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Thompson Hotels Chicago Influencers X Katie Ernst


The Chicago Musician To Watch

Musician Katie Ernst has been described by the Chicago Tribune as “a versatile young bassist who plays in far-flung bands and sings with uncommon delicacy and authenticity.” With glowing revues like these it’s no wonder she’s graced the stages of the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and more. Her recent composition project Little Words was inspired by the poetry of American writer Dorothy Parker and is currently available on BandCamp.

This April, her band Twin Talk is releasing an album on ears&eyes Records, and they’ll be doing a two-week tour at the beginning of May. In Chicago, Ernst has a steady Sunday night gig at Eddie V’s in River North from 6-10pm, where she sings and plays classic jazz standards with a piano trio. As if this isn’t enough, she’s also working on writing new material for a duo project with clarinetist James Falzone. Here she gives us her insider’s guide to music venues in Chicago and more. 

How would you describe the music you compose? What are you hoping comes across most?

In general, as a composer, I think a lot about the balance between strength and vulnerability and how the two are interconnected. My current recording project Little Words features poetry by the American writer Dorothy Parker that I set to my original music.  Dorothy Parker was well known for being strong, sarcastic, and witty, but I focused on the poems she wrote that show her vulnerable side. Although her poems deal with heartbreak and doubt, I hope listeners feel a sense of hopefulness and optimism in the music I wrote to accompany the words.

When you perform, do you have to choose between being known as a jazz bassist and jazz vocalist or are you able to explore both talents?

I view my roles as bass player and vocalist to be equally important, and I love being able to live in both worlds when I perform.  Singing and playing feel very connected for me. Like a pianist plays her instrument with both hands, singing feels like my ‘right hand’ and bass playing feels like my ‘left hand.’

Why Chicago? How is the music scene unique? 

I love being a part of Chicago’s music community. It is a thriving place to incubate new ideas and workshop new projects. This city has a long history of innovative musicians and artists who think outside of the box. I’d say Chicago musicians place a lot of importance on collaboration and collective music-making. This allows for a wide range of styles and sounds within the greater jazz scene, and I think that is amazing!

What are your three favorite music venues in Chicago and why?

Chicago venues like Constellation (Roscoe Village), Elastic Arts (Logan Square), and the Logan Center for the Arts (Hyde Park) are my favorite listening environments for jazz music. These venues aren’t your traditional jazz ‘club’ setting, but they present a wide variety of jazz artists and provide a space where listeners can really enjoy the music.

There are also lots of hip spots for more casual listening. People can check out the Whistler on Tuesday nights, the California Clipper on Wednesday nights, and if you’re a true night owl, there’s a jazz jam session at the Underground Wonderbar on Tuesday mornings from 1:30am-3:30am.