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Top 5 Best Chicago Jazz Clubs

Every major city in the Western world and some further afield has its jazz clubs. Many of them help to create some of the musical giants of the future. Some became household names; Ronnie Scott’s in Wardour Street in London was just one such club.

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club

It hosted some big names over the years, including Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, and Count Basie. Others played or sang there and went on to do quite well. Jimi Hendrix for one, Jeff Beck also played, and Eric Burdon, singer of The Animals, another. And there were more.

There were some great live albums recorded there. Miles Davis was one, and Jeff Beck was filmed during his week there.

But, this article isn’t about Ronnie’s place; it is about Chicago. And, anyone who is anyone in the jazz world has played or sung in one of the jazz clubs in the musically iconic city. So, let’s take a closer look at the best Chicago jazz clubs.

Best Chicago Jazz Clubs


Why Did Chicago Suddenly Become Big News in Jazz

Early Jazz was very much a New Orleans and surrounding area thing. It seemed to have begun with a heavy African-American influence some time in the latter part of the 1800s. New Orleans is a port city, and people came from all over the world, trading and bringing with them music. And, in some cases, their instruments.

The Roots

As I have said, it was borne out of slavery and the African-American population in Louisiana. It has its roots in Blues and Ragtime. But, there are other major influences on the original forms of jazz.

African rhythmic rituals were important, as were the principles of European harmony. All blended to give us what we have now.

The Early 1900s

It should be said that jazz didn’t become a musical tradition only in New Orleans or anywhere else. It evolved in various ways depending on individual cultures. 

New Orleans Jazz was a combination of many influences. We have already considered the African-American influence. That was the predominant factor in this style of music and still is. But, some French influences crept in. 

New Orleans was a large melting pot of styles, rhythms, polyphonic improvisation, and cultural influences. It was this type of jazz that developed in Chicago in the early 1900s. A mixture of Mississippi Blues and Dixieland, and it settled on the notorious South Side.

A Jazz Hub

It became a city known for its jazz. Chicago attracted not only the great musicians eager to make a name for themselves but also the more unsavory characters. We shall look at that a bit closer later on.

The location certainly helped. It was just close enough to other major cities and had access from overseas. Chicago has become a major jazz city and is historically important in plenty of ways.

And Today…

Despite other music cities evolving within a reasonable distance, notably the Motown sound of Detroit, it has remained an important music center. Jazz still flourishes in Chicago. So, let’s take a look at some of the best Chicago jazz clubs and see what is on offer in the Windy City.

Best Chicago Jazz Clubs

The Jazz Showcase

The Jazz Showcase

Let’s start our look at the best Chicago jazz clubs with Joe Segal’s iconic jazz club. He ran this place for more than 70 years and died recently at the age of 97. The club is now run by his son Wayne. 

He was a Canadian who moved down to Chicago and sold various items door-to-door to make money. He did quite well because he opened the doors of the Jazz Showcase in 1947. 

When you talk about the best jazz clubs in Chicago, The Jazz Showcase will usually be mentioned quite early in the conversation. The club moved a few times but is now based in the South Chicago Loop, a great place to get the atmosphere of Chicago the city. 


The club is based at 806 S. Plymouth Ct. Chicago, IL 60605. Since it opened, they have seen some of the legends of jazz play there. It read like a who’s who of jazz greats:

  • Dizzy Gillespie.
  • Dexter Gordon. 
  • Charlie Parker.
  • Count Basie.
  • Art Blakey.
  • Freddie Hubbard

And those are just to name a few. It has seen some live albums recorded there, including Hampton Hawes – Cecil McBee – Roy Haynes – live at the jazz showcase in Chicago Volume 1, and Live At The Jazz Showcase In Chicago, Vol. 1.

The Jazz Showcase offers good facilities with a restaurant and bar and has a capacity of about 180. If you are looking for jazz spots in Chicago, take in a bit of history as well as the music.

Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant

Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant

Another jazz venue with some history to it. It opened in the 50s and was originally a restaurant and bar where the local newspaper workers would congregate. 

The club was bought by Scott Chisholm in the 70s, and in 1977, they started to put on jazz at lunchtime. Although, it was still seen as primarily a restaurant and bar.

But, it wasn’t for long…

Andy’s quickly became a prime place for jazz in Chicago, and gradually over the next decade, the emphasis shifted. It started as a restaurant and a bar with a bit of music at lunch times. It became a jazz club with a restaurant and a bar.

They put on four or five 90-minute shows every night for seven nights. That should satisfy those who need their jazz. The club is situated at 11 E Hubbard St. Chicago, Illinois 60611, within a short walk from the Magnificent Mile.

The Magnificent Mile

One of Chicago’s most famous areas. Many of the most well-known restaurants and entertainment venues are located on “The Mile. It is a must-see for tourists, running from the Chicago river along North Michigan Avenue.

