As the performance time nears, a packed room of jazz, tap, and every other type of music fan squeezes into tables and couches and barstools. They all face a stage of instruments, behind which hangs a giant picture of saxophonist Charlie Parker- a reminder that next month is Charlie Parker month at the Jazz Showcase. Waiters squeeze through to order drinks as their patrons sit back and get ready to enjoy a night of pure music and talent.
The jazz trio featuring Eric Hochberg, Vijay Tellis-Nayak, and Ernie Adams start off the night smoothly drawing the audience into the rhythm of the music. Once everyone’s all warmed up, Broadway star Lisa LaTouche takes the mic to introduce a few special acts. Throughout the night dancers Dani Borak, Nico Rubio, Star Dixon, Jumaane Taylor, Sean Kaminski, Maud Arnold, Lee Howard, Tristan Bruns, Tre Dumas, Bril Barrett, and Ali Bradley all perform.
Interspersed among the set acts are students and singers- including one younger woman who forgot the words to “At Last” but still finished with impressive gusto- who have chosen to try their hands at performance in a smaller, supportive venue. The dancers are all clearly talented, impressing the audience with their ability to move within and without the music. The night invokes a feeling of rhythmic freedom as dancers choose their music and let their bodies flow along with the beat of their feet. The trio is versatile, adjusting well to the dancers, and the audience is invested in every last performance.
This writer recommends both the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and the Jazz Showcase to music, dance, and all performance-lovers alike. Many of the performers and even audience members know each other well, their paths linked through dance or music or simply the love of both. And yet sitting there, listening to dancers’ families cheer and different performers try to one-up each other, it is easy enough to feel a sense of belonging in this world. Jazz music is versatile- it’s simple enough to move to, even in your seat, but intricate enough to respect as if from afar. Tap is similar, with the small intricacies of the movement escaping the layman’s eye while the skill and creative beat of the performance engages even the least musically trained observer. The meld of the two creates a musical performance that watchers are unlikely to see on any other stage.
JUBA! Masters of Tap and Dance Concert
The Studebaker Theater
Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago