Fest Pub Crawl Stops at Chicago Jazz 'Temple'
Zalusky, Steve, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Steve Zalusky Daily Herald Staff Writer
You won't find the Velvet Lounge's name immortalized in huge headlines, despite its location.
Tucked among a series of storefronts in an ancient three-story brick edifice occupying parts of two city blocks, the bar, located at 2128 S. Indiana Ave., floats in a sea of Chicago history.
One block away once stood the Lexington Hotel, the administrative headquarters of Al Capone.
The bar is within walking distance of the site of the ill-fated E2 club.
Of course, the city would much rather have the area identified with McCormick Place, also nearby, or the rapidly gentrifying Prairie Avenue neighborhood.
The Velvet Lounge seems immune from temporal vicissitudes and geographic evolution. Like its owner, saxophonist Fred Anderson, it is ageless.
This year, the lounge will be part of the 25th annual Chicago Jazz Festival's pub crawl, or "pub tour," as festival committee chairman Art Lange calls it. On Wednesday, crawlers will stop at the Velvet Lounge to hear the Douglas Rosenberg Quintet.
The lounge will also be one of the locations for the "Afterfest Sessions," which will include such musicians as bassist Harrison Bankhead, trumpeter Orbert Davis and even Anderson himself.
In addition, the Jazz & Heritage Family Stage will host a "Velvet Lounge Jam" featuring the Greg Ward Quartet and the Dennis Winslet Quartet at 3 p.m. Aug. 31.
The Velvet Lounge epitomizes the type of venue that stresses music for music's sake.
The L-shaped room hasn't seen too many changes over the years. Its light-colored paneling looks like something out of your grandfather's basement. The bar is well-stocked not only with alcoholic libations but also with compact discs. Embellishments include candles shaded with African masks, 1970s-vintage floral wallpaper, posters of a younger sideburned Anderson, and a signed testimonial from soprano sax great Steve Lacy: "This is a temple!"
A temple indeed.
The 74-year-old Anderson was one of the founding fathers of the experimental Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in the 1960s. Over the years, he has performed at such Chicago venues as the Birdhouse and recorded for Chicago-based Delmark Records.
Anderson's personal involvement with the Velvet Lounge began when it was just a bar owned by a friend of his. …