Running a jazz spot that makes its money primarily from food and drink is tough! How do you balance diners and listeners? Do you tell noisy diners—who provide financial support for the music program—to pipe down? Do you allow listeners to sit through both sets while noshing on air and nursing a coke? Do you book mostly accessible jazz artists whom the general public can appreciate, or do you dedicate your venue to edgy and more intellectual styles that leave most of the listening public scratching their heads and mumbling, “God, I hate jazz!” It is a balancing act, and while I used to juggle tangerines as a kid, I’m out of practice.
I am grateful to all of you who patronize our restaurant-club and ask for your patience in making it one of the go-to jazz venues in the Boston area. Sometimes the Jazz Baroness Room is quiet as the diners focus their ears on the performance; other times, it gets rowdy. Your best bet for our weekend performances is to make reservations early in the week—Monday or Tuesday—for the Jazz Baroness Room and tell the receptionist that you’d like to sit closer to the stage.
Scott Goulding, our music director, tells me that the New York clubs of old were more like our place (though we’re missing stratus clouds of cigarette smoke above the tables) than contemporary jazz clubs. Of course, if you want to experience the music like a work of art or worship it as sacred, then go to the Regattabar Museum or the Scullers Church! I do, whenever I want to feel closer to the Lord! (Just kidding. I respect their important contributions to the local music scene over the years. Especially that of Fred Taylor!) No one taps their feet to the beat, though; no one sways with the music, no one hums under their breath. I haven’t asked, but I presume that if you show your teeth or tongue, you’ll pay a forfeit. And you’ll pay $25 to $50 for the privilege! Here we hope that you’ll enjoy your sushi, your friends and the music.
We are working to present Boston’s best jazz cats to our guests, and we would love for you to be among us! Come when you can!
Jerry Bergonzi, Saxophonist
Our first Thelonious Monkfish Jazz Festival is just around the corner!
Scott Goulding and I have put together eleven consecutive days of jazz performances in the Jazz Baroness Room to commemorate Jazz Week 2016! It was Scott’s idea; I didn’t even know there was a Jazz Week. I just thought that jazz lovers listened to it all year round!
Brian, our bar manager, vacationed a few months ago in New Orleans, and he said that there was jazz on every corner. “Wow” I thought, “Nawlins is the way life should be!”
Our performers really are fantabulous!
They’re all at the top of their game:
Jerry Bergonzi is considered one of the top saxophonists in the world–even better than Kenny G! (tongue in cheek, people.) Seriously, he is considered a musical genius!
Dominique Eade is an amazing singer who has also taught many other jazz singers how to warble, chirp and tweet, such as Roberta Gambarini, Lisa Thorson and Patrice Williamson!
Yoko Miwa has so much personality!
Eula Lawrence and Paul Broadnax are both sweethearts!
Tim Ray is a devil on the keyboard, but an angel off stage!
As a friend, Mike Turk is funny as hell, yet he expresses such exquisite beauty when he plays!
I can’t go through them all here because my hand is cramping as I write this on my iPad Pro, and my social media girls tell me that my blog entries are too long!
We are talking live music here, though, you know? Where people who have studied music for a lifetime–often languishing in poverty–get up in front of a crowd and express their own sense of beauty and emotion and story and vulnerability through their instruments? Seeking to connect, to establish between individuals a shared sense of meaning and communion?
The instruments used in this festival will include the piano, the harmonica, the voice, the saxophone, the trumpet, the drums and the acoustic double bass. I only regret that we couldn’t get anyone to play the kazoo–usually, no major jazz festival proceeds without one. If you don’t believe me, just ask Berklee’s president Roger Brown for confirmation!
I always feel so lucky to watch our performances, and I want to share this joy with all of you! And I’m making so many friends–who knew that jazz musicians were some of the nicest people in the world? Initially, I assumed that they’d be egocentric losers, screaming in their heads, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” Well, there are a few, and you know who you are! But all in all, they are a lovely set!
If you’re interested in attending our jazz festival, see the schedule here. The only thing is, when you come in, you can’t just sit there and go, “Wow, man, these cats are really cookin’! Dude, listen to Bergonzi and Grenadier trade licks! Far out!” No, you have to eat and drink, too.
