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Bill’s Blues jam returns in grand style

Paul Nebenzahl Evanstplays harmonicfirst 'Bill's Blues Revisited' night which continues every Wednesday. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media

Paul Nebenzahl of Evanston plays harmonica at the first "Bill's Blues Revisited" night, which continues every Wednesday. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media

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Bill’s Blues Revisited: Blues, Booze, and Schmooze

◆ Wednesday evenings

◆ The Globe Cafe, Hilton Orrington Hotel, 1710 Orrington, Evanston

◆ (847) 866-8700;

◆ For more information, e-mail or call (847) 338-1117.

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Updated: November 20, 2012 4:48PM

For years, Bill’s Blues in Evanston represented not only the best music in Evanston, but some of the best music in the area. When the bar closed in 2009, it was a loss felt across the region.

And now, those fans can relax. Bill’s Blues is back, albeit in a truncated format. Bill Gilmore, founder and owner of the original Bill’s Blues, hosted the opening night extravaganza, Bill’s Blues Revisited: Blues, Booze, and Schmooze, earlier this month at the Globe Cafe in the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston.

The event will be a weekly occasion, at least through the end of the year, and will feature everything that made the original Bill’s such a popular and welcoming place.

The first evening welcomed old friends and customers who came together to reminisce and listen to a variety of music.

“That night really had a great vibe, a great feeling,” said Gilmore. “It felt really like a Chicago scene.”

For six years, Bill’s Blues (located on Davis Street) packed in the crowds with a mix of blues, folk, jazz, indie rock, and a little bit of everything else thrown in. Their crowds were as diverse as their music. People came to Bill’s for the music but they stayed for the company. Friendships and even marriages were forged over a few drinks and a serious discussion of the merits of a particular blues band.

“One of the best things about bars is that you can be great friends with someone you only see twice a month or twice a week,” said Gilmore. “You miss it when it doesn’t happen because often these aren’t people you would run into on a regular basis.”

Since Bill’s Blues closing in October 2009, Gilmore continued to hear from people who missed the camaraderie and music scene. He started putting out feelers, and he and Russ Abell, the general manager of the Globe Cafe, decided to test the waters of a Bill’s Revisted at the Hilton Orrington.

“We have known Bill Gilmore for a number of years and we enjoyed going to his club when it was open,” said Abell. “We thought that the Globe Cafe, being a casual restaurant and bar, would be a good spot to give Evanstonians and hotel guests alike a midweek entertainment option.”

“The Globe is a lot more upscale than a classic blues bar,” said Gilmore. But he points out that the space offers great amentities for live music: it has an open space so there’s a nice throw on the sound, it has a liquor license as well as an attached bar space, and there are sleeping rooms upstairs.

The Nov. 28 event will be led by Tom Holland and will include a performance by Larry Mesirow, a popular Chicago folk singer.

Gilmore hopes to bring in more familiar names from the Chicago music scene. And he has the pull to make it happen. He’s a founding member of Blue’s on Halsted as well as Blues, Etc. and Else Where on Clark Street.

For now, he’s thrilled to have Bill’s back in the Evanston music scene. And The Globe is happy to be a part of it.

“We’ve been receiving calls each day about the schedule and the plans so it seems to be well received,” said Abell.

Laura Amann is a local free-lance writer.

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