Among the biggest news on Chicago’s jazz scene is a book project that Joe Segal, founder of the Jazz Showcase and I have been working on for the past couple years entitled, Stay On It!: A personalized journal of NEA Jazz Master Joe Segal during his 70+ years of musical endeavors. The book chronicles Segal’s early life growing up in Philadelphia, his move to Chicago in the late 1940s, the start of the Roosevelt Sessions at Roosevelt College, and his thousands of sessions at venues such as the Gate of Horn, the Brown Shoe, North Park Hotel, Jazz Showcase on Rush Street and at the Blackstone Hotel, and many other locations. He shares stories about Charlie Parker, Ira Sullivan, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, and Dexter Gordon to name a few, and talks about the rich history of the Chicago jazz scene.
It all started about two years ago at the Jazz Showcase when Joe asked me if I knew anything about publishing a book. I had already been publishing Chicago Jazz Magazine for 14 years, so I thought it couldn’t be much different. Boy, was I wrong! Joe had already started writing about his early life and some of the venues and sessions he had been running, so there was a framework of copy in place. When he showed me the hundreds of photos that he had amassed over the years, I knew it was going to be a longer process than first thought.
Joe Segal going through the many photos that are included in Stay On It!!!
Joe and I got together a few times in the first few months to map out a timeline for the book and to start matching the photos with the text he had written. As we put the sections together he would discover more photos relevant to a particular section, and then insert more information about a club or musician. The book continued to take shape, but in order for us to get the book out by the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival, we needed to start meeting on a regular basis. For the past six months we met weekly at the Jazz Showcase, usually in the afternoon and through the hours leading up to the evening performance. I would bring in large plastic tubs full of photos and the latest proof sheets and we would sit at the bar or in the green room and pour over the material.
In the middle of July it looked like we were nearing completion. Dan Ferris, co-founder and editor of Chicago Jazz Magazine, had been editing the book on and off throughout the process, and spent two weeks reviewing copy and page layouts, along with myself and Joe. Stay On It! is now available at the Jazz Showcase and through select online sites. It was an honor to take part in the publishing of this book, which documents Jazz Master honoree Joe Segal’s life in jazz, and to work alongside a man who has been at the center of Chicago’s storied jazz scene for more than 70 years.