By Camille Severino
Big Band Jazz came into the music scene in the late 20’s early 30’s. Legendary artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Glen Miller entertained pre WWII America with swing music. All these years later, after pre WWII music lovers danced to the big bands, this type of format seems to be hanging on strong.
FitzGerald’s Nightclub is one of the ropes that this style of music is hanging onto. Every Sunday evening, a Chicago based big band plays the music venue in Berwyn. People of all ages come out to have a drink, order a pizza and listen to some great big band jazz. There is a charge at the door of $10 and students get in for half price. It is not unusual to see a music major sitting in the crowd taking notes while swing dancers shimmy by.
One of the regular acts playing on Sundays at Fitzgerald’s is Bill O’Connell Big Band. Does that name sound familiar? If so, you must be majoring in Automotives here at Triton because Bill O’Connell is faculty in that department. Bill formed his band in 1988 to prolong the style. Bill O’Connell and the Chicago Skyliner’s are not in it for the money (and believe me, there is little money for the jazz musician), they are on “a mission to keep Big Bands alive” says their website. Big Band lovers like this writer are grateful they know their calling.
Another big band staple at FitzGerald’s is The John Burnett Orchestra whose host, John Burnett, is the morning host of 90.9 WDCB Public Radio. His morning jazz show is loved my people all over the city. This band specializes in ‘40’s style big band swing focusing on past legends like Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie and many more. Vocalist Frieda Lee is a must see (or hear). Her style is untouchable.
Last but most definitely not least in the FitzGerald’s rotating big bands is Chicago Grandstand Big Band. Lead by Bill Gilardon, CGBB has been bringing big band to the Chicago area for over thirty years. CGBB has appeared on WTTW’s Wild Chicago and members of this group have performed with the Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington orchestras. Julie Ann Caselli is the singer with the CGBB. Her smile and warmth are only topped by her show stopping vocals.
FitzGerald’s Nightclub is located at 6615 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn. Directions and show schedules can be found at www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.