“When Will the Blues Leave?” Ornette Coleman asked the question in 1958 by way of the title of a piece in his first album. In Chicago, of all placesthe blues stronghold of the Midwest for nearly a centurythe question is implied in concerns of musicians and club owners who are trying to keep the form alive economically. In a long weekend piece in The Chicago Tribune, music critic Howard Reich surveys the blues club scene in the Windy City.
How long can a music that long flourished on the South and West sides — where the blues originators lived their lives and performed their songs — stay viable when most of the neighborhood clubs have expired? How long can a black musical art form remain dynamic when presented to a largely white audience in settings designed to replicate and merchandise the real thing?
Reich’s story has several photo and video sidebars that make it a sort of mini-documentary. To read (and view) the whole thing, go here.