Making the jazz rounds gives me an opportunity to check out some nice sounds - with the bonus of dining delights in a distinctive setting. Last Wednesday, we caught up with the Blue Note Trio performing at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at 96th and Keystone for its weekly "Sizzling Steaks & Jazz Wednesday." The place was packed as drummer/leader Art Hahn with Jim Newell on Fender bass and pianist Sean Baker (who was filling in) performed a tasty mixture of pop, standards, contemporary and jazz classics throughout the evening. As Hahn told me during a set break, "We play a form of cocktail jazz but we also have fun musically." He was right on both counts. The Mina Keohane Group will be performing at the Chatterbox on Friday.
The bandstand sits in a corner of a large U-shaped bar room that is warm and friendly, with rich dark wood beams. It's a room for enthusiastic conversations, and the Blue Note Trio played on top of those conversations. I heard some interesting things, like bossa nova rhythms on standards like "Shadow Of Your Smile." By the second set, the trio heated up, with everyone digging in hard on "Moondance" and freely swinging on "Take the A Train." Especially noteworthy was Sean Baker's building solo of ideas on "Days of Wine & Roses."
If you've never had filet mignon with a pepper cheese topping, it goes well with jazz, as recommended by personable general manager Jeanna Chandler, who has combined a wonderful staff and great dining with jazz for a very satisfying Wednesday experience.
Last Friday's stop was the mecca for jazz in this city: Jazz on the Avenue on Indy's street of legendary jazz artists. The Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Ave., represents the last vestige of this city's historical days of jazz. Traveling to the fourth floor ballroom of the Walker, you are surrounded by artful photo displays of Indy jazz icons.
Jazz on the Avenue is a setting for you to be involved in the mood of the night. This night, there were strong lines of dancers on the floor doing the Electric Slide or Steppin' to the blues-drenched sounds of vocalist James Bell and his band that laid a toe-tapping, finger-popping beat. Bell is a strong, seasoned vocalist who tells a great story with his rich baritone - whether it's blues or a romantic standard. He broke up the crowd with his rousing version of "New York, New York," along with the shouting big sound of his quintet.
Optional dining has always been a plus at Jazz on the Avenue, known for its delicious soul food buffet. They have exceptional fish and peach cobbler in that buffet.
Jazz on the Avenue manager Juanita Johnson knows that this is a treasure of entertainment and that all of Indy should embrace the experience of Friday jazz/blues fun and dining in this historical setting.
Jazz on the Avenue is held the first, second and fourth Fridays of the month. Times are 6 to 10 p.m. with a $7 admission fee and all you can eat optional buffet for $8.
The Chatterbox, 435 Mass. Ave., brings back pianist/composer Mina Keohane's Group performing her innovative, original fusion style compositions on Friday, Jan. 30. Trumpeter Kyle Quass' Group provides some cutting-edge sounds Saturday, Jan. 31. There is a cover charge for performances both nights, which run 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Circle City Bar & Grille, 350 W. Maryland St., at Marriott Downtown has Hook Up playing "Wine Wednesday" from 5 to 8 p.m.
Vocalist Betheny Dunlap & Neapolitan perform Friday, Jan. 30, followed by keyboardist Carl Hines, Saturday, Jan. 31. Music times both nights are 7 to 10 p.m.
Jazz Kitchen, 54th Street and College Avenue, has a great way to warm up the weekend with the party sounds of jazz, R&B and mambo with Dog Talk on Friday, Jan. 30. The engaging vocal stylings of the dynamic Brenda Williams with modern jazz alto sax of Jason Curry's Quartet will make for a very hip and swinging evening of enjoyment. There is a $7cover charge both nights for shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 96th and Keystone Avenue, "Sizzling Steaks & Jazz Wednesday" will feature the solo piano of Scott Solterman, Jan. 28 from 7 to 10 p.m.
Sullivan's Steakhouse, 3316 E. 86th St. at Keystone at the Crossing, offers hot jazz sounds with Claude Sifferlen on piano, Joe Deal on bass and Kevin Johnson on drums Friday, Jan. 30, playing 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 31, playing 5 to 11 p.m.
Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.