As a young woman in the late ’30s, early ’40s my great aunt spent many a night at big band jazz halls. As a teen, I loved hearing her stories of dressing up and dancing to swing music till all hours. In the following decades, jazz clubs became more places to sit and listen, and to eat, drink, smoke and socialize. The first jazz club I went to in Philly was Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus in Northern Liberties. You could still smoke in clubs then and the late great Shirley Horn (on vocals and piano) and the tenor sax master Bootsie Barnes (who sadly died of coronavirus in 2020) performed their magic. Ortlieb’s is now more of an indie music hang, but we still have Chris’ Jazz Cafe keeping the flames alive (for over 30 years) in Center City, just around the corner from University of Arts and its vibrant jazz program.
An evening at Chris’ Jazz is an event. Typically offering two shows a night of cream-of-the-crop quartets and quintets like drummer Ari Hoenig’s group, the evening also includes a three-course dinner of Southern (French-influenced) cuisine run by chef/owner Mark Deninno. They are known for the jambalaya, but you might also want t0 try the Chicken-Fried Lobster Tail on a waffle. It’s what my mom would call a “fancy” night out on the town. Dress up! Put some swing in your step! Hear some great jazz!