Sam Trump lowered his trumpet and thanked the crowd sitting along the Logan Boulevard parkway for the finale of the weekly Live on Logan jazz series. Then he cued his band.
Trump’s drummer played softly as the organist played chord tones, emphasizing minor thirds and seventh notes. Then, Trump, playing in front of a crowd for perhaps the last time until the weather warms again, sang:
“The falling leaves drift by my window/ The autumn leaves of red and gold.”
Sitting on the parkway grass, Italian pianist Matteo Dello swayed with his wife, Ilaria. He looked up from his summer blanket and said, “I love the chance to spend time outside, enjoy live music and watch people enjoy the jazz.”
After moving from Italy to Logan Square in September, Dello took up what became a weekly summer routine this year, joining hundreds of Logan Square residents in the parkway across from Sergio Castro’s front yard. There, Castro, a location manager for the medical drama “Chicago Med,” built a stage to host musicians Saturdays 6-8 p.m. and Sundays 12-4 p.m. as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled most live gigs.
Unfortunately for the musicians and community, the Oct. 4 Live on Logan show was the last for the foreseeable future. The initial end date was Oct. 18, but Castro and his neighbors agreed to finish earlier, citing noise concerns. After the finale, a long winter looms amid the pandemic, with the option of safe outdoor concerts likely scuttled in cold weather.
For Trump, a Houston native who has been a curator and musician in Chicago for 11 years, the Live on Logan series offered a change of pace. “Before the pandemic, I played three to five times a week,” Trump said. “Now, it’s sporadic. Most stuff is online nowadays.”
“I see your lips, the summer kisses/ The sunburned hands I used to hold.”
During each Live on Logan set, Castro, a musician or a community member walked among the crowd collecting tips in a bucket. Proceeds went to the musicians, many of whom are unemployed after the shuttering of most live music venues.
The permanent closure of 90% of independent venues without federal aid, as predicted in a June National Independent Venue Association survey, could significantly limit musicians’ future opportunities.
But the artists playing Live on Logan did well. “The musicians love it, just getting a live audience, feedback, people clapping,” said Castro. “Also, they appreciate the money they get in their pockets. We were averaging between $500 to $600 per act, and on the high side, $800 to $900. One band made $1200 in a set.”
Castro is trying to accommodate Live on Logan in the colder months. “I’m ruminating, actually, to figure out how to make this happen through the winter,” Castro said. “But I’d have to come [up] with a really creative idea to make it feel safe for anybody who’s paranoid about being inside.”
“Since you went away, the days grow long/ And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.”
With the coming of winter, safe community gatherings won’t be as manageable as they were in the warm summer months. Dello said he isn’t so optimistic about outdoor activities during the winter. “I guess we will go back to making puzzles,” he said with a frown.
For one last Sunday, friends, families and couples sat along the parkway, sharing charcuterie boards, drinks, joints and smiles in a safe, socially distant manner. Some people tapped their toes and nodded their heads. Others just listened. One man juggled a few balls. Toward the Washtenaw Avenue and Logan Boulevard intersection, children competed playfully for their turn on a tree swing.
But for now, live music on Logan Boulevard has come to an end. So, prophetically, Trump sang:
“But I miss you most of all, my darling/ When autumn leaves start to fall.”
Featured photo: Alex Shur