When you’re a restaurant, you gotta push the food and drink, am I right? No way we can present the top jazz cats and birds in Boston (and some from New York) without selling some grub, no? So make a dinner reservation! You’ve probably heard that our food is scrumptious, so what have you got to lose? A decade or so of George Washingtons? That ain’t nuttin’ f’what you gettin’!
On a sunny day in Indian Summer not so long ago when Thelonious Monkfish had barely cracked open its doors, Danny Ko walked in with the bravado of a Berklee freshman on full scholarship! Danny hails from Ottawa, though he began his life’s journey on the Korean Peninsula. He brought in his CD and told us, “I want to play here. Your name is cool. You should have live jazz!”
The reason I use the phrase “Jazz for the Palate” to describe our food (other than to justify the musical reference in our restaurant’s name) is that in discussing cooking, the jazz metaphor fits.
How does it fit? Once you know the basic rules and techniques of cooking, you can use your own sense of taste and smell and cultural inclinations to create a riff on any tried and true recipe. Interestingly, the metaphor of cooking is also used to describe jazz. (more…)
A few weeks ago, I discovered an old friend from a past life lived and lost in the mists of time. At first glance, we have little in common. He is Filipino and lives in sunny Sacramento, whereas I am French-Canadian and live in the alternately frosty and balmy environs of Boston. He is married with grown children, and I am unmarried with a cat. (Not that I live alone—I’d never live alone! Who would I blame for all of those hairs clogging the shower drain? The cat?) (more…)
The Jazz Baroness Room is finally open!
Five years ago when we began building our Sushi/Asian Fusion restaurant in the heart of Central Square, we hoped that one of the adjacent stores would become available. When Marina decided to move her men’s Italian clothing store, Rulls, to more fertile grounds, we jumped at the chance to take over! When you name your restaurant Thelonious Monkfish, it suggests a room with live jazz, no? (more…)
The Yamaha C6X is in the house, on stage and ready to be played by illustrious pianists of worldwide eminence! In fact, Herbie Hancock will be tickling the ivories on a weekly basis: he’s even bought a palatial condo in Cambridge to facilitate his residency here. Yeah–because we can afford his usual stipend of $100,000 per performance, no problem. KIDDING!
My friend Yoko Miwa–pianiste extraordinaire–and I saw some exquisite pianofortes at well-known shops in the greater Boston area, but the customer service couldn’t compare to Roger’s Piano in Natick. We purchased the piano there because Carol and Roger placed creating friendship with us above the sale. This is how I like to approach business as well: People first, money second! (Though I do love money. In fact, I love to bathe in bitcoin–it creates more bubbles than cold hard cash.)
I never met a Zombie I didn’t like, and the world obviously feels the same. With nine hundred and twenty six Zombie related movies and TV shows released for our rabid viewing pleasure (according to IMDB), it is clear we are a society obsessed with the living dead. Every Sunday night my apartment complex itself is reanimated with the grunts, groans and snarls of the infected creatures that threaten and sometimes kill our favorite characters (they better not kill off Daryl!) on The Walking Dead. So, when Jamme Chantler, my brother and marketing soul-mate, asked me to help him come up with a concept and name for Thelonious Monkfish’s first wine label, I suggested early on in our brain-storming binge that the wine have something to do with zombies.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I met up with Rebecca Parris, Boston’s Lady of Jazz, and her protégé Louise Van Aarsen at Sculler’s because we were dying to see jazz/pop singer Suede in concert! I was there when Suede sat in on a rendition of Summertime with Louise Van Aarsen at Ryles Club last month, and I fell in love! Not only did Suede impress me with her wit and stage presence but also with the range of notes that floated mellifluously from her kisser. (more…)
“I’m a foodie!” I hear them declare proudly! I myself could never say this and feel proud; I would feel embarrassed as if caught eating a pound of Girl Scout thin mint cookies while hiding behind a swath of mink coats in the back of my grandmother’s closet.
I think it’s because I was brought up by a mother who had self-image issues. She never felt thin enough or pretty enough. She would perform her household duties with scotch tape over her mouth so she couldn’t nibble and pick. So I learned to feel guilty about eating things. Things like: Doritos, cake, pepsi, chocolate-covered pretzels–especially fudge! (more…)