Does The Place Make The Space? Clubs, Recordings and Audiences and Their Impact on Jazz

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

On special occasions I take people on tours of historic bars in New York City. The rule is that we won’t go into a place unless it was open before Prohibition and remained open during Prohibition and ever since. In one evening, we are usually able to stop at four or five places, leaving plenty of other locations unvisited. I’ve attempted similar excursions in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New Orleans.

Would that a similar tour could be made of historic concert venues for American music in any of these cities! Unfortunately, performances of American repertoire are not frequent occurances at our most historic halls for classical music such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Jordan Hall, Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, etc. While other American musical genres have important halls, e.g. country music has the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry, the development of jazz, a musical genre born on our soil, is directly connected to the clubs it was played in, several of which are still standing and are still open for business. While cities like Kansas City and St. Louis have bulldozed their historic downtowns, destroying all the legendary jazz clubs that were once there, cities ranging from New York to Detroit to New Orleans maintain important sonic shrines. We asked Lara Pellegrinelli to provide us with a guided tour in her hyperhistory filled with RealAudio clips of music recorded live in some of America’s most important jazz clubs.

The whole notion of doing such a hyperhistory was initially inspired by a comment I heard Don Byron make from the stage of the old Knitting Factory several years ago. He claimed that he liked playing there because he felt free to play whatever he wanted. We brought Don Byron in to talk about venues, audience expectations, recordings and many other things that have had an impact on his music which is extensively featured in RealAudio clips sprinked throughout the interview. We asked Oliver Lake, Fred Hersch, Kitty Brazelton, Mary LaRose and Nick Didkovsky how where they play affects what they play. And we ask you to tell us your ideal space for listening to music.

Hear&Now offers information on concerts in all sorts of venues around the country. But if you’d rather stay home and listen to music, our first SoundTracks for the year 2000 features recordings exclusively issued in 1999. A great deal of the music you’ll hear on them sounds nothing like the past; listen to the RealAudio samples and you’ll hear what I mean.

Finally, we begin the new year with both sad and joyous news. We mourn the passing of K. Robert Schwarz, a music critic dedicated to promoting and explicating new American music. And we celebrate being among the winners of the 1999 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards.