1989. Seoul, Korea. The joint was All That Jazz in the Itaewon section of town, my introduction to the proverbial smoky jazz club. ATJ was the center of the Jazz universe in Korea, attracting a broad mix of local and international talent to both perform and observe, all contributing to the vibe that makes a quintessential smoky, swinging jive joint. Stan, Sam, Phil, Cool Ray, Nigel, and Harriet provided the soundtrack. Young James learned much at this club: much about music, much about people, much about himself, and much about life and this tiny planet we collectively inhabit.
Coincidentally, All That Jazz is also where I cut my teeth as a music photographer, selling my first print (it was used as part of a Korea-wide advertising campaign for the club). The walls of ATJ were covered with a mix of mirrors and fading black and white images of jazz musicians, the mirrors causing flash music photography to be a non-starter (a habit I carry forward to this day). Friday and Saturday night spent shooting Jazz into the wee hours of the morning, Sunday spent in the photo lab developing and printing the best images of the weekend.
1991. Kicking and screaming. I left Seoul and the jazz scene behind.
Until now that is.
Froggie’s (Shore Drive in Virginia Beach) has resurrected the vibe of the jazz club, at least on Tuesday nights, bringing a long missed musical genre back to the area. In recent years, live Jazz has become a bit of a museum piece with Rules and Regulations: sit still, be quiet, nod approvingly on queue, applaud for each soloist in turn. If Jazz and Blues are the proverbial parents of Rock and Roll, Jazz has become the Funny Uncle of the family, making crude and obscure references to ‘The Good Old Days’ but ultimately ignored at best or patronizingly tolerated at worst. Find some live Jazz though, soak in the atmosphere, experience the tonality, live on the edge of improvisation. Vibrant, alive, alluring. Moth to flame, I caught some sights and sounds of the inaugural evening. Jake Stith (Guitar), Christopher Brydge (Bass), and Rich Mossman (Drums) provided the flawless soundtrack for the evening, drawing the crowd in with their interpretations of jazz classics as well as more obscure tunes. Word is that these guys will form the core of Jazz Night going forward with others added to the lineup. Froggie’s is one of my usual haunts, Jazz Night welcomed new faces to the crowd. Jazz fans here to soak in the vibe. As word of Jazz Night spreads, I would expect that there will be some special guests sitting in with the combo ensuring that each week will be its own experience. There is a ton of jazz talent in the region with a criminal lack of venues in which to perform so if jazz is your thing, don’t sleep on Tuesday Night at Froggie’s. Take the opportunity to reconnect with Jazz the way it is meant to be heard: live and on the edge.
A bit about the venue. Debbie and Bill Bickel have transformed Froggie’s into a true musical powerhouse on the Shore Drive corridor, with a special emphasis on Blues and now Jazz. With no cover charge. Mucho Music, Zero Dollars. Those of you that spend more than 20 seconds around me will know that it doesn’t take long for me to start raving about our local Blues scene, if you want to see for yourself, head to Froggie’s on any Wednesday. Now add Tuesday Jazz night to the mix for an ideal back to back of 757 talent. Find that in any other venue in the 757 and I’ll pay for the Uber and drinks.
A bit about the city. In many ways, Norfolk and Virginia Beach are indeed two cities separated by a common area code, however, this particular brand of Virginia Beach is Shore Drive (and actually my part of Virginia Beach). You don’t need a passport to come here, you don’t need any immunizations, and the locals are friendly and generally act in a strangely distracted manner. But we know our music, we know talent, and we welcome anybody of our ilk regardless of where you are registered to vote (you are voting, right?).
Jazz night. Tuesday nights at Froggie’s in Virginia Beach. See you there.