NORTHAMPTON – After nearly four years at The Loft at the Clarion Hotel, the weekly Northampton Jazz Workshop is moving to a new home at the City Sports Grille at Spare Time Northampton, starting Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Paul Arslanian, director and pianist for the Northampton Jazz Workshop, said he began searching for a new, larger venue to accommodate the growing audiences about a year ago. “We tried out several different places in Northampton through trial gigs,” Arslanian said. “The City Sports Grille is the one that seemed most likely to improve the workshop.”
Michael Perkins, general manager of the City Sports Grille at 525 Pleasant St. and a music lover himself, had attended several of the workshops at the Clarion. When he learned that Arslanian was seeking a new location, he approached Arslanian with the proposal that the workshop be moved to his sports bar, which is part of the Spare Time Northampton bowling alley.
Arslanian explained that the size of the venue allows for a larger audience than The Loft and also offers a large parking lot, ample acoustics for improved sound quality, good food, a full bar and friendly wait staff, and these factors influenced his decision. Because the restaurant is closer to town, Arslanian expects the workshops will also attract more jazz fans who travel on foot or by bike, especially college students.
In preparation for the move, Perkins and his staff are creating a display of vintage instruments and photographs of jazz greats, such as Miles Davis and Ray Charles, taken by local photographer Bobbie Davis. Perkins aims to alter the ambience of the City Sports Grille to fit the feel of a jazz club.
In addition, Perkins is expanding the menu to include vegetarian items, more appetizers, more deserts and a wider selection of wines and IPA beers. He intends to double his staff on Tuesdaynights through the addition of servers, bartenders and professional chefs.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of the Northampton Jazz Workshop,” Perkins said. “Our company is taking on a new direction to expand its entertainment offerings, and we’re looking forward to providing a first-class venue for people to have dinner, have a drink and enjoy live music.”
The first workshop at the City Sports Grille will feature two guest stars from Hartford, Conn., trombone player Steve Davis and trumpeter Josh Bruneau, backed up by Arslanian’s group the Green Street Trio, made up of Arslanian on piano, George Kaye on bass and Jon Fisher on drums. The workshop will continue to run from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Mansour Ghalibaf, managing partner for the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Northampton, is supporting the workshop by offering rooms at this newly opened property for out-of-town guest artists. Ghalibaf has expressed his interest in supporting the mission of the workshop saying, “I appreciate your work and love of music and would love to contribute to your effort.”
The Northampton Jazz Workshop has been a constant in the community since April 2010. Originally held at the Green Street Café at 64 Green St. in Northampton, it has included mostly local players, including the Green Street Trio, named after the café.
Each workshop presents a concert featuring a well-known jazz artist, backed up by the trio, and finishes with a jam session that is open to everyone.
“The original goal was to create a weekly jam session to give local players, young players especially, the chance to rub shoulders with more experienced players,” Arslanian said. “That’s one of the ways jazz has been passed on since the beginning.”
Throughout the workshop’s five-and-a-half-year history, the audience has more than doubled. Arslanian estimates that about 40 audience members have been coming regularly, and the average audience is more than 80 members of all ages. Although most of the audience comes from Northampton and the surrounding towns, some listeners come from across the Pioneer Valley, as well as other parts of New England such as Vermont, New York and Connecticut.
Arslanian said that jazz fans keep coming back because of the quality of live jazz presented at the workshop each week.
“We pay great attention to detail so that everyone has an enjoyable experience,” he said. “The high level of musicians we hire attracts more people, and we are constantly producing really top notch music.”
The Northampton Jazz Workshop is funded in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council. For more information about upcoming shows, visit www.facebook.com/northamptonjazzworkshop.