Photo by Ren Farley, 2009
On Friday night I went out to Cliff Bells to see the Gerard Gibbs Trio. It has been a while since I have gone to Cliff Bells and it is one of the best jazz clubs. There are a couple of reasons I don’t go that often. Cliff Bells is is the Entertainment district of Detroit. It is about two blocks from the Comerica Stadium which is where the Tiger Baseball team plays home games during summer and now into autumn with the playoffs. There are also a couple of major theaters within a couple of blocks. It means paying for parking. During Tiger games it can be up to $25. On Friday night I did have to pay for parking and it was only $5 which I can pay. I could park blocks away but walking a long way at night on untraveled streets does not appeal to me.
Cliff Bells first opened in 1928 during Prohibition as a supper club with a speakeasy downstairs. The building was designed by Albert Kahn who was the major architect during that era of Detroit construction. It opened for the first time as a jazz club in 1935 and the jazz club was designed by Charles Agee. It fell on hard times and was closed in 1985. It reopened after being refurbished in 2005. The restoration is highlighted by a long bar and warmly colored wood keeping the essence of the Jazz Era. The only problem is that the redesign did not pay attention to making sure the sound was good. There are places to sit where the sound is good and I can generally find a good seat if I arrive after the first set.
I had a seat where I could hear the music and the people around me listened to the music rather than chatting. Cliff Bells is also a supper club and sometimes early in the evening people are there to eat dinner and use the music as background music. The music was very good as is usual for this group. This is a group of musicians that has played together for some time and has that unspoken communication that makes for a unified sound. It is such a pleasure to hear musicians who can all do great solos and play together without letting their ego overtake the harmony and balance they achieve. I can tell you, I enjoyed all of it and also that none of the songs were named so there is no way I can say what I enjoyed.