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