Jazz Every Day

Your weekly guide to free jazz in Madison

Jun 28, 2012

Blues By 5 plays jazz the first and third Monday of each month at Liliana's Restaurant.

Blues By 5 plays jazz the first and third Monday of each month at Liliana's Restaurant.

Earlier this summer, the Isthmus Jazz Festival at the Memorial Union Terrace provided Madisonians with a broad view of the local jazz scene. While the often-improvised jazz felt blissfully endless in the moment, it inevitably had to end. But while the festival is long over, the jazz is still alive and thriving in Madison.

A handful of venues throughout the city provide a nightly home for the music. Restaurants like Liliana’s in Fitchburg and Otto’s Restaurant & Bar on the west side feature local heavyweights returning throughout the week, and the Ivory Room downtown frequently ventures into New Orleans jazz territory.

Then there are the weekly jam sessions at the Cardinal Bar and Liliana’s, which welcome musicians and listeners to experience unpredictable improvised performances week after week in a cozy atmosphere.

The Isthmus Jazz Festival brought performances to you, but if your ears are aching for more it may be time to do some research. You’ll find that in Madison, there is a huge variety of live options in nearly every styling—from retooled classics with the Rand Moore Jazz Quartet to innovative fiery Latin with Gerri DiMaggio, it’s hard to go wrong.

The biggest challenge may be getting started. Don’t fret; the day-by-day schedule below can be a great starting point to your Madison jazz experience. And none of these performances will cost you a cent.

Monday

On the first and third Mondays of every month, Liliana’s in Fitchburg serves more than just food. Blues By Five heats up the stage with classic blues and jazz pieces by Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, to name a few. While not technically in Madison, the commute to Fitchburg is well worth it for those aching to hear some old favorites. The show starts at 5:30 p.m., but to ensure a great spot, you might want to plan on arriving early.

Liliana’s Restaurant, 2951 Triverton Pike, Fitchburg. (608) 442-4444, lilianasrestaurant.com

Tuesday

Here’s one for the musicians out there looking to jam. The Cardinal Bar hosts weekly jam sessions with the New Breed for an unpredictable performance with nonstop good vibes. The night starts off each Tuesday at 9 p.m. with a set from the local jazz heavyweights and progresses to an open-format jazz session where anyone can take the stage for a number.

The Cardinal Bar, 418 East Wilson St. (608) 257-2473

Wednesday

If you caught her at the Isthmus Jazz Festival, you know that Gerri DiMaggio can sing to a crowd. And in a bustling outdoor setting like the Terrace, that isn’t always easy. But DiMaggio keeps the show going with her smooth, polished vocals every Wednesday at Otto’s Restaurant & Bar, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Otto’s Restaurant & Bar, 6405 Mineral Point Rd. (608) 274-4044, ottosrestaurant.com

Thursday

Playing at the Ivory Room Piano Bar, Johnny Chimes’s instrument of choice comes as no surprise. His hot New Orleans grooves, on the other hand, will make you forget you’re in Madison. Take an audible trip to the Bayou via the Ivory Room, Thursdays at 6:15 p.m.

The Ivory Room Piano Bar, 116, West Mifflin St. (608) 467-2404, ivoryroompianobar.com

Friday

Liliana’s in Fitchburg already got a mention in this schedule, but that doesn’t disqualify it from being a great place to see live jazz. The Rand Moore Quartet, another group you may recognize from the Isthmus Jazz Festival, holds the stage there on the first and third Fridays of every month at 6:30 p.m.

Liliana’s Restaurant, 2951 Triverton Pike, Fitchburg. (608) 442-4444, lilianasrestaurant.com

Saturday

It’s not a weekly event, but on July 16, the Jazz in the Park at Wingra Park is not a festival to miss. Daytime activities like a 5K run/walk and lake cleanup start at 9 a.m., and the music picks up at 2. The At Dim Fom Jazz Band, Edgewood Jazz Ensemble, Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet and Madisalsa will provide the swingin’ soundtrack to your day in the park. Visit jazzatwingra.com for more details.

Wingra Park, Madison, (608) 233-5332

Sunday

A lazy Sunday afternoon is a perfect time for another jam session, and this time it’s back at Liliana’s. All ages and skill levels are welcome to jump in and play along, just be ready to hear some feedback from the skilled veterans. Of course anyone can come to listen. Sessions start at 4 p.m. and occur two Sundays a month. Visit madisonjazzjam.org for a full schedule and more details.

Liliana’s Restaurant, 2951 Triverton Pike, Fitchburg. (608) 442-4444, lilianasrestaurant.com

For a more detailed schedule of jazz events in Madison, as well as some valuable insight into the Madison jazz community, visit madisonjazz.wordpress.com.

Joe Nistler is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

Photo of Blues By 5 courtesy of Liliana's Restaurant.

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