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Sabertooth, Or The 23-Year Midnight Gig

In Chicago, one band holds down a midnight-to-5 a.m. gig on Saturday nights — or, technically, on Sunday mornings. It's a time slot which seems challenging enough to do once or twice. These guys have been doing it for 23 years.

Sabertooth is a quirky band, currently an organ quartet led by saxophonists Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner. It swings hard (and a little off-kilter), mixing favorite standards and a repertoire of cleverly arranged tunes. Every week, Mallinger and Pfiffner play for curious newcomers, rowdy drunks, hardcore fans and musicians coming off their own gigs.

"It's an after-hours jazz party," Mallinger says. "That's what it's labeled. ... It's not your average jazz gig."

It all happens in a club called the Green Mill, which doesn't look to have changed much since its days as a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Inside, it seems a bit like a place removed from time — especially if you get to see the basement and the escape tunnels into which it leads.

Here, Jazz Night In America follows Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner to the Green Mill, then stays up all night with Sabertooth.

Personnel

Pat Mallinger, saxophones; Cameron Pfiffner, saxophone and flute; Pete Benson, organ; Ted Sirota, drums.

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