Chicago is one of the country’s major musical epicenters. It has served as the birthplace of the Chicago blues and the stomping grounds of some of the greatest musicians to ever live.
Shortly after the turn of the century, the Great Migration brought millions of African-Americans from the South to the industrial cities of the North and, with it, jazz and blues music. The movement gave way to a burgeoning music scene throughout the first half of the 20th century. Some of the most well-known names in jazz either hail from or got their start in the Windy City, including Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, Gene Krupa, Herbie Hancock and Benny Goodman.
To this day, jazz is a cultural stronghold in Chicago, and there is no shortage of clubs and venues that cater to jazz lovers. Some have been around for decades; others are hoping to carve out a name for themselves among a younger jazz-loving generation.
Whether you’re a native Chicagoan or an out-of-towner here on business, you don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to enjoy a special night out at some of the best jazz clubs the city has to offer. Here are some of our favorites.
4802 N Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60640
The Green Mill is one of the most well-known jazz clubs in the country. It’s as famous for its jazz performances as it is for its connections to the Chicago mob. During the Prohibition era, the Green Mill was tied to Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit. A network of tunnels once used by mobsters is believed to lie underneath the club, and Capone’s favorite booth still sits at the end of the bar.
Whichever evening you visit the Green Mill, you can catch some truly impressive jazz performers sharing the stage with the storied history of this Chicago landmark. Stop by on a Sunday night for their acclaimed Uptown Poetry Slam.
The Green Mill is open seven nights a week and hosts matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
806 S Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL 60605
The Jazz Showcase – Chicago’s oldest jazz club – has been considered one of the Windy City’s best jazz spots since it opened in 1947. Founder Joe Segal still owns and operates the venue to this day.
The club has changed locations numerous times since its inception and relocated to its current location on South Plymouth Court in 2008. The City of Chicago actually renamed the street “Joe Segal Way” to honor Segal’s legacy.
You may have heard of some of the names that have graced the stage at The Jazz Showcase. Does Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Count Basie, Sun Ra or Jimmy McGriff ring a bell?
The Jazz Showcase hosts performances seven nights a week and 4 p.m. matinees on Sundays
11 E Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL 60611
Andy’s has served as one of Chicago’s most prominent jazz clubs since the ‘50s. The club is known for its 5 p.m. performances, or “Jazz at Five,” which has since become a Chicago tradition.
Andy’s is open every night from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., with performances at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Make reservations for dinner and get there early if you’d like to stay a while.
The club also hosts “Legends of Jazz” lunch events, where you can enjoy great music and food during the afternoon, just as you would during an evening performance.
710 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60654
If you’re a night owl, head to composer and producer Lonie Walker’s brainchild on Clark Street between Superior and Huron: the Underground Wonder Bar. On most evenings, you can catch late night performances that last well into the wee hours of the morning. The Underground Wonder Bar is open as late (or early, depending on your definition of “late”) as 4:30 on some nights.
The Underground Wonder Bar showcases artists across a range of jazz-infused genres, like smooth jazz, reggae, funk, R&B and soul. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday evenings you can catch performances by Ms. Walker herself.
The Wonderbar has also been known to attract a celebrity or two throughout the week, giving the club a star-studded appeal.
The Underground Wonderbar is open seven nights a week, 365 days a year.
Choose OML Worldwide for Transportation on Your Night Out
The key to any great night out in Chicago is having safe, reliable transportation at the ready.
OML Worldwide has more than 50 years of experience providing dependable, quality car service to clients across Chicagoland. We offer a diverse range of vehicles to ensure that your needs are accommodated.
You don’t want to miss out on the great cocktails at these legendary Chicago jazz bars because you have to drive home. Request a quote, secure a reservation with OML Worldwide and rest easy. All you’ll have to do is enjoy the music.
*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2015 and has since been updated to reflect the most accurate information.