Neil Tesser’s “Critic’s Choice” is always a good source of information about who’s playing where (although why he ignores local gems like Bobby Broom’s Big Deal Trio and the Chuck Hedges Swingtet I’ll never know), but I have to question Mr. Tesser’s assessment of the Bop Shop’s new, two-band setup in his January 7 column.
Because of the double bands, the pool tables, the pinball machine and the jukebox–where’s the girl in the hula hoop?–the Bop Shop has gone from one of the best jazz clubs in Chicago to something resembling an arcade. The two-band setup is brutal. After listening to one band for an hour, a break from listening–not another 60 minutes of music immediately after–makes going to clubs cool. Also, I have seen one band’s fans listen to that band for their set and totally ignore the following band. This, I feel, is unfair to this following band, but then again, these patrons have just taken in a 60-minute set. (Anyone attending the recent Funky Wordsmyths/Jeff Newell Quintet gig knows exactly what I’m talking about. It was something like the Phil Woods Quintet trying to follow a slammin’ Public Enemy set.)
The pool tables in what used to be the main music room should be switched to an area way away from all musical acts. It was extremely irritating to hear the sound of pool balls scattering about while a bass trumpeter named Ryan Schultz attempted to play a ballad.
This is not meant to dis the Bop Shop at all. I have enjoyed going there since it opened and admire Kate Smith (the owner) a lot. But she needs to know that she is damaging a special jazz club by doing too much of too much. Please, Kate, appeal to as many people as you can to frequent your club, but not all at once.
Still a loyal Bophead,
Neil Tesser replies:
I’ll leave it to others to defend the Bop Shop’s policy of double booking, saying only that enough people have managed to look beyond its inevitable shortcomings to enjoy the hell out of it.
I must however correct the implication that I ignore local artists. I ran a quick count (computers let you do that) and found that my Critic’s Choices covered 21 local artists in 1993–more than a quarter of the 82 that I wrote. Over the last three years I’ve written more than 50 previews of Chicago musicians. In fact, the very item that prompted Mr. Hall’s letter concerned–you guessed it–two Chicago artists.