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147) Visit a Chicago jazz bar 19 Jun 2012

For a little over a year, John and I ran a small jazz series from our old studio on Pape Ave. We called it “Hot Soup” and every month we’d program some of the finest innovators in Toronto’s jazz scene, often alongside dancers and movement improvisers. Each show we’d serve up a new batch of homemade soup we’d whip together the night before like parsnip pear, creamy ginger carrot, stilton cheese and potato leek. It was a weird concept, but it worked. It brought out the most interesting folk: odd, intelligent recluses, old men with elbow patches, young, bright-eyed jazz majors, starving artist types, our local neighbourhood crazies, and people who just loved soup.

Naturally, while in Chicago, we were eager to visit a jazz club (a major to-do on our list). And not just any jazz club, one of the most notorious and sophisticated in the city. During the roaring 20’s, The Green Mill was known as mobster territory; some of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century would co-mingle with guys like Al Capone and “Machinegun” Jack McGurn (who at that time owned 25% of the club). During the 30’s and 40’s, the club would play heady mixes of swing and dance, sending people into sweaty tizzies till the wee hours.

To this day, the club still maintains that old prohibition-era, speakeasy ambience. The decor is ornate; the overall mood, casually classy; the lighting, warm and rich. It was everything we could have imagined an old Chicago jazz bar to be. Shout out to the Victor Goines Quartet, who played an exceptionally smooth and sultry set that night.