Keeping It In The Family

The club is still managed, and artists are booked by the Chisholm family, ensuring that the traditions of the club are maintained. You can expect to see a range of jazz styles, including swing, traditional, bop, and also Afro-pop, and Latin. 

To get a taste of what you might find here, take a listen to Live in Chicago Andy’s Jazz Club (feat. Jordan Baskin, Jake Vinsel & Brian Ritter). It is still a restaurant as well, but more casual than formal. The club has a capacity of about 125.

The Constellation Jazz Club

The Constellation Jazz Club

This jazz club set up by drummer Mike Reed has two rooms, one seating 75 and the other about 150. It has been designed to be a little more up-market with its comfortable seating and decor and boasts a full bar.

It is situated in North West Chicago located in Roscoe Village at 3111 N. Western Chicago, Illinois, 60618. 

In A Partnership

It is perhaps best described as a little more than just a jazz club and could rightly be termed a performing arts venue. It collaborates with Links Hall, which has a reputation for encouraging and contributing to the artistic growth of the city.

Links Hall works in the medium of not only music but other performing arts. The association with the Constellation brings jazz into the opportunities. Reed’s ideas include artists creating progressive and jazz-based improvisations.

Performances, therefore, might include Neo-Soul and Free jazz, Progressive, Experimental and Contemporary, and Avant-Garde jazz.

Winter’s Jazz Club

Winter’s Jazz Club

This is a well known Chicago jazz club that is a little different in the way it operates from some of its competitors; some consider it to be a more formal, purist club. 

They say that because in the “Listening Room,” there is a no-talking policy, and there is no food that might detract from the listening atmosphere. There is room for 125 people in a strict atmosphere of music first, which both customers and musicians seem to appreciate.

Besides the Listening Room, there is a lounge and bar area that also takes smaller performances, seating about 25 people.

The Location

It is located in the Streeterville area of Chicago, which is a particularly popular area of the city. To the south is the river and to the west is a section of the Magnificent Mile and which is close to the Navy Pier. 

It overlooks the Ogden slip, which gives you some spectacular views of the Chicago skyline. The address is 465 N. McClurg Court, Chicago, IL, 60611-5144.

The Style

There is a show every night, and you can expect to hear singers as well as musicians performing Swing, Big Band, New Orleans, and Gypsy Jazz.

The Green Mill

The Green Mill

It is thought that The Green Mill is the oldest jazz club in America. It has gone through a few changes over the years, but the original opened in 1907.

In 1986, Dave Jemilo acquired it, and it underwent a major refurbishment and closed for a while. Once open again, it became a hot spot for Chicago jazz once again. And once again, those “into the early hours” jam sessions resumed.

The music made by the musicians at this venue has always been special. You can hear for yourself with Goin’ To Chicago (Live At Green Mill Jazz Club, Chicago/1999).

Some History

In the past, Billie Holiday sang here, and Benny Goodman played here. But, other than the music greats, there is another reason this place has historical significance. I mentioned earlier that some jazz clubs attracted some unsavory local characters. The Green Mill was one of those.

They don’t come any more unsavory than this…

In the 1920s, Al Capone was a regular with his “business associates.” They had a special booth prepared for them that allowed visuals of both entrances to the club. I can’t think why they were so nervous.

As far as history goes, there were no midnight shoot-outs in the club, just some great music. The booth was preserved in its original place in the club during renovations. And now, it stands as a reminder of Chicago’s past and has on display a lot of Capone memorabilia to prove it. 

These days…

The club seats about 150 people, and you can expect a very traditional series of jazz shows with Traditional, Contemporary, and Bebop, of course. 

It is interestingly called “The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.” Perhaps a throwback to the Roaring Twenties. It is located at 4802 North Broadway Street, Chicago, Illinois 60640.

Are You a Fan of Jazz Music?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Jazz Songs, the Best Jazz Albums of All Time, the Best Jazz Musicians of All Time, and the Best Jazz Saxophone Players for more great songs and artists.

Also, if you are an aspiring jazz musician, you may enjoy our in-depth reviews of the Best Guitar Amps For Jazz, the Best Jazz Guitars, the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz, and the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz you can buy in 2023.

Best Chicago Jazz Clubs – Final Thoughts

It is good to see that some things don’t change much. Chicago’s jazz scene is one of them. The mercurial Miles Davis was born and brought up in Illinois, not too far away, in 1926. 

Louis Armstrong moved here from New Orleans in 1922. And the “King of Swing” Benny Goodman was born in Chicago in 1909. It is a town with illustrious jazz history. And jazz is still very much a part of the culture of the city.

Chicago is still roaring…

And the Chicago Jazz festival has re-commenced after an enforced layoff. Jazz is special, and Chicago is one of the homes to that special feeling. Some people ask what jazz is. But, as Louis Armstrong once said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” He would know.

Until next time, enjoy visiting the jazz clubs of Chicago.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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