An excerpt from HOT MAN: THE LIFE OF ART HODES (by Art and Chadwick Hansen, University of Illinois Press, 1992).  The subject is ostensibly the Chicago jazz club, Jazz Ltd., run by Bill and Ruth Reinhardt, but I think you’ll agree it opens up to greater vistas:

Someone once asked Big Sid [Catlett] why he would play a joint like Jazz Ltd., and Sid promptly answered, “It’s not a joint.  When Big Sid plays there it’s the spot in town.”

I know many people who undervalue themselves; their mental soundtrack is “Oh, I’m so incompetent,” and their opposite numbers, who inflate themselves out of proportion to the evidence.  Sidney Catlett knew who he was and what he did, and wasn’t afraid to acknowledge it: neither false modesty or immodesty, a lesson for all, even those who don’t play drums.


  1. I don’t wish to detract from Catlett’s boast. The outre’ Sid, Bechet, who played there more, might consider that he contributed to making it THE spot. He was also correct that it was not a joint, at least not the butt end of a marijuana stick. Ruth was an austute business woman who carefully guarded the velvet rope at the door. There was a dress code, drink limit, and a cover chg, altho men could stand at the tiny bar by the drink. I think the capacity limit was 85. There were interior design elements by Chgo descendants of the Bauhaus. Big Sid was the best drummer that I heard numerous times live, second only to Baby Dodds, who despite having been brought to Chgo by Oliver in 1923 and lived there until he died in 1959, but never had an engagement at Jazz Ltd.

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