By Sujoy Dhar
#Chicago, #ChicagoNight, #RiccardoMuti, #Jazz, #ChicagoSymphonyOrchestra
IBNS: On a September evening in Chicago, as we got off the Uber at the Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, after a short ride from our hotel in the theatre district known as The Loop, we barely knew how lucky we were to be witnessing a performance of Riccardo Muti.
It was later in a New York Times article that I found online I discovered that this perhaps is the last of the 82-year-old Italian maestro’s performances in Chicago where he conducted the orchestra as its director for 13 years.
He is the music director emeritus for life starting this season though his tenure as director that began with the 2010-11 season, ends this year.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
So we were lucky to be attending a concert by Riccardo Muti. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) opened the 2023/24 Season with two pieces by Muti capturing the fairy-tale splendor of Russian music. They are Stravinsky’s suite from The Firebird, which uses a dynamic orchestral palette to depict infernal dances and a haunting lullaby, and Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake, which is a softly iridescent portrait of a moonlit night.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) opened the 2023/24 Season with two pieces by Muti capturing the fairy-tale splendor of Russian music. Photo by the author.
Composed at an Austrian lakeside resort, Brahms’ Second symphony captivates with its warm, sunny melodies.
As the full house audience broke into applause and standing ovations, it was a power-packed musical experience to cherish forever.
Muti conducts the symphony orchestra at the CSO which is reported as his last season as its director. Below a close up of Muti. Photo courtesy his Facebook page.
Chicago is many things for many people- the dizzying, magnificent skyscrapers, the bascule bridges over the Chicago river, the Michigan lake shoreline. But what I love about Chicago is its pre-eminence as a centre of art and culture and its classy nightlife options beyond just nightclubs and discos.
So it is here that you can expect a grand Muti orchestra performance after you have visited some small venue for an intimate jazz show the previous night. Well, we did actually.
All that Jazz
A night before the larger-than-life Muti concert, I experienced something more intimate at the Winter’s Jazz Club– a performance by Andy Brown & Friends.
Andy Brown on guitar, Andy Pratt on vocal and guitar, Denis Luxion on piano, and Phil Gratteau on drums turned the small venue into some classy jazz hotspot.
Andy Brown on guitar, Andy Pratt on vocal and guitar, Denis Luxion on piano, and Phil Gratteau on drums turned the small venue into some classy jazz hotspot. Photo by the author.
I loved their gig and gathered more details about the performers. Andy Brown is a guitarist based in Chicago. Born in New York in 1975, he has played professionally for over twenty five years. These discoveries about musicians in a foreign land are a part of my culturally enriching journeys across the world.
Since coming to Chicago in 2003, Andy has been performing at many of the area’s finest jazz venues with his own bands, as well as playing his unique brand of solo jazz guitar.
So you can find him not just at Winter’s Jazz Club, where in an intimate setting you quietly sip a glass of beer and watch him perform (1-Drink minimum purchase of $10/person). Look for him at places like The Jazz Showcase, Ravinia and the Harris Theater. He also plays solo guitar every Thursday at The Green Mill in Uptown and leads his quartet every Wednesday at Andy’s Jazz Club.
Chicago, which is the birthplace of house music and Chicago-style jazz, knows how to keep the party going. While during my three-day stay this September I could experience a memorable Muti concert and an intimate jazz performance, I found some other neighbourhood details from the Choose Chicago website for visitors to pick.
Other music hotspots
In the culturally diverse Uptown, which has been an entertainment hotspot since the Roaring Twenties, some of the city’s most beloved music venues are located. It also boasts of one of Chicago’s oldest jazz clubs.
Green Mill, a Prohibition-era hideaway and a favorite of Al Capone, is here. Al Capone who? Known as “Scarface”, he was an American gangster who attained notoriety during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit, an organised Italian-American crime syndicate of the 1910-20s.
Locals love the Green Mill for its nightly jazz shows that keep the music going till late into the night.
Just around the corner, the Riviera Theatre is billed as a great place to catch popular national acts and indie bands.
Photo by Clayton Hauck/Choose Chicago
Wicker Park is another haven for artists and musicians, according to the website. You’ll find music venues all around the six corners (the heart of the neighborhood at the spot where North, Milwaukee, and Damen Avenues intersect), where you can see well-known acts or discover some of the latest local talent.
Logan Square is also a hipster hangout that locals love for its dive bars, art galleries, coffee shops, and cocktail lounges.
Then you have Lincoln Park, home to amazing music venues, all within a few blocks of each other near Halsted Street.
Pilsen is another spot known for its miles of colourful murals, rich Latino culture, and authentic Mexican cuisine. It’s also home to a vibrant nightlife, including the ultimate destination for music lovers — Thalia Hall, a landmark building that’s home to some of the city’s hottest bars and venues.
That magnificent Chicago night view
The vibrant music scene apart, Chicago of dizzying heights also energises visitors. From the 94th floor of a Chicago tower that night with a glass of Chardonnay wine at the bar, the feeling was fizzy, unreal and “life-is-good”. So besides soulful music, if you want a real feel good time with your own glass of spirits and a magical city all around you, 360 CHICAGO is the place to head. After sundown, this top-of-the-world spot is not just touristy, but also classy.
The sweeping night view of the Windy City from 360 Chicago. Photo by the author.
At 360 CHICAGO, the guest experience begins at the ground floor with a walk-through exhibition celebrating Chicago’s history and three of its 77 culturally rich neighborhoods. Then take the elevators to the 94th floor where you’ll be greeted by breathtaking 360-degree views of Chicago’s famous skyline and majestic lakefront (it looks eerie during night) from the 17,000-square foot observation deck.
The panoramic touch screens feature 360-degree views of the skyline as well as information on the city’s history, architecture, natural scenery, and culture.
Well I recommend 360 Chicago by night for holding that goblet of wine by the observation deck window at the newly opened Cloudbar and sip gently as a magnificent city of skyscrapers by a magnificent lake keeps vigil of a young night outside.
Cloudbar on the 94th floor is the newly opened skybar in Chicago.
Dine by Chicago river
A magical Chicago night experience is incomplete if you do not dine by the riverfront. So we chose a dinner at Porter Kitchen and Deck, located on the Chicago River for some classic American cuisine. The expansive lunch, dinner and bar selections include entrées, fresh seafood, salads and sandwiches — including some of Four Corners’ signature favorites. Additionally, the bar serves craft beers, wines and cocktails that pair with the cuisine.
Food glorious food at Porter Kitchen and Deck, by Chicago river.
We settled for my favourite Rose wine with grilled pita and hummus (fennel, red onion, tomato, lemon, sumac) , crispy shrimp (ginger-soy glaze, miso aioli, scallions, sesame seeds), seared scallops (sweet corn puree, spring pea succotash, poblano oil) and salmon.
Midnight filming in the Chicago theatre district The Loop.
That night, as we were walking back to the hotel ( Hotel Cambria in the heart of downtown known as The Loop), a drone whizzed past over my head while a fancy blazing green car with strange wheel sizes on one side clambered through the street. I was wondering what was going on. And then I discovered I am in the middle of a shoot with these special automobiles and drones. Well, that was an exciting end to a night of music and food by the riverside.
Midnight filming in the Chicago theatre district. A fancy blazing green car with strange wheel sizes on one side clambered through the street.