After the sun set and before the groove began, music lovers eased past the noisiness of Ybor City’s 7th Avenue on a Friday night and stepped behind the velvet rope of Ybor City Jazz House.
For patrons seeking an adults-only venue to hear jazz locally, this Tampa jazz club is becoming a staple for its commitment to booking local acts like The Black Honkeys and Shawn Brown, as well as for its third-floor balcony dotted with tall tables overlooking 7th Avenue.
Red velvet sofas, flat-screen TVs and brick walls – one on the second floor sporting a photo of a smiling Al Capone with a cigar perched between his lips – provide patrons with a setting and experience that have kept them coming back for more since this jazz club in Tampa’s soft opening in November.
“I’m a fan because it’s not a bunch of 20-year-old’s,” said Clearwater resident Pat Perkins. “It’s a mature crowd.”
“The sangria is fantastic.”
When owner Eric Fleming decided to open the jazz house, he was hoping to fill a void and draw patrons like Perkins. After The Fox Jazz Cafe on Kennedy Boulevard closed, some music lovers drove across the Howard Frankland Bridge to get their jazz fix at Ruby’s Elixir in St. Petersburg, while others caught live music acts at local restaurants or headed to Orlando or Miami to attend concerts.
Fleming ignored naysayers who wondered why he would start a Tampa jazz club hoping to attract a more mature and musically discerning crowd in a place where that demographic wasn’t the norm.
“I chose Ybor purposefully,” said Fleming. “Years ago, when I was younger, we had three jazz clubs here. It was a vibrant adult lifestyle.”
Vicky Robinson of Lutz paid her first visit to the Jazz House after using Google to track down The Black Honkeys, a racially diverse group with a female lead singer that was playing that evening at this jazz club in Tampa.
“It’s a nice, mellow crowd,” she said. “I think the jazz scene (in Tampa) needs to grow more.”
Around 10 p.m., The Black Honkeys took the stage, belting out a cover of The Dramatics classic “What You See is What You Get.” As the diverse crowd of listeners grew, the band’s version of “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” by The Four Tops drew couples toward the stage, while other patrons bobbed to the rhythm while taking in drinks at the bar.
Later, as The Black Honkeys belted Rick James’s “Mary Jane” out the open door onto 7th Avenue, one thing became clear — the grown-up groove was back in business in Ybor City, and it was happening right here at this Tampa jazz club.
If you go...
WHAT: Ybor City Jazz House
WHERE: 1611 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City, Tampa
CONTACT: Visit www.yborcityjazzhouse.com or call 813-409-4258
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