Where to begin?
For starters, it’s got all the vibe of infamous-but-beloved jazz club Jardine’s sans the side order of bi-polar.
With former Jardine’s co-owner / manager Pat Hanrahan at the helm, you can see why it has that feel; for years he was personally invested in the vaunted, but departed jazz club, just off the Plaza. Inside, it’s painted what sound and lights man John Story calls “jazz club red” with black trim. Commissioned art hangs on the walls, they have great food, great drinks.
In a word, it works.
Speaking of Story; he’s another familiar component, engineering the club’s sound. And it’s nearly flawless from anywhere in the room. I walked front to back, side to side and it’s a perfectly balanced mix. And that’s hard to achieve, given the placement of the bar and layout of the space, but this guy’s a master.
The best talent can be fatally let down by poor sound, but that’s not the case here.
Last night’s crowd consisted of primarily local musicians and VIP’s.
Dominique S., out of UMKC served as pseudo MC – that is – when he wasn’t all over the upright bass. This guy is the epitome of cool and what a talent. Stan Kessler, Shay Estes Broockerd, Giuliano Mingucci, Austin based vocalist Sara Riesner and various artists mixed and mingled on the stage throughout the evening.
I admit to some personal bias, because just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, in comes piano man Mark Lowrey. Not only is he my personal favorite on the keys, but he proceeded to immediately bring Chelle Swanson (secretly my wife) to the stage with him for her rendition of the classic Etta James song, “At Last” which proved to be my highlight of the evening.
What works? The sound, the room, the feel, the groove and the overall vibe.
It’s only a 100 foot walk from its corner location to a huge parking lot out back, dedicated to the club. We arrived about 8:50 pm and the house was packed but we easily found a spot. The stage is well done; it’s a nice size with a good design. And there’s no dance floor to embarrass white guys like me.
What then could be problematic?
In the wake of Jardine’s demise, some pretty great rooms have tried to fill the void; Kill Devil, Green Lady, Take Five as well as old standbys like the Phoenix and Majestic.
So how will the Broadway Jazz Club stack up against those who tried but didn’t succeed in truly filling that gap? My guess is it’s going to find its own crowd of regulars; I know I’ll be in that group.
Second, what’s the primary rule of real estate? Location, location, location.
For about 25 years this area has fought to find an identity, a buzz. You’ve got the Uptown across the street, Stanford’s has moved in for now, but the area is not without challenges. And what’s its identity? It’s not Westport. It’s caught between the Plaza and downtown and has struggled for years. No secret there.
Here’s what I hope to see and predict:
This joint is going to pull from some of the people and musicians who loved Jardine’s and feel the other alternative locations haven’t met their needs and desires. And it’s going to develop a niche.
Shay is one of the best Fado artists in this country; look it up. Stan’s group is called “Sons of Brazil” for a reason. Mark Lowrey plays it all…and then some. And Chelle does the classic standards like no one else. Yes, there’s jazz to be had, but it’s a broader berth than just “jazz.”
So don’t avoid it just because it has “jazz” in the name.
They open to the public tonight.
Check it out and tell Pat your well-coifed scribe sent you down.
You won’t regret it and I get a free drink (maybe) for everyone who says that. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them. You know, still.