Looking for live music? Check Out These Columbus Jazz Joints

Raleigh Randolph grew up in the heyday of jazz in Columbus.

As a child of the 1950s and early 1960s, Randolph would walk in and out of the clubs dotting Mt. Vernon Avenue, which continued along the block in all directions from the King-Lincoln Bronzeville community – a hotbed of black culture and a historically African-American neighborhood once teeming with jazz legends.

“It wasn’t unusual to go to a club in Columbus and see Dionne Warwick or Miles Davis,” he said. “We were on the circuit.

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Musical acts traveling through the Midwest from Pittsburgh to Chicago would make a pit stop in Columbus between concerts in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Randolph explained.

77-year-old father Harlan T. “Raleigh” Randolph was the frontman of one such band, an 18-piece jazz ensemble called the Sultans of Swing that once counted Chillicothe native Nancy Wilson in its ranks .

The elder Randolph – known as “Ol’ Boss” to his fellow musicians – was a singer, bassist and 1983 Inducted into the Alabama Jazz Music Hall of Fame. He steered his son towards the genre from an early age, bringing him to Sultans gigs and buying him a drum set at age 12.

“Jazz was in my blood,” the young Randolph said. “It was so popular at the time that you couldn’t go out without hearing it.”

Raleigh Randolph, 77, grew up in the heyday of Columbus jazz.  His father Harlan T.

While many historic venues in Greater Columbus have since closed — “Club El Cairo where Ella Fitzgerald performed and the Empress Theater comes to mind,” Randolph said with a sigh — there’s still jazz in the capital of Ohio.

Beyond the future Jazz and ribs festivalwhich you can see Friday through Sunday at Bicentennial Park, 233 S. Civic Center Drive, the following venues host local artists and live jazz year-round.

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Hit all the right notes (Blu)

Just east of downtown along Main Street, the Blu Note Jazz Cafe invites those with a curious ear to take a seat at the bar or a stand and sit down.

If you’re lucky, you might be lucky enough to hear Bobby Floyd, originally from Greater Columbus playing the keys, that is, when he takes a break from his main gig as pianist and organist for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra.

The Blu Note serves as a full-service cafe throughout the day and an “upscale jazz club” at night.

Jazz pianist and Columbus Jazz Orchestra organist Pickerington native Bobby Floyd pictured during a jam session in 2009 alongside guitarist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson (not pictured).

The place is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday and from 6 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Those hoping to get more jazz bang for their buck can become a cafe member for exclusive discounts.

Tribute to Dick’s Den

North of The Ohio State University’s campus, you’ll find an iconic still-standing dive on North High Street – Dick’s Den – where a neon sign launches the shrug-filled question: why not?

Columbus’ one and only haunt has been around for nearly 60 years and is still as eclectic as ever.

The bar features regular live music, which began with Jazz Sundays in the late 1970s. Those early performances featured the late local saxophonist Joe Diamond, who yelled at regulars for being too loud while his band was playing, according to Columbus Living.

“Jazz is part of Dick’s curriculum,” Randolph said.

And you can study a piece of it — and the history of the bar — any weekday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. at 2417 N. High Street.

Dick's Den, a long-running bar on North High Street, seen in 1983.

The Savoy Club: Jazz, soul and R&B

Just before Reynoldsburg on the Far East Side, you can get your jazz fix at The Savoyard cluba beacon of soul music and R&B off Brice Road and Livingston Avenue that offers a constant mix of genres.

“One weekend it’s R&B and the next day they’ll have jazz,” Randolph said.

Since its opening in January 2017, the club has welcomed music lovers from all walks of life to celebrate their Sunday Jammm and Blue Monday, which both start at 7 p.m.

You can visit the Savoy from 6 p.m. to midnight Monday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday at 1904 Lake Club Drive.

Lincoln Theater Summer Special: Wine Down Wednesdays

Jazz musician Arnett Howard, left, and poet Charles

Some of this summer’s best jazz can be found on the rooftop terrace above the historic Lincoln Theater — a King-Lincoln Bronzeville staple that many in the neighborhood associate with great jazz performances, Randolph said.

The theater invites people from Greater Columbus to purchase tickets for its summer series, Wine Wednesdays. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. at 769 E. Long Street.

Upcoming acts include the Midwest Modern Jazz Quartet and the Aaron White Quartet as well as select wines and specialty cocktails. Tickets remain for performances in August and September.

ginger bunny

Aficionados agree that Columbus’ newest joint, the Red Rabbit Jazz Loungeis different from a lot of places these days, Randolph said, in that it constantly offers live performances throughout the week.

The chic venue tucked away in the Short North at 17 Buttles Avenue is open 5-10pm Monday-Thursday (with live music guaranteed from 6-9pm) and 5-11pm Friday and Saturday (with performances 5:30-6pm ). 30.30 p.m. and 7 p.m.-10 p.m.).

It offers duos, trios and quartets reserved until July and some shows already scheduled in August, as well as a house cocktail based on carrot juice and gin.

Jazz Wednesdays at Brothers Drake Meadery

For a more low-key jazz experience, old-school listeners and newbies alike can find something to tap their feet from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays at Drake Meadery Brothers.

His tasting room in the Short North at 26 E. 5th Avenue welcomes everyone for a glass of one of their many original meads, a sweet wine made from bee honey.

Their Jazz Wednesday showcases feature jazz and funk musicians from across the region.

Ken Messer with The Phoenix Project Band performing at Brothers Drake Meadery in 2012.

As one of the oldest and oldest meads in the United States – its brewery is located in Grandview Heights and was established in 2007 – Brothers Drake is a jack-of-all-trades: part local music incubator , part “Save the Bees” campaign and many parts in fermented sugar.

Céilí Doyle is a member of Report for America and covers rural issues in Ohio for The Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.

You can reach her by email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @cadoyle_18.

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