Battle of the Big Bands Lovers of large-ensemble jazz get a swinging valentine in February when a trio of world-class groups light up the local calendar. But for those who’ve got room in their hearts for only one big-band blowout, we pitted the players in a Chicago versus Chicago versus New York face-off. 

THE BAND Chicago Jazz Orchestra The Chicago Jazz Ensemble Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
GIG VIBE High School Musical IV (the concert rocks Evanston Township High) Upscale basement jam on the subterranean Harris Theater stage Buttoned-down swing in the formal Symphony Center
EXPECT Hammond B-3 favorites from past masters such as Jimmys Smith and
The Great American Songbook—Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, et al. Modern arrangements of classic tunes by past greats like Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock
WATCH FOR ^ Guest Joey DeFrancesco, a beast on the B-3 ^ Silky-smooth featured vocalist Bobbi Wilsyn ^ Saxophonist and ten-year ensemble vet Ted Nash
ROMANCE POTENTIAL Tepid. The CJO specializes in plush arrangements, but these greasy organ standards may be a tough sell for cuddlers. Sizzling. These tunes constitute the bedrock of romantic songwriting, and the CJE delivers them with heat. Warm. Marsalis relishes the days when jazz was the music of the clubs and the dance floors filled for big-band boogie.

Feb 7 at 8. $25. 1600 Dodge Ave, Evanston.

Feb 20 at 8. $15-$45. 205 E Randolph. Feb 27 at 8. $37-$77. 220 S Michigan.


THE VERDICT: Stick with the home team on its home turf, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at the Harris.

Photography: (DeFrancesco and Wilsyn) Courtesy of the artists, (Nash) Richard Conde