Jazz in the Alley Foundation
The Birth of Jazz in the Alley
Arthur Pops Simpson  opened a night club in his garage near 50th and
South Champlain and gave birth to Jazz in the Alley

It started simple enough.  Pops loved music, especially jazz.  Fellow jazz
lovers from the neighborhood would come together almost every Sunday and
bring their best records and DJ equipment to socialize and spin records.  
Friendly DJ battles would erupt with judges giving points to the best selection
of music.  These battles of the best have been the inspiration for the likes of
Little George Harris, Al Carter-Bey, Herb Kent and other popular DJ’s to carry
on the tradition of DJ battles.  

Eventually live musicians joined the DJ set.  Saxophonist Jimmy Ellis is
credited with being the first live musician to sit in.  Pops carried on his set for
over twenty years.  Money earned from the parties was often used to put on
events for neighborhood children.  Community issues were sometimes
addressed.  Above all, though, it was about good times and love of the
music.  The music was loud and the party usually went well into the night
continuing at the nearby Spanish Village.  In 1978, faced with pressure from
the city, Pops and his crew reluctantly held their last gathering.  In time, the
building was torn down to make way for new development.
Oshun Picks up The Banner
Despite the City's action Jazz in the Alley had become such an important
part of Bronzeville that the community refused to let it die.  Encouraged by
family and friends, a humble filmmaker from Bronzeville name Osuhnyomi
Mugwana decided to launch an annual tribute to Jazz in the Alley.

The first Jazz in the Alley Festival was held in 1979.  The stage was a
rooftop garage overlooking the alley near 31st and Prairie.  It was a free flowing
jam session.  Pictured here is Bethany Pickens daughter of the great Willie
Pickens performing at the Alley in 1986.  In 2009 OM productions celebrated the
30th anniversary of the Jazz in the Alley Festival.

Led by then alderman Robert Fioretti, the City declared August 30, 2009 as
Jazz in the Alley Day in the City of Chicago. Since then we have expanded on
Oshun's vision and have introduced a number of cultural and educational
programs to promote the rich heritage and culture of Bronzeville. The Alley
continues on in Spirit as we adjust to the inevitable changes brought by
gentrification and the displacement of many longtime Bronzeville residents.
Jazz in the Alley Day Proclamation
WHEREAS, The City of Chicago, particularly Bronzeville, has a deep and rich
history of men and women important to the cultural development of jazz, blues
and rhythm & blues that is rooted in the African-American culture which
developed in Chicago as a result of the Great Migration of African-Americans
from the Southern United States to the North as they searched for a better,
freer life and opportunities to work, worship, create music and be educated in a
tolerant society; and

WHEREAS, This heritage identifies Chicago as a world-class city and continues
to be important to the social, cultural and economic vitality of the city—a heritage
that has been celebrated annually for three decades.  Sunday August 30, 2009,
will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the “Jazz in the Alley” festival, a grassroots,
family-oriented neighborhood event produced since 1979 by OM Productions
Inc., recognized as one of the longest running neighborhood music festivals in
the City of Chicago; and

WHEREAS, Arthur “Pops” Simpson, a retired auto mechanic who, in the
1950s, opened his three-car garage to jazz lovers throughout the city and
started what came to be known as the Alley Club.  For over twenty years up to
the year 1978, the Alley Club hosted DJ battles and eventually live musicians.  
The Club came to be known affectionately as “Jazz in the Alley”, attracting
crowds throughout the year in the hundreds and at times thousands; and

WHEREAS, The founder of OM Productions, Oshunyomi Mugwana, longtime
Bronzeville resident and cultural archivist, picked up the banner of the weekly
neighborhood celebrations started by Arthur “Pops” Simpson.  In 1979, the
“Jazz in the Alley” festival was launched as an annual event to be held each year
on the last Sunday of August; and

WHEREAS, Bronzeville is the birthplace of some of the greatest innovations in
jazz and creative music by way of some of the most dynamic musicians in the
world who play jazz, such as the members of the Association for the
Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) an organization that has been a loyal
supporter of “Jazz in the Alley” for the past thirty years; and

WHEREAS, The Honorable Robert W. Fioretti, Alderman of the 2nd Ward, has
apprised this august body of the significant and noteworthy milestone being
observed by “Jazz in the Alley”; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the Mayor and members of the City of Chicago City
Council, assembled this thirtieth day of May, 2009 A.D., do hereby salute “Jazz
in the Alley” for thirty exemplary years of musical and artistic excellence, extend
our very best wishes for this year’s event, and declare
Sunday, August 30,
2009, “Jazz in the Alley” day throughout Chicago;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be
prepared and presented to the leadership of “Jazz in the Alley”.