dine at the full service restaurant, be sure to make reservations in advance unless you don't mind being seated at the bar. Doors open every day at 4:30pm and the first band begins at 5pm. There is a cover (cash preferred) even if you're dining at the restaurant. The club is conveniently located within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: Conveniently located close to the Magnificent Mile, Andy's Jazz Club performances begin at 5 p.m. nightly.

Jacky's expert tip: Bring cash for the cover and book in advance online if you're hungry for dinner, too.

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Blue Chicago on Clark, open since 1985, has built an identity of presenting female blues vocalists (they often do not have their own band) backed up by talented Chicago blues musicians. It's probably the only club in town with a mission to give female singers a platform to showcase their prodigious talents. The room is small, long, dimly lit and tavernesque with a stage at one end. If you need to sit, get there early in the evening to score a stool otherwise you may have to stand. A full bar is on-premises, allowing for a drink or two with the show. There is a cover between costing $10-$12 a night (depending on the night and performers) but the club does not disappoint. Drinks are decent and reasonably priced. You can't miss the original oil paintings by artist John Carroll Doyle that includes the now-iconic Mojo Mama.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: It's a soulful bar that often gets lost among touristy River North attractions. A relatively low cover charge makes this place more appealing.

Jacky's expert tip: Since it's n the center of the busy River North corridor, arrive at least an hour before the band starts for a seat.

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Rosa's Lounge, circa 1984, is not a 21st-century re-creation homage to family-owned blues bars - it's the real deal. When you want to hear great live blues without pretension but plenty of sincerity - this is your destination. Order a drink and enjoy the diverse crowd that fills Rosa's to hear the likes of harmonica genius Sugar Blue, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials and Billy Branch & the SOB. There is a cover charge and full-service bar to meet guests' needs (no drink minimum). Tony, the friendly owner who named the place after his mother who helped him open the club, still takes care of his guests every night.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: Rosa's Lounge is a friendly, family-owned blues club where you can see the country's top blues names in an intimate setting.

Jacky's expert tip: Fill your belly before because Rosa's serves only sturdy drinks, smiling faces and great music.

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Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago


Traditional, modern, Bebop, improvisational. It's all at the sophisticated Green Mill which will transport you via dazzling grooves and improvised tunes of the early '30s and '40s. The club was inspired by Clark Monroe's Uptown House in Harlem, circa the 1940s. Once a hangout of Al Capone and Charlie Chaplin, the Green Mill oozes character. It was a speakeasy during Prohibition and retains an air of the Roaring '20s. There's live music every night of the week so check the online calendar for performers, times, cover charge and other details pertaining to the night you want to visit. Swing music regularly on tap and there are jazz vocalists, national and international artists and an occasional poetry slam. Cocktails aren't very spendy but if you want to enjoy them from a cloth covered table, get there before the bands begin otherwise you'll be out of luck because this place gets packed.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: Green Mill is perfect for those who appreciate live jazz in an understated, speakeasy atmosphere.

Jacky's expert tip: If you want a table, get there at least an hour before the set and enjoy some sturdy cocktails.

Read more about Green Mill Cocktail Lounge →


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Roscoe Village
Constellation

Have a sturdy cup of coffee with dinner because you'll want to be all ears all night long at Constellation Chicago. Regulars like the two spacious performance areas (seating 50-75 and 100-150), with comfortable seating and great sightlines as well as fabulous acoustics and an eclectic artist roster. A full bar with reasonably priced adult beverages is an added bonus and they may be brought into performances. The 7,000-square-foot venue had a previous life as the Viaduct Theater. Hit up Constellation to revel in free jazz, neo-soul, avant-garde jazz, piano trios from the U.K., Italian jazz duos, New York City sextets and Chicago-based composers and musicians. The club presents artists on various days of the week so be sure to check the calendar at the web site.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: A little off the beaten path geographically and musically, Constellation Chicago is the place to hear progressive and experimental jazz and other genres.

Jacky's expert tip: There isn't a parking lot but there is street parking on Clybourn Ave. and west of the viaduct on Fletcher, Barry and Campbell Streets.

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Streeterville


Overlooking the Ogden Slip, Winter's Jazz Club is walking distance from countless hotels and restaurants as well as a shopping hub, Michigan Ave. The club seats 100 in the performance space and 25 in the bar/lounge and you can expect straight-ahead jazz most days, but you can be surprised with a bout of live Gypsy-jazz, swing, a Bourbon Street quartet and some other riffs on the genre. This is a "listening room" so save the chatter for after the show. Sets run 75 minutes at 7:30 and 9:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. There's a one-drink minimum of $10/person/set. Cover charge varies but sit in the bar and enjoy half-off of the standard listening room cover charge. Enjoy 25-percent off drinks during Happy Hour Tues.-Sat. 5:30-7 p.m. and Sun, 4-5 p.m.

Recommended for Jazz & Blues Clubs because: Winter's Jazz Club has earned a sturdy rep as a genuine listening room and it's close to hotels, restaurants and Navy Pier.

Jacky's expert tip: Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so arrive a half-hour prior to showtime for the best spots.

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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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