Adding Jazz to Your Menu: An Insiders Guide to Making Jazz Work at Your Restaurant

Ron Thomas By

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Principle #1: "The Miles Davis Principle"

Miles Davis hated the word Jazz. Duke Ellington wasn't crazy about it either. The word suggested to them an insulting marginalization of their music. Even though you plan to have primarily Jazz in your establishment, avoid the word "Jazz" as much as possible and don't pontificate about the music. Just say, "Someone in-house books musicians for me".

Getting Started:

Take any restaurant, standing alone, attached to a hotel, even a cocktail lounge adjoining a bowling alley will do. (Remember Morris Nanton, anybody?)

Divulge only to your most trusted associates that you intend at some point in the distant future maybe to have live music in there. Deny this if word leaks out. Very important.

Principle #2: The "Dining Out in Paris Principle"

"Live music here nightly" is NOT a part of the promotion for your establishment. You will be known first and last for consistently great food and great service. Not music. Dining out in Paris is one of the great wonders of the civilized world. Your food and presentation should aspire to this standard.

Invite an experienced working artistic-musician (yours truly, for instance) to help you design and install what will eventually be a live music performance space outfitted with a good piano and several AC Outlets.

Spend at least one year developing an easy-to-administrate killer Light Supper menu suited to the your locale. Use every available proven sales and marketing strategy to create a loyal clientele who come back often to eat and bring others. Eating. Very, very important.

Principle #3

Music will not make money. It will however help sustain your already-established restaurant -success and, yes, maybe even add to your clientele. Live music never by itself "brings people in" to a restaurant. Food does that.

As your business grows have your experienced-working-artistic-musician plan out a roster of jazz shows for you. How many and which nights will you have live music? Fridays and Saturdays? Wednesdays and Saturdays? Sunday Brunch? Don't book bands week to week. Give one Bandleader several weeks. Rotate Bandleaders throughout the year. Four Week runs. Six Week runs. Whatever. Just not week to week. Pay no attention to any solicitations from musicians for gigs. Stick with your plan no matter what. Leave everything to your inside man. As far as the public is concerned he does everything. Of course, in reality, he answers to you, he is just taking the onslaught of gig-seekers out of your hands.

Make a six month or a one year calendar. Schedule the musicians. Begin as soon as you can after as much as you can book is booked because word will spread fast among the musicians and your secret will be out in a flash.

Principle #4

Do not publicly advertise your music policy anywhere. No radio, No newspaper, no email campaigns, and especially NO cheap looking flyers tacked up to college bulletin boards (if there are any such things left anymore) or (worse yet) trees along Campus Boulevard. Very, very, very important. This is as fatal a mistake as carelessly uttering the words "jazz policy". (See above).

One busy typical evening (the first night of your music schedule) musicians arrive and begin to set up. "There's going to be music here tonight???" your customers wonder?

It starts there and that's all there is to it.

Word of mouth alone will make your "Jazz Club" the talk of the town, maybe even the world, and besides making money, your "Club" and others like it might be the birthplace of a wave of brilliant jazz inventions, expanded musical idioms, a surprised new generation of fans, the sudden dawning of an artistic epoch; why, you might even single handedly topple the Retro-Regime!

The record companies, the jazz festivals, and the jazz critics can never accomplish this but you might, especially if your inside man happens to be yours truly, or someone like him.

Send in your questions and watch for Part Two!


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