The rock club era was some strange evolutionary fail done in by its bombast and bloat.
Jazz still suffers from the fern bar model, a hangover from disco days and proto yuppies with combo's pumping standards to fuel brunch and drinks gluttony or provide that perfect ambiance for conspicuous consumption evenings on the town.
Beyond such pretensions, a restoration rises, the brew pub tavern with sturdy yeoman food elevated just a touch to make an experience of it.
The prevailing model is welcoming, low key and usually involves an eclectic assortment of low maintenance music options. Jazz is invariably in the mix. I've come to see it as a reversion to the classics of tavern music life augmented by the various potentials and trends of our time.
There is some thoughtful food scheme involved and a likely array of in house craft brew or beverage options obtains. My newly adopted home of Dover, New Hampshire, has a notably exemplary one, The Barley Pub.
The Barley Pub is a nice musical epicenter epitome of these prevailing venue models. It's located in downtown Dover at 83 Washington Street. There are more than 30 craft beers and PBR with menu array's for a Sunday Brunch, lunch, dinner and late night.
I first noticed it in correspondence with bassist Tim Webb.
"As I'm sure you know, there is really a great music scene up here at the moment. People were saying this 10 and 20 years ago too, but I think it has gotten even better.
There are some seriously great local bands right nowTan Vampires, Gnarlemagne, Fiveighthirteen... and on the improv side there is a ton going on too. Matt Langley has always been kicking it but now we also have Mike Effenberger, Chris and Eric Klaxton, Nick Mainella, Rob Gerry... and the Barley Pub in particular is a place that all of these guys play and audiences seem to dig it. Equal Time can play there and bring the house down... we actually feel like rock stars there."
According to proprietor, H. Scott Mason, "Music has long played a major role in what we do at the Barley Pub. It all started with one gig a weekBluegrass on Sunday nights in the year 2000.
It has evolved to six gigs in five nights! We have always focused on original music with the jazz "standard" being the most common exception. Music at the Barley Pub has really become a huge part of what we do. Without it we would not be the Barley Pub at all.
Not only has it brought in new customers and created loyal regulars, but it has allowed us to be a part of a community of musicians and music fans that has come to largely define our persona. I think we have played a role in elevating that community and we are very proud to be a part of it."
Forbes Graham offers his sharp musicians eye view of the set up and experience.
"Our last gig there was great.
I'd describe the Barley Pub as a comfortable cavern. They moved recently (across the street) and when you walk into the new place, it feels like you are walking into a bank with marble interior and all, minus all the bank bullshit. The stage faces a row of bench seats and is set right up against a large window street view. From the stage, off to the right is a duskier area perfect for a more intimate and private hang out.
There's a new menu as well and the bar is well stocked too (from what I can tell, that's not an area where I'm an expert).
It's a friendly place in the southern New Hampshire style."
Dover is a city, by the demure standards of the New England North Country, and it is a robust work a day city with a considerable college student presence owing to the proximity of UNH in adjoining Durham.
It is connected to a broader world by Amtrak for those who would be free of cars and is laced by several coastal rivers with the Great Bay along its southern edge.
The area has a number of these genial civilization bastions and they are increasingly where jazz hangs its hat.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.