The Jazz.com Blog
April 26, 2009 · 0 comments
The jazz world has dealt with a lot of bad news in recent months. Hardly a week goes by without word of another jazz institution closing or downscaling. In the midst of this, Ralph Miriello reports on a new jazz venue that is bucking the trend. He recently stopped by Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club, where a full house was on hand to hear the veteran drummer and vocalist Grady Tate dish out his own kind of stimulus package. T.G.
New York City is no stranger to the economic downturn that the rest of the country is experiencing. Jazz music venues are particularly feeling the pinch of a more miserly public pulling in the reins of their discretionary spending. So it was good to see a relatively new venue with a full house there to enjoy the vocal talents of the venerable Grady Tate.
Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club has a welcoming feel and good energy and sits in the heart of Spanish Harlem, on the corner of 118th Street and Third Avenue. In this unlikely location, the affable owner, Kevin Walters has been slowly gaining recognition by providing patrons tasty New Orleans inspired cuisine and a comfortable and intimate setting where the art of jazz is featured. By setting up shop in Harlem, Walters is following a jazz tradition. At the same time he is providing top-notch entertainment for a reasonable cost at a location that avoids the hassle that can sometimes be experienced with some of the more established downtown venues. In these times of economic prudence this is a breath of fresh air.
On Saturday night, the drummer and vocalist Grady Tate, performed the second of his two-night engagement to a crowd of knowledgeable and appreciative fans. Mr. Tate, who has been a drummer for a wide variety of jazz artists throughout his career, is a hard-bop, soulful player whose work with Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery in the sixties is particularly noteworthy. At Creole it was his gentle baritone voice, his soulful scatting and his warm personality that was on display. He was backed by an all-acoustic quintet of able musicians including Lance Murphy on tenor, John Di Martino on piano, NarikoWeda on bass, Shinoske Takahashi on drums and Chembo Corniel on congas and percussion.
At seventy-seven years old Mr. Tate shows an enviable vitality and verve. His seductive baritone, while perhaps losing some of its higher range, is still beguiling. In the first set he and his quintet moved through a series of five songs that ranged from ballads to sambas. Tate’s inherent swing was especially notable on “Everybody Loves My Baby” where he made use of voice modulations that are still impressive. On ballads like “ Teach Me Tonight” and “Body And Soul” his whisper-soft baritone is most effective in conveying emotional power through nuance. A nice duet between Tate and bassist Weda was a highlight, as was an impassioned conga solo by Corneil. Both caught the grateful applause of the savvy, sophisticated crowd. The forty-five minute show went by too fast for most in attendance, and Tate’s warm interaction with the audience lent a special feeling of connection that is rarely experienced with today’s more aloof artists.
Creole’s Walters has been trying to establish what he calls a “Legacy” jazz series where the club features some of the older jazz musicians in this small convivial setting. Cognizant of the performers, he maintains a respectful “quiet policy” during dinner while the show is on. In past weeks the club has featured an impressive list of artists including Lee Konitz, Dave Valentine, Wallace Roney and Billy Bang. The club has about thirty-five tables and seats no more than eighty patrons. Unless you get behind the one column in the room you are pretty much assured of a good viewing vantage. Creole offers good food and a great night of jazz in a welcoming and intimate setting that doesn’t break the bank. It is a worthy addition to the family of New York City jazz venues, and makes a trip to Harlem well worth the trek.
This blog entry posted by Ralph A. Miriello