Whatever happened to jazz? It was once popular enough to have an entire decade named after it. But the last few years have not been as kind. Sure, the music is as good as ever, and there are more than a few cultish admirers who make it a point to discover the latest jazzmen and women.
For the most part, however, mainstream jazz has all but been forgotten. Tell me, how many of today's jazz musicians have the big-name attraction of Lady Gaga? The John Coltranes and Duke Ellingtons of the 21st century still exist, I'm sure. We just don't hear about them.
Glendale's Jax Bar & Grill is doing the jazz community a much-needed service by featuring an array of skilled musicians each night of the week. I went on a Saturday when from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. I was treated to some fine music by an up-and-coming jazz musician named Scott Detweiler. It's somewhat of a misnomer to call Detweiler an "up-and-comer" seeing that he's been making music since 17 and writing and producing his own albums since the early 1990s. Last year, Detweiler released two critically acclaimed albums of new and old material, and will release another album, "Blue Roasted Jazz," later this fall.
The stage at Jax Bar & Grill is small, almost cramped, yet Detweiler and his four-piece band kicked things off right with his bluesy "Sister Marie," from his 2008 album, "Made in New Orleans." Detweiler was born and raised there and, like most of its residents, was deeply affected by Hurricane Katrina. With the five-year anniversary looming, Detweiler jumped into a heartfelt rendition of his most notable song, "Katrina Brought the Water." There's pain in Detweiler's voice when he sings, "Well Katrina brought the water / to the streets of New Orleans / to the shores of Mississippi / and the crying eye of me." The song was written for his family a year after the storm hit, and although he may have lost a lot in the flood, he's "still got the song."
Like many of the songs in Detweiler's set, "Katrina Brought the Water," was slow and brooding, which was fitting for the loungy atmosphere of Jax Bar and Grill. Jax advertises itself as a supper club, but to me it felt more like an English pub with some really cool stuff on the wall. Among the stranger items I noticed was an old-timey wooden knickknack, a miniature grandfather clock and a worn-out empty trombone case — how appropriate for a jazz club! The place doubles as a restaurant and bar, but the ambiance was low-key enough for Detweiler and his band to perform without too much interruption.
One of the standouts of Detweiler's set was a traditional blues song called "Nobody's Fault But Mine," which is also on his new album. The song has been in the public domain for years and was popularized by Led Zeppelin, who did an amplified version of it for their 1976 album Presence. Perhaps that's why Detweiler prefaced his performance with, "If you don't like my version, it's nobody's fault but mine."
Scott Detweiler will be performing at Jax Bar and Grill again on Sept. 4, and if good music is what you're after, then you won't be disappointed. In the meantime, you can download his album, "Blue Roasted Jazz," on iTunes.
JAMES FAMERA is a freelance arts critic based in Los Angeles.
What: Scott Detweiler
When: 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Sept. 4
Where: Jax Bar & Grill, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale
Cost: no cover, no minimum
Contact: (818) 500-1604 or visit http://www.jaxbarandgrill.com