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A new Chicago tradition..


"This is a place where we pick the music of the unrecorded and no-radio play," says Marguerite Horberg as she welcomes guests to the Women Make Half the Sound Festival 2000, created and sponsored by the HOTHOUSE, the International Center for Performance and Exhibition, located on Balbo Street in Chicago. "We do it by charging at the door, having a bar, and writing grants." Pointing towards the large gallery just beyond the bar in the other room, she notes that the current show is an Homage to artists from Ecuador.

The HOTHOUSE features all kinds of eclectic & creative music styles, from world music to jazz to works of new composition to free improvisation, even the fathers of the blues… In fact, Robert Lockwood Jr. celebrated his 85th birthday this year at the HOTHOUSE.

From 1991-1994, the HOTHOUSE curated the Women of the New Jazz Festival. The featured artists did not come from bebop or standards, but from a more avant garde position. Most were instrumentalists, and not the vocalists, so usually associated with women in jazz. Shortly thereafter the HotHouse closed for two years, in search of a new and better space to present the music. Now in it’s second year at the beautiful new location on Balbo Street, (downtown, and just a few blocks from the famous Lakeshore Park and Drive), Marguerite created the Women Make Half the Sound Festival 2000, in hopes to renew the case of the Women of the New Jazz Festival, and she hopes to do this project every six months, starting small scale with local talent and selected guests, and expanding as the project grows, and grants can be written.

Already from the programming currently in place, women carry a good ratio of the action with Yoko Noge’s Blues Band and the Mayumi Project, which blends Asian music and jazz, and often features the energetic Chicago bass player, Tatsu Aoki. With the mixed styles and programming, along with eclectic & stylish décor, Marguerite has managed to foster an audience that is culturally integrated, exemplified by the presence of a racially mixed white, black and Asian clientele. Aside from the musical diversity, in both the international gallery and the club itself, the proliferation of art from around the world, African, Asian, and art deco blends to form an atmosphere that is inclusive and comfortable. Large "jazz" paintings intermixed with works from African, Hispanic, and unknown modern artists converge with the classic 60’s accessories, 50’s ashtrays & lamps, plants, Buddhas, and candlelight, as well as fiery rose-orange walls give enough ambience and warmth to make anyone feel at home and comfortable, yet someplace creative and special.

Although people of all ages were present, I couldn’t help but notice that the place was packed with college students, indicative of the growing trend towards musical freedom and diversity growing with a more youthful audience, and presumably forcasting a coming renaissance and emergence of diverse and empowering forms of musical creativity, birthing new artists and burgeoning sensitivities to the power of music to develop community. Yes, I’d say that the music scene in Chicago, as exemplified by the HOTHOUSE, not only is alive and well, but setting an example for a healthy trend in society to develop public spaces which nurture the creative human Spirit.

The HOTHOUSE, Center for International Performance and Exhibition
is located at  31 East Balbo Street, Chicago Illinois.
Phone: 312-362-9707




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