Attending Back Alley Jazz in the South Shore neighborhood this Saturday was truly a pleasure. Being able to interact with the attendees and be welcomed into their community was absolutely worth withstanding the 80 degree weather. The premise behind this block party was to highlight the historic DJ jam sessions that were the original Jazz in the Alley events of the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of holding the day’s events in neighbor’s garages, allies, and backyards, like last year and during the original series, the creators of this year’s rendition of Jazz in the Alley decided to hold the celebration in the street, block party style. Those historic jam sessions and gatherings from the 60’s allowed musicians to engage with the community while doing what they loved, performing. And that tradition is certainly one worth remembering.
Back Alley Jazz is the community organized event that seamlessly combines history, jazz, and community. The second annual back alley jazz was revived to shed light on the original jazz in the alley events that took place nearly 60 years ago. The original events took place in Hyde Park and other areas throughout the city and gave individuals the opportunity to gather and enjoy music. They gathered with the community and other musicians and artists alike to perform, DJ, battle, and simply connect with their peers. Thus the event this weekend allowed guests and participants to do just that. The schedule for the day allowed attendees to start the day off with a parade possession featuring Grand Marshall Jimmy Ellis who is the co-founder of Jazz in the Alley. The parade featured multiple musicians and also encouraged everyone to bring an instrument and join! Throughout the rest of the day various talents performed like Ladies and Gentlemen of Jazz, The Godfather, Ice-Tank and more. Along with an abundance of timeless music, the event also featured tables for art activities and multiple vendors to shop with like The Slab BBQ.
When speaking with the project manager, Olivia Junell, she mentioned several aspects that differed this year compared to last year, and simply put the biggest difference was the scale of which it was held. Last year’s event was organized by directly by the jazz festival, advertised on a larger scale and showcased talent from outside of the area. This year the event was brought back to the city. Not only was Chicago talent showcased, the entire day was envisioned and executed by community members and neighbors! The South Shore community successfully organized music, art, food, and history into a day of fun for all ages. It’s no question that this year’s celebration embodied the tradition and goals of Jazz in the Ally. The energy and emotions that flowed through the streets resembled those of passion, positivity, and love.
While the event did a wonderful job gathering an engaging crowd, there was a lack of youth present. Despite the performance by Urban Aspirations, there wasn’t a vast connection to the city’s youth prevalent in Saturday’s celebration. While speaking with Olivia, she mentioned that the organization noticed this decline and plans to find ways to incorporate the youth more in next year’s celebration! Although Jazz in the Alley is a concept that’s familiar to the Chicago community, this revival of the tradition is one to watch for and participate in every year. As long as the events continue to remain community and history oriented, the tradition of Jazz in the Alley will remain alive, and the continuation of Back Alley Jazz will only get better!