67 E. Cermak Rd. (2200S, 100E) Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 791-9050

Though there’s a distinct absence of real velvet, the smoothness of the Velvet Lounge comes instead from tenor sax man and owner, Fred Anderson, also an Arts Midwest Jazz Master and former Sun Ra band member. Anderson originally ran a non-profit club in the mid-70s called Birdhouse at 4512 N. Lincoln, named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. Anderson later tended bar at Tip’s Lounge on South Indiana, to help out a sick friend. When the owner passed away, Fred took over and re-christened it “Velvet Lounge” in 1982. The lounge was across from the Lexington Hotel where Geraldo Rivera once raided Al Capone’s “secret vault” in 1986 that only contained dust and a bewildered cockroach. When the building was sold to become condos, the “New Velvet Lounge” re-opened a few blocks south in 2006. Fortunately, the memorable chandeliers were moved and jazz continues every night except Mon/Tue. Bands start around 9pm and often feature Anderson himself playing alongside AACM-Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians members, a group of South Side jazz pioneers that he co-founded in 1965. Sunday nights feature the “Velvet Jam,” from 6:30pm until almost midnight ($5 cover). The audience is a combination of black South Siders, old-school jazz lovers, local music students, and adventurous North Siders. The common bond: everyone loves the jazz (and Fred). For more information, check out the New Velvet Lounge website, daddy-o.


Full review coming soon…