Jazz Institute of Chicago

John Steiner

John Steiner
by Charles Sengstock

JIC founding member Dr. John Steiner died in June of this year, and the JIC, Chicago and the jazz world lost a fine scholar and historian. John was a prodigious record collector and owner of the early Paramount and S&D jazz record labels. More than that, he was a friend to many and, to some, a mentor.

We became instant friends when we met at Mama Batt's Restaurant on 22nd Street, in 1958. I was working at Illinois Institute of Technology at 35th and State. John used to take musician friends out for lunch and we'd tour the area which was, for many, their former neighborhood. The office of Al Munro, Chicago Defender nightlife editor, was also a frequent stop.

Just a short time later we began a project of reviewing the Defender microfilm files in a systematic way to determine what they had to say about jazz music and musicians during the formative years in Chicago from 1910–30. That project lasted several years—we both had to have our eyeglasses changed after reading all that microfilm in the second-floor reading room of the old Chicago Public Library.

He had a wide acquaintanceship with people in and out of music, near and far. His later Chicago home, a converted bathouse on Greenview Avenue just south of North Avenue, became a haven for local and traveling musicians. His living room, and the old covered walkway alongside the building, were the site of many taped interviews.

We'll all miss John. We should celebrate his life, for in sharing it with us, he made us all a little better and a little richer.

Copyright ©2003. All rights reserved.

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