By Katelyn Skye Bennett
I’ve been wanting to chill in a jazz club for a while, to sit and enjoy the music and atmosphere. Moving to Chicago, opportunity to hear jazz abounds.
Andy’s Jazz Club in River North has operated as a restaurant since 1951 and as a jazz club since ’77. It offers jazz seven days a week and is consistently rated one of the top jazz clubs in the city. Customers come for “dinner and a show.”
One evening, I decided to check out the venue myself. I had reservations for Thursday, May 23, when the Trumpet Summit was doing their regular 9 p.m. show. The band has been aresident there for six years now.
My day was already going swell, and it was one of the first balmy days Chicago had this year, so although I was fatigued, my spirits were high.
Andy’s lifted them higher. I loved it. The staff was hospitable, and the venue’s atmosphere was romantic and calming, thanks to the music and dim lights.
First, Dhameera “D” Muhammad, the host that evening, offered me my selection of seats: up close or one with a view. For volume’s sake, I chose the
view, which meant a cushioned black seat against the back wall, a step above the floor. White tablecloths covered square tables across the floor beneath me.
Banners from past Chicago Jazz Festivals hung to the right of the stage, which was snug with a piano, bass, drum set, and several microphones but had also fit a full big band on other nights.
Before the band came on, I spoke with the manager on duty, Casey Lennon, who has worked there for a decade. “As an employee of the club, we come in and try to do our best every day,” he remarked. “It’s an experience.”
Lennon noted that Andy’s is a family-owned business that displays “the best musicians in Chicago and maybe the world.”
The club hosts ninety minute sets beginning at 5 and 7 p.m. and then 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. It also offers brunch shows on weekends.
At 9:30 p.m., the Trumpet Summit took the stage, stepping the atmosphere up from romantic background tracks to a more interactive experience with their live horns. Band leader Marques Carroll welcomed the audience before jumping into the set.
The band was comfortable on stage, talking amongst themselves between songs and clearly enjoying themselves as they performed. Isaiah Spencer beamed behind the drums, AmrMarcin Fahmy’s fingers danced across the piano, and Christian Dillingham contributed on bass, these musicians supporting Carroll, Victor Garcia, and Quentin Coaxum on trumpets.
The trumpet players’ sounds were distinct. They seemed to talk back and forth to each other and then come together in brief harmony before taking turns soloing or conversing once more.Carroll made faces and sang with his eyebrows to one of Coaxum’s solos, having fun with the set.
While the Trumpet Summit might not be world famous, they are professional Chicago artists and provided a truly enjoyable experience. Audience applause came from every corner of the club after each solo and song.
The couple in front of me kissed over their plates of pasta as the trumpets crooned. The décor, lighting, music, and everything about the night was comfortable and classy.
Andy’s charges a ten dollar cover charge for the music, and the menu is on the expensive side. It’s worth it if you can afford it, however. It truly is an experience, as Lennon said.
I skipped dinner and drinks but did order the flourless chocolate cake, which topped off the dessert menu at $11 a piece. Though gooey inside and rich in flavor, it was comparable to other flourless cakes. The blueberry sauce spooned in an arc on the side added some flair, and the decorative mint was honestly my favorite part due to its strong flavor.
During the show, the band invited guest vocalist Milton Suggs on stage. An old friend of theirs, he was visiting from New York. The drummer jokingly asked Suggs what key before he sang a bit. He returned to his drink while the trumpets shone and then sauntered back on stage to wrap up the song. The whole affair was so amusingly casual yet excellently performed.
Afterwards, I had the pleasure of speaking with Carroll, the band leader. He said that some of his favorites from that night wereJohn Coltrane’s “Naima” and an original by trumpeter Garciaentitled “Farewell My Love.”
“Music changed my life,” Carroll shared. His day job as a music instructor and counselor at the Chicago Jesuit Academy and his dreams to someday open a “huge” arts center on the West side of the city allow him to empower kids and teach life skills such as discipline through music. Every Thursday night is dedicated to playing at Andy’s and entertaining an adult audience.
What stuck with me most from the evening was the level of class in the club. It was also notable that everyone, including the staff, seemed to be enjoying themselves. As a new Chicagoan, I was delighted by the experience and plan to return when I can.