A Room With a View

Classic Arts Features   A Room With a View
Jazz at Lincoln Center heats up the night at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

"We have great music, great food, and the best view of any jazz club in New York City," says Roland Chassagne, the manager of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. "Very few jazz clubs have achieved this trifecta. And I can tell you that an overwhelming number of artists who have performed here have marveled at the natural acoustics of the room. So much so, many of them return time and time again to hear other performers.

"Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola has elevated the whole concept of the jazz club in relation to its physical beauty, comfort, and unpretentious elegance," he continues. With breathtaking views of Central Park, Columbus Circle, and the Manhattan skyline, the club provides a truly unforgettable experience. Sit comfortably and enjoy the great musical talent as the moon slowly eases across the horizon behind the stage.

Having opened a little over a year ago on Dizzy Gillespie's birthday, October 21, 2005, the club is thundering along with the bold and innovative programming of Artistic Administrator Todd Barkan, whose acclaimed events there have included the Grand Opening Dizzy Gillespie Festival, the Kenny Barron Festival, the Latin in Manhattan Festival, and the Diet Coke Women in Jazz Festival.

"Women have been quietly making a solid contribution to jazz for the last half century," Barkan says regarding the latter celebration. "They're doing their own thing on a world-class level. It's just a healthy thing to do all down the line. If more women are presented on a more regular basis as headliners it will inspire the younger women."

Headline artists are usually given week-long engagements, says Barkan, allowing them time to stretch out and showcase their talents. However, the Diet Coke Women in Jazz Festival offered up to three headliners per night for a full month, making it perhaps the most significant women's jazz festival in history.

You can expect the unexpected at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, whether it's Stevie Wonder or Robin Williams showing up and joining the jam, or Regis Philbin and Tony Danza just dropping by. But behind all the fun is a lot of hard work‹long, late hours every day of the year. Chassagne and Barkan and the staff at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola punch the clock with passion and purpose.

Chassagne was born in Manhattan and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. His father, an ambassador to the Dominican Republic, always had jazz playing when he was home. But what really made young Chassagne become a jazz ambassador goes back to memories of jogging in a nearby park in Queens. Chassagne would finish his workout and sit down on a bench along the way. "There was an old guy that would always talk to me about jazz and the jazz greats," he recalls. "He said his name was 'Jack.' To make a long story short, after about two years I realized it was Illinois Jacquet! The late, great Illinois Jacquet."

Barkan, for his part, was knee-deep in the trenches of jazz, running with the likes of Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon…you name it. They all came through his club in San Francisco called the Keystone Korner. He's got stories to tell. (Of course, many of them can't be printed here.) To this day, Barkan continues to garner awards as a world-class producer of jazz recordings.

Together, Chassagne and Barkan complement one another's style and bring a full focus to the club. It's a special chemistry that works to bring the best jazz shows to New York City. Add to that the great food of Great Performances and Spoonbread Inc. and you've got a winning combination.

Critics agree. "Boasting the hands-down best view of any New York jazz club," says Down Beat, "Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is an intimate room of carved bamboo walls that seats 140, including tables and barstools." And, according to the Washington Post, "Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is without doubt the most beautiful jazz spot in New York, a gently curved room with blonde bentwood paneling and a bandstand placed directly in front of a glass wall that looks out on the Manhattan skyline. The sound system is excellent, the food ditto."

Ringing in the New Year this year at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will be the incomparable Paquito D'Rivera, an old friend of Jazz at Lincoln Center. From December 27 through New Year's Day, come see him in Paquito D'Rivera & Panamericana, which will include D'Rivera (bandleader, clarinet, alto sax), Claudio Roditi (trumpet), Alon Yavnai (piano), Oscar Stagnaro (bass), Mark Walter (drums), Pernell Saturnino (batas, congas, percussion), Raul Jaurena (bandoneon), and Andy Narell (steel pans).

Many other headline sets can be heard at the club each week from Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., plus an 11:30 p.m. set on Fridays and Saturdays. There's also an AFTER HOURS set Tuesdays through Saturdays, featuring some of the hottest late-night hang gangs in the land.

In addition, don't miss out on Monday night's UPSTARTS!, which spotlight up-and-coming artists. This new tradition at the club features college-age and other younger talent performing with seasoned veterans on the bandstand, offering everyone the opportunity to play and learn from each other. There is a synergy of youthful energy and time-tested wisdom.

UPSTARTS! draws from a wealth of talent that includes students from the Juilliard Jazz program, Manhattan School of Music, William Paterson University, New School, and the Henry Mancini Institute of Los Angeles. Young musicians come from as far away as Tokyo, Paris, Chicago, Miami, and Seattle. America's original art form is truly worldwide.

The first UPSTARTS! set on Monday at 7:30 p.m. always tries to feature a special student program. The second one at 9:30 offers an open jam session, presided over by such established artists as Ali Jackson and Dennis Jeter, who perform with soloists of all ages and all instruments, including saxophone, trumpet, trombone, bass, and piano.

Do drop in. You never know who's going to show up but Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola will make you feel right at home.

Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director for Public Relations at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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