Musings on Music - The Ravens Club
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Musings on Music

When we opened in 2011, in addition to enticing our customers with good food, drink and service, we wanted to create a unique atmosphere…we needed a “scene!” What better scene is there than live music in an intimate setting?

I started looking for someone to help create that scene, and along came Mr. Ron Brooks. As in, Ron Brooks of the long-standing Bird of Paradise Jazz Club, a downtown mainstay for over 20 years – and, incidentally, where I took my wife on our first date, 16 years ago! Our date started with dinner at The Earle, then on to The Bird for drinks and music. I can’t remember what Ron played that night (too wrapped up in my awesome date). Would’ve been the perfect first date, had I not got my car stuck in the snow after our dessert at Sweetwater and had to call my father to come rescue us.

Anyhow, back to Jazz, I’m sure The Bird hosted many a fabulous date night over the years, so I knew our relationship with Ron would be a great one. We began discussing various scenarios and a few weeks later we had a beautiful, slightly bruised, piano, speakers and microphones, all on loan from Ron, and a weekly Wednesday night gig! I’m honored Ron chose our venue.

One stipulation I had in developing a music scene at TRC was to keep the music free to our customers. Easier said than done, especially in the early days when no one knew us. Certainly no one was going to get rich providing live music in our atmosphere, the acoustics are not optimal, our stage is only made from milk crates and plywood, we can’t afford a Roadie and there are no dressing rooms! Ron and the other musicians that play here throughout the week, play for the love of their craft, whether there are 10 people in the room or 110. I want to keep the music free, period.

Since Ron began working with us we’ve seen some great musicians come through the door, from James Dapogny, Ellen Rowe, Ali Jackson (Wynton Marsalis’ drummer), Dr. Dean Moore, Dwight Adams, Vincent Bowen, Ben Jansson, Andrew Bishop, Terry Lower, Edie Hyde, Sunny Wilikson, Racy Biggs, Alexco Syncodis, Sean Dobbins, Gary Schunk, Glen Tucker, Tad Weed-the great, and of course the amazing George Davidson on drums! We helped out WEMU for a season when they needed a last minute venue for their 5:01 Jazz Hour series which brought some amazing Jazz Musicians into the space but alas our venue was not large enough for the throngs of WEMU followers, but it was a great experience! We’ve continued to grow the music program by adding Thursdays and Sundays to the roster.

After the 5:01 Jazz Hour stint we did with WEMU, our Barman Christian Hetter introduced me to his high school friend Alex Belhaj and mentioned that he played some New Orleans style Jazz Guitar. Alex said he was in the market for a regular gig and once I heard his demo online, I was hooked! Alex’s Crescent City Trio sound is a perfect match for us, in fact, many of our favorite classic cocktail recipes hail from NOLA!

The seeds for a Sunday scene were planted in my brain when a feisty redhead by the name of Heather Schwartz stopped in for a drink or three one night and gave me her demo CD. Heather was already friends with our staff -she waits tables at Arbor Brewing Co next door. When Heather tossed me her CD, I was leery of adding another night. Setting up that stage was a huge drag and I wanted to try other options for creating an evening scene. But then my 7-year-old son, Delsin, got ahold of Heather’s demo one morning while I was driving him to school. For the next four months, every day I drove him to school, we listed to Heather Schwartz…over and over and over…all kidding aside, Heather’s band, their sound and style was a great match for us. Sunday night business was flat and I knew we had to try something new. Heather already had a solid local following, so we both jumped in feet first and The Heather Black Project has been filling the house on Sunday nights ever since!

It is important to me that we keep live Jazz free to our customers – not many venues left in town are free. Music is such a huge part of my life and the staff’s; it gives us a small way to participate in the culture of our town as well as giving people one more reason to stop by and hang with us. So for the price of one of our fantastic Old Fashioned cocktails, you get to see some of the best music metro Detroit has to offer!

Until next time,
JP

For more about our regular musicians:
Ron Brooks Trio
Alex Belhaj
Heather Black Project