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Best Jazz Bands In Chicago

Chicago may be known as the Windy City, but it's also a city that knows and appreciates the rhythms of jazz. One reason for that is the legendary Louis Armstrong started building his famous reputation here. Today, jazz clubs abound, whether you're looking for a big venue or a small intimate setting. Head to these clubs and check out the sounds of some of the best jazz bands around, both in Chicago and beyond.
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Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan
(312) 409-1601

Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan isn't just any jazz band. It specializes in gypsy-jazz music that's been influenced by the likes of guitarist Django Reinhardt, who played 1930s-style music. It also means the group plays acoustic instruments with a happy beat. The band is led by Alfonso, who plays the lead guitar, and he's accompanied by a wide range of talent, including bandmates who play the upright bass, violin, rhythm guitar and even a Cimbalom. Special guests from around the world are even known to take the stage with the band. Whether playing at Chicago's Jazz Fest or at a local club like Green Mill, you're in for a good show when Alfonso Ponticelli takes the stage.

The Fat Babies

For some classic jazz, look no further than The Fat Babies, who offer weekly shows at both Green Mill and Honky-Tonk BBQ in Chicago. The seven-piece ensemble – consisting of reeds, cornet, trombone, banjo/guitar, piano and drums – play songs in the style of classic 20s and 30s jazz. While the band does travel around the country for shows, its home is definitely Chicago. And if you need proof of that, check out the group's beautiful recording, through Delmark Record label, named "18th and Racine."

Green Mill
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Sabertooth Organ Quartet
Green Mill Lounge
4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 878-5552

This quartet's music is influenced by a number of genres, not just classic jazz. There's a bit of rock and ethnic mixed in too, and the group's sounds are influenced by John Coltrane. As the house band of Green Mill, you'll also always know where to find Sabertooth Organ Quartet. The band plays in this Uptown lounge every Saturday night, and has been since 1992. With the frontline playing saxes and flutes, Sabertooth also knows how to keep the party going as it never takes the stage before midnight.

Related: Best Chicago Jazz Clubs

Dee Alexander
(312) 945-8333

As a songwriter and singer, Dee Alexander has worked in a wide variety of genres, but her heart belongs to jazz. While she's sung with a number of bands, including jazz tribute bands, she also leads a quartet (including a piano, percussion and drums, and bass) as well as an ensemble that includes a cello, percussion and guitar. She's played all over the world, including the Kennedy Center. Chicago is her home, and she was even named "Chicagoan of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune back in 2007.

Chicago Jazz Orchestra

(847) 521-2783

Back in the late 1970s, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra was just a simple rehearsal band. Decades later, the orchestra features some of the best jazz musicians in the city – trumpeter Marquis Hill for one – and it has played all around the world. But Chicago Jazz Orchestra still rehearses, and plays, at some of the best venues in the city, including the Pritzker Pavilion and the Ravinia Festival. The orchestra covers the whole gamut of jazz instruments, including trumpets, saxophones, trombones, piano, bass, drums and guitar. Vocals are by Frieda Lee.

Related: Best Local Female Musicians in Chicago

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's writing about a variety of topics for numerous websites and blogs, and working part-time at a culinary vacation company based in the Windy City. Some of her work can be found at


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