Friday, July 31, 2009

Jazz (and more) at The Phoenix

I'm quite fond of The Phoenix. I was genuinely pained by its closing in 2007 and delighted by its resurrection in 2008. That doesn't mean it's a great room for jazz. Rather, it's a great room to catch up with friends as jazz musicians provide ambiance. Perhaps because it focuses only on tight shots of vocalist D.J. Sweeney, pianist Roger Wilder and bassist Tim Brewer as a roomful of unseen people chatter in the background, this video is unintentionally painful.


kcjazzlark said...

Yes, this video is painful to watch, but it's not really a fair representation of The Phoenix.

Much depends on the distance between the videographer and the performer and the microphone used. Because that mic will pick up every bit of sound between the camera and the speaker and, depending on its design, perhaps everything on either side of it as well.

Yes, if you're sitting away from the performers, The Phoenix can be noisy. The same is true if you're sitting in the back of Jardine's or (depending on the crowd) The Blue Room.

But an advantage of The Phoenix if you're there to hear music is the opportunity to sit close, at the piano bar. There, you're as near the musicians as you're likely to be in any club anywhere. There, it's hard not to be engrossed by the performance.

I was not at The Phoenix for the D.J. Sweeney set in the video. But if it's from a week ago Saturday, I was there earlier that evening to hear Shay Estes' superb group. And I was there this past Saturday to hear Will Matthews. Both times I sat up front. Both times, the music was fantastic. Both times, crowd noise was, where I sat, irrelevant.

Often, staying for the last set makes a difference, too. I sat in the back of Jardine's last Wednesday, and hearing Megan Birdsall sing was difficult during her first two sets. The place was packed and noisy. But for the third set, the crowd thinned, I was able to move up front, and the music was terrific. Likewise, the crowd thinned during the third set of Will Matthews last Saturday, and I suspect those sitting at the back then enjoyed the music as much as I did.

I don't fault the club owners for the environment. They need to draw people and sell food and drinks to keep the few remaining jazz establishments open. And people need to be able to talk and enjoy themselves to continue coming. But if you're there for the music, where you sit how late you're open to staying can make all the difference in your evening.

Anonymous said...

At least its better than being bush whacked by the Jardines owner
-a pained jazz addict