Date: Friday, 28 July 2006 - 1:13 AM (Saturday)
Subject: New Velvet capsule overnight review
It's a great day for the city of Chicago, and for persevering fans of creative music - the Velvet Lounge has re-opened on Cermak Avenue, a few blocks west of the previous location. After the wheels of real-estate progress forced him from his institution on Indiana (the late Steve Lacy called it a 'temple'), Fred Anderson was eager to get the doors opened and the bugs worked out before the official grand opening in a couple of weeks. 'Tuning the room' would be a better way to say it, the old place might have had a few insects (or worse) but the new Velvet is shiny new, except for the vintage bar and back-bar, which are authentic and very classy. Very well done, very thoughtful layout, clean lines but not strip-mall, a nice live room with an azure theme, lacking only some sound baffles or diffusers for the exposed industrial-strength high ceiling. The un-carpeted stage is a comfortable height, the sound re-inforcement modest and efficient. A few scattered paintings nicely break up the oceanic feel, and there is a colorful portrait of Fred with his horn in the smart glass entrance hall (next winter when you don't feel like standing out in the cold, you will say "that was smart").
There isn't much to recognize from the old place except for the giant octopus chandeliers - the only other reminder is the window posters incorporating that classic wallpaper. The space has large windows on the Cermak side, and it looks like they are still working on that. The intent is to have the shows start a little earlier, for now at least they are being listed at 9 PM. The inaugural honors fell to Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Isaiah Spencer (drums), Kevin Nabors (sax) and Junius Paul (bass), all young but experienced regulars who are capable of injecting originality into jazz form, without attempting anything avant. Hey now this is top drawer, the performers even have a dressing room. Yet another plus: we have moved now closer to Harold's Chicken Shack #71, whose catfish surpassed Fitzee's (shout out to Percy & Curly). No reason to go to the White Castle on the north side of Cermak. Or you could hit Chinatown before the show, it's only a half mile west. Street parking; definite neighborhood flavor (panhandlers). Remember that before you plunk down a big deposit on your future Lexington Park Condominium (site of the old Velvet).
Corey Wilkes, Junius Paul, Kevin Nabor on opening night - 28 July 2006
the new Velvet Lounge on Cermak - July 2006
*** I was just told that the 'Velvet Lady' painting has also found a new home in the New Velvet, what a relief ***
Sorry the one-two heat-humidity punch has fused my brain, maybe I'll add more later. Stay tuned for the upcoming schedule to be announced shortly.... Branford Marsalis drop-in? possible future Braxton? Witches & Devils for Halloween? can't think of a good hint for the grand-opening so you'll just have to call Fred, which will give you the opportunity to say congratulations, welcome back, thanks for everything -
all bst ~ m