[JPL] ATC: Detroit Jazz Club In Jeopardy After 75 Years
drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue May 5 17:44:18 EDT 2009
Depending on whom you ask, Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit is the
oldest or second-oldest continually operating jazz club in the world.
But one thing not in dispute is that, since its opening in 1934,
hundreds of famous names have graced its stage. Singers and soloists
from Ella Fitzgerald to Miles Davis, John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk
and even comedian Lenny Bruce have performed there. Motown players honed
their chops on the checkerboard stage between sessions.
For musicians, a show at Baker's meant bigger gigs around the country.
"It's not only a rite of passage for musicians, but it's also a rite of
passage for patrons, as well," saxophonist and Detroit native James
But Baker's has suffered along with Michigan, as auto jobs have
evaporated and home foreclosures have hit record highs.
"The struggles of Baker's [are] the struggles of everyone," owner John
Colbert says. "We're in a depressed economy. We're no different than
anyone. We're in line."
A problem with the local water company --- and the economic downturn ---
leaves one of the oldest jazz clubs in the world in a precarious state.
Beyond the economic troubles, Colbert says the business has changed. The
big names in jazz now mostly play concert halls.
This weekend, Baker's will celebrate its 75th anniversary. But Colbert
says the club could close soon after. He hasn't set a date, because he's
hoping it won't happen.
Between hot jazz and hot sauce on every table, Colbert says he's doing
everything he can to attract audiences. And he says that business has
picked up since word of Baker's plight has begun to circulate.
Colbert, who bought the club about a decade ago, says he hopes the
Baker's legacy won't end with him. But if he has to, Colbert says, he'd
like to sell the club to someone else who'll continue the tradition.
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
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