Blue (Note) in Green (Mill)–A Screenplay

(Based on actual events)

Scene 1: In separate apartments on opposite sides of town, Chicago’s two best-known jazz vocalists–KURT ELLING and PATRICIA BARBER–are each planning to record a new album.

Barber & Elling (in unison): This next album should be live at the Green Mill!

Cut to still of Green Mill Jazz Club, with poster showing it to be the regular weekly showcase for both artists–Elling on Wednesdays, Barber on Sundays and Mondays.

Scene 2: In his north-side office, DAVE JEMILO, owner of the Green Mill, replaces telephone receiver, leans back, then jumps forward and snaps fingers.

Jemilo: They each want to record for three nights; if we run the recording sessions back-to-back, it will be a great event–two live albums in the same week. We’ll bring in a new Steinway piano. We’ll advertise it as one event. It is an event! Think of the synergy!

Scene 3: A seedy hot dog stand in Bucktown. Enter MIKE FRIEDMAN, founder and president of Premonition Records–Barber’s Chicago-based recording label–to rendezvous with a local journalist, M.L. HENCKEN.

Friedman: Well, I can’t announce it yet, but it’s official: we’re going with Blue Note.

Hencken: Blue Note Records? The New York label that already records Kurt Elling?

Friedman: That’s right. We’ll retain control of the production and marketing, but all of the Premonition discs will now be distributed by Blue Note; and Patricia Barber’s albums will be pressed on a new imprint–Blue Note/Premonition.

Hencken: So you’ll be able to sell even more than–say, exactly how many of Barber’s albums have you sold?

Friedman: You mean the last one, Modern Cool? Fifty-five thousand and counting, worldwide. And even though it came out last summer, it’s sold enough since January to be ranked 20th on SoundScan’s list of jazz albums for this year! But the new deal will make her music even more widely available.

Scene 4: Sunday morning, a few hours before dawn, the weekend before Elling’s three nights of live recording. A Lincoln Park street corner. Enter ROSE and GUILD, two young hip-hoppers, carrying stacks of posters. The posters read, “The Jazz Recording Sessions of the Year: KURT ELLING JULY 14-16; PATRICIA BARBER JULY 17-19 at the Green Mill.” Rose produces a staple gun and begins attaching posters to poles.

Guild: What a great idea, to record both these guys live.

Rose: What was wrong with their previous discs?

Guild: Nothing, but have you heard either of them in person? There’s a whole other thing going on–a different energy. I mean, Barber has all these new tunes, and Elling–I heard he’s got a whole set of lyrics for one of the sections of “A Love Supreme”!

Rose looks down at the pile of posters.

Rose: You think we’ll have enough to do Uptown? We sure used a lot of these in Wicker Park.

Guild: Well, if they hadn’t used so many at that Starbucks on Sheffield…

Enter Friedman.

Friedman: We didn’t use that many. Besides, the publicity generated by having both of them play there is as good as a hundred posters–not to mention getting all the stores to play their albums for the last couple weeks. The panic is on!

Scene 5: Outside Green Mill, Friday, July 16. A line of customers snakes to the corner, where Jemilo welcomes BRUCE LUNDVALL, president of Blue Note, and an entourage of company men flown in from New York for the weekend. Two FANS wait impatiently in line.

Fan 1: Were you here last night? Man, was that amazing? Von Freeman, Eddie Johnson, and Ed Petersen, all playing saxophone with Kurt? Our own Three Tenors!

Fan 2: And Jon Hendricks tonight? Unbelievable. I never thought I’d get to see him in person; I figured the closest I’d ever get was those old Lambert, Hendricks & Ross albums from the 50s….

Enter Friedman, Rose, and Guild, who squeeze into the club. Hencken steps out of a cab and addresses the audience.


We may not need the praises of New York

To know the worth of what we have at home.

And yet such validation is for some

The proof they need. So fine; let’s pop the cork.

The bubbly flows, the tapes are rolling,

Kurt and Patty, the scene extolling.

Elling’s third and last recording session, featuring his trio and special guest Jon Hendricks, takes place tonight from 9 PM to 1 AM; admission is $7. Barber leads her quartet, featuring guitarist John McLean, Saturday from 8 PM to midnight, Sunday 11 PM to 2 AM, and Monday 9 PM to 1 AM; admission is $7 Saturday, $5 Sunday, and $6 Monday. Tickets are not available in advance.

The Green Mill is located at 4802 N. Broadway (773-878-5552). –Neil Tesser

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Mike Werner.