Music

331. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge – May 30, 2018 – Detroit, MI

May2018Bakers1 (2)May2018Bakers4 (3)May2018Bakers2 (2)Excellent live music and fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs on a Wednesday night? Sign me up, please!

When a friend called as I was getting ready for work last Wednesday morning to ask if I wanted to see a live jazz performance that night at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, I was surprisingly up for the challenge of being out late on a weeknight (summer brings it out of me).

I was itching to get in a Detroit visit to benefit my Blog Year Five challenge of visiting 50 new-to-me places in the city, which I’ve been quietly working away at since announcing it in my Blog Year Four review post.

As I write this, I’ve visited 12 new-to-me places in Detroit since the start of Blog Year Five on February 8, with Baker’s Keyboard Lounge being the 11th of those; to be on pace with the goal, I should’ve visited 17 by this point. Some catching up is in order!

It’s been fun to have an extra excuse to get down to the D more often via this challenge. The logistical aspect has been the trickiest hurdle thus far; since I don’t live or work in or adjacent to the city, getting down there generally involves some planning. My strategy thus far in working toward this 50-visits mark has been a combination of planning outings when it makes sense (because forcing something that’s meant to be fun is no fun) and letting them happen organically. And the invitation to Baker’s was definitely an instance where it happened organically.

So there I was, rolling up to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge shortly after nine p.m. on a weeknight, ready to soak in some live music and devour a delicious meal (I’d heard the food was great there). Bright white lights sparkled around the building’s marquee, radiating old-school glitz and glamour and igniting my excitement.

On Livernois Avenue near Eight Mile Road, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge perches just inside the city’s border, in close proximity to the suburbs of Hazel Park and Ferndale. Its website banner proudly declares it the “World’s Oldest Jazz Club”; in its About page, it states it has been in operation since 1933, has been hosting jazz acts since 1934, and has been deemed a historic site by the state of Michigan for being “Michigan’s jazz mecca and Detroit’s oldest jazz club in continuous operation.” How are those for creds?

Driving up to Baker’s on the night of my visit, I paid the parking attendant $3 for the privilege to park in its gated, monitored lot. The cover charge upon entrance to the building was $10.

The inside of the lounge was small, intimate, dimly lit aside from the bright lights of the stage. Photos of jazz greats hung on the walls, and flowers adorned the tables; the overall vibe was subdued elegance.

The performance was underway when we stepped inside. A band called OGD –  a trio playing keyboards, drums, and a bass guitar – was accompanied by a female singer named Sky Covington.

They were excellent. These were highly skilled musicians, effortlessly weaving the melodies of their instruments with the rich, arresting voice of this captivating singer with her powerful stage presence. Sky and the OGD were totally enchanting to listen to, and we listened reverently.

Or rather, I listened as reverently as I could while also being enthralled with my dinner, the meal featuring ridiculously tender, fall-off-the-bone, richly-sauced, INSANELY DELICIOUS barbecued ribs. Man, I need to get another helping of those ribs into my life!

At $17, this dish with its hefty helping of meaty goodness, two sides (I picked pinto-beans-and-rice and mac-and-cheese), and cornbread muffin was an absolute steal and the absolute culinary delight of my week – and very probably my year thus far. It was SO SO SO SO GOOD!

While we’re on the topic of consumable items offered at Baker’s, I feel it’s worth mentioning: alcoholic beverages can get pricey there; single-shot well drinks were $9 at the time of my visit. Considering the immense value I derived from that reasonably-priced barbecued-ribs meal, and coupling that with the fact that I only had one drink, I didn’t mind it so much, but I could see myself having sticker shock had I ordered several and been unaware of that. Knowledge is power!

And being witness to a finely-tuned musical performance by a gifted singer and musicians is power, too – a powerful experience, indeed. I often forget how great jazz is, that it’s rollicking, soothing, unruly, relatable all rolled into one and that I totally dig that. Thank you, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, for reminding me of that!

20510 Livernois Ave.

Detroit, MI 48221

www.theofficialbakerskeyboardlounge.com

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153. Third Man Records – December 10, 2015 – Detroit, MI

20151210_162521I am not a hipster, and I am not someone who owns a record player, but I often fancy myself as the type of person who could someday be both of those things. I like many hipster-y things, and I love the idea of being a person who owns a record player. Records, for me, are whimsical relics of the past. They remind me of my childhood and my dad’s record player and his vast collection of albums with their often-puzzling covers (The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls always intrigued me) and the lovely little scratching noise the needle of the record player makes when it hits the vinyl. Except it was always so annoying to try to find the start of a particular song. I don’t miss that part. Or when a wonky record started to go all haywire and start skipping and going cray-cray. Anyway. I love hearing when successful hometown folks come back to support Detroit. So I was happy to hear that Jack White had opened a Third Man Records store in Midtown, right next to good ol’ JP (Jolly Pumpkin!). I’m not a Jack White aficionado, but he seems like a cool dude, and I admire his talent and his unremitting creativity, so I was eager to check the place out.

The inside of the store is impressive – very visually engaging, and bedecked with carefully arranged displays of records, t-shirts, and other merch. And a self-recording booth where you can make your own record (sold out on my visit there)! But my favorite part? The listening booths! Ok, no self-respecting music store is not gonna have listening booths, but how many of them in this day and age have vinyl-centric listening booths where you get to handle and listen to real records? Probably more than I know of with the recent resurgence of vinyl, but still, it’s just cool.

20151210_162924

441 West Canfield St.

Detroit, MI 48201

http://thirdmanrecords.com/about/detroit-storefront

15. Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe – April 17, 2014 – Grosse Pointe Farms, MI

DirtyDogJazz

Photo courtesy of Yelp user Kristin G. (via Yelp.com)

I went here for a family dinner where we sat in the boardroom, which was very nice but was separated from all of the action. They did have a TV in there so you could still see the jazz band playing, which cracked me up. It reminded me of how one of the churches I used to go to when I was a kid put TVs in the hall on Christmas and Easter so the people who couldn’t get seats could still view the mass – not quite the same as being up near the action! The main dining area was very luxe and had much more character than where we sat.

I forgot to take pictures! Shame on me – but here is one of the bar, courtesy of Yelp user Kristin G. (via Yelp.com).

97 Kercheval Ave.

Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236

http://www.dirtydogjazz.com/