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Honoring Chicago's New Doctor Of Jazz

"Joe Segal, founder of Chicago's Jazz Showcase, will receive an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater, Roosevelt University, on Friday at the Auditorium Theatre," the school has announced.

"A Roosevelt student between 1947 and 1957, Segal, 87, began presenting jazz shows for the enjoyment of all Chicagoans beginning in 1947, and his jam sessions at Roosevelt were known to feature such legendary musicians as Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and many others.

"'Joe Segal, because of his decades-long dedication to the preservation and promotion of jazz in American culture, is a cultural icon in his own right,' said Roosevelt University president Chuck Middleton.

"Segal will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, during the university's commencement ceremony for about 450 students. He will continue to host free performances by singers and musicians in Roosevelt's jazz program at the Showcase during Spring 2014."


"After high school, Segal joined the Air Force and was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi," Mike Jeffers wrote for Chicago Jazz in 2011.

"Biloxi was not a hotbed of jazz, but Segal soon met some jazz musicians and started hanging out with them at their gigs. Watching the bands perform at night, then sneaking back onto the base, became a routine. Towards the end of his Air Force career he was stationed in Champaign, Illinois, which made it easy for him to get a weekend pass, hop on a train, and head to Chicago."


"He regularly came to Chicago on the weekends to hear the music, and when he left finally left the Air Force he moved to the city, sleeping on a sofa at his uncle's place while attending Roosevelt University on the GI Bill. Roosevelt tried placing out-of-town students in homes with families, and a few months into attending the university, they notified Joe that they had a room for him 'if he wanted it.'

"Segal later found out he was the first white student to be placed with an African American family as an 'experiment.' The experiment would work out in Segal's favor. The family he was placed with lived at 47th and Champlain Avenue, which was just around the corner from 47th and South Park (now Martin Luther King Drive), where the Congo Hotel was located. In the basement of the hotel was a club called the Hole, where you could hear some of the city's top musicians, including Gene Ammons, Junior Mance, Tom Arch and Ike Day. Next to the Congo Hotel was the Savoy Ballroom and the Regal Theater. He soon got to know the manager of the Regal Theater, which enabled him to get into the shows and meet headliners Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Sarah Vaughan and many others."


Joe Segal, 2011.


Some notable Jazz Showcase performances:

Von Freeman, New Year's Eve 1983


Mose Allison, 2010


Art Ensemble of Chicago, 1981.


The Robert Glasper Trio, 2011


Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco, 1987.


Comments welcome.


Posted on December 12, 2013

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