New York is famous for its jazz clubs; it is full of places where you can listen to live jazz. Among the classics are Blue Note, Birdland, and Garage in the West Village, my favorite. These clubs are great, but pricey.
The ” classic ” jazz clubs with small wooden tables and a smoky bar serving cheap drinks are hard to find. But yesterday I managed to find such a place, off the beaten track in Bedford-Stuyvesant (or Bed-Stuy), a neighborhood in northern Brooklyn. This is a diverse ethnic neighborhood without a Starbucks or fusion food.
Bedford–Stuyvesant is not pretty and is recovering from the 80’s when it was dominated by heroin trafficking and gangs. Bed-Stuy was home to the rapper Jay-Z who grew up in the projects, but before it became a rap hub, Bed-Sty was famous for jazz.
One of the historic brownstones in Bed-Stuy is now a Bed & Breakfast and during the weekends Debbie McCLain, the owner hosts live jazz concerts. We went yesterday, were greeted by Debbie and invited into a small living room. It was furnished with a couple of couches covered with curtains, some pillows, a row of folding chairs borrowed from the neighbors, and a makeshift bar offering cheap wine and beer. On the opposite side of the living room was a small piano and drums. The bass was brought in by a musician who squeezed through a tight row of chairs.
In all there were about thirty of us, audience and musicians, and audience members who were also musicians who later came up and improvised. During the break we were all invited into the kitchen to try fried fish, prepared following the Debbie’s recipe. We drank wine and talked with musicians. After the break, more people from the audience continued to play. This went on until 1 am.
To be honest, I was a skeptic. I went counting on an early “evacuation,” expecting third class musicians. Not so. It was a first-class jazz .
Definitely recommended for people from seeking something off the tourist track in New York City. More information about B & B and jazz sessions here.
Gospodyni Debbie McClain: