Joe Segal wins major jazz honor

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Joe Segal

Joe Segal, the longtime owner of the Jazz Showcase club in Chicago. (Bob Fila / Chicago Tribune / February 19, 2007)

Chicago jazz impresario Joe Segal, who has presented the music here since 1947, has won a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship, widely considered the nation’s highest jazz honor.

He joins a distinguished roster of this year’s winners: composer-keyboardist Carla Bley and saxophonists George Coleman and Charles Lloyd. Each winner will receive $25,000 and will be saluted at an awards ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on April 20, 2015.

“I’m very appreciative of it,” said Segal, 88, founder of the Jazz Showcase, at 806 S. Plymouth Court. “I’m glad they didn’t wait till I was gone.”

Did Segal ever think he’d be presenting jazz this long – and to this much acclaim?

“No,” said Segal. “If I would have thought what it was (about), I would have made money at it. I was just doing something, that’s all. It just sort of happened.

“I wish my mother was around to see it. She would have been very proud. She never really did figure out what I did for a living.”

What will Segal, who runs the club with son Wayne Segal, do with the money?
“We’ll put it right in our kitty,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of bills.”

Segal will be receiving the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, which recognizes “an individual who has contributed significantly to the appreciation, knowledge, and advancement of the art form of jazz,” according to the NEA.

For more information, visit arts.gov.

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