By Kristin Kruger
Winter in Seattle. Sunset occurs just after 4pm, leaving us to contemplate the nighttime sky for almost 16 hours each day. For those who follow the Seattle jazz scene, however, these long nights are cause for celebration. Who ever heard of going to a matinée performance at a jazz club? No, this is one art that is better performed after dark.
I would be remiss to write about Seattle jazz and not give a head nod to Dimitrou’s Jazz Alley. Attracting top national and international acts for the past 30 years, Jazz Alley is considered one of the premier jazz clubs on the West Coast.
But where do you go when you are looking for a little more local flavor? When you want to mingle with the musicians during set breaks and see what the Seattle jazz scene is really like? I don’t claim to be a pro on the subject but I do know when I come across something I like. I tend to favor the intimate clubs featuring local talent and a good drink menu. Luckily, this is something Seattle doesn’t seem to lack.
PGM Trio performing at Henry and Oscar’s
One place I find myself frequenting these days is a fairly new supper club called Henry & Oscar’s. Now, for the sake of full disclosure, my boyfriend is a jazz musician and plays here often. But after six years of following him from gig to gig, I get to choose which ones I attend and this is one of my favorites.
Henry & Oscar’s features live jazz Thursday-Saturday. It’s located in Belltown but it’s a bit off the beaten path so you won’t have to deal with the party scene that typically makes up the occasionally rowdy weekend crowd. The clientele here is mostly urbanites and professionals who live in the surrounding neighborhood apartments and condos. There is no cover charge to worry about, the servers are always attentive, and the food preparation is surprisingly delicious. I’ve been picking my way through the menu for three months now and I haven’t found anything that I wouldn’t order again.
When you get to the club, ask the hostess to seat you in the dining room. She’ll lead you past the long bar in the entrance into a private dining space with high-backed booths and décor that channels a gentleman’s club from the ‘40s and ‘50s. That’s where the musicians set up. That’s where the music happens. Order the muddled organic sage/ lime/gin/Cointreau concoction they call The Bogart, sit back and enjoy.
Of course, Henry & Oscar’s is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local music hot spots I could send you to; Columbia City’s Royal Room, Belltown’s Tula’s Restaurant & Jazz Club, Eastlake’s Serafina and Ballard’s Egan’s Ballard Jam House all deserve their own write-ups as well (and perhaps I’ll tackle that over time). What other venues for local jazz have you discovered in Seattle?