By Sabina L. Lilly
Conspicuously located alongside Lincolnwood Town Center’s main entrance, 90 Miles Cuban Café is host to Chicagoland’s first weekly Latin jazz jam session in nearly a decade. Led by renowned tenor saxophonist Roy McGrath—a Puerto Rican native who calls Chicago home by way of New Orleans—the Tuesday night jam session has been gathering steam since its inception on February 26, 2019.
In addition to McGrath, the top-notch house band consists of keyboardist and Chicago native Edwin Sanchez, Venezuelan-born bassist (and frequent Chuchito Valdes sideman) Freddy Manuel Quintero Kelly, and Chicagoans Brian Rivera and Nathan Rodriguez on percussion. In summation: these guys are freakin’ serious.
The music begins at 7:30 p.m., with the house band playing a few numbers before opening up the bandstand to professional musicians.
At the heart of the jam sesh is McGrath’s welcoming, engaging, exuberant personality. Throughout the evening he’s a delightful, expert emcee: mixing and matching grooves, instruments, and musicians’ experience levels for each song. The end result is a high-quality, enjoyable evening of music for players and listeners alike.
Here’s a clip of the jam session in full force:
While conversations can be difficult over the music, the room and ambience are good for a date night, meeting with friends after work, a casual family dinner, or solo sipping at the bar. Tuesday night specials include $3 Modelo drafts and $2.50 empanadas. While relying on the rave reviews of others for popular meat-based dishes like puerco rostizado, this diner can vouch for the delicious vegan burger made in-house.
As the Latin jam session’s popularity increases, 90 Miles hopes to extend it beyond 9:30 p.m. at some point. Stay tuned . . . or better yet, stop by and check it out for yourself!
What: Latin jazz jam session
When: Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Where: 90 Miles Cuban Café, 3333 W. Touhy Ave., Lincolnwood, IL 60712
Chicago Jazz Magazine content manager (and sometime-contributor) Sabina L. Lilly has been a professional musician for over three decades. Contact Sabina at firstname.lastname@example.org.