Area establishments offer hard to find listening experiences
Atlanta’s reputation as a music capital is well earned, but for all the sounds that spring from the city, live jazz is not easy to find—in Buckhead or its surroundings. Events such as the Atlanta Jazz Festival (May 26-28) provide a weekend of distinguished sounds and artists, but finding a venue dedicated to the musical art form is a challenge. Luckily, some nearby bars, restaurants and hotels offer opportunities to take in the smooth sounds of the genre. Here is a trio of places to check out.
It’s not a stretch to call Cafe 290 a hub of area jazz. Located in Sandy Springs, the 30-year-old establishment has featured jazz since opening day. Owner John Scatena acknowledges that while the art form is loved and appreciated by many locals, there aren’t many places to savor it. His eclectic spot fills that void. The jazz/dinner club hosts local, national and international performers such as Julius Williams, Reggie Hines and Joe Gransden, who is accompanied by a 16-man group specializing in big band music. The laidback environment includes a 180-seat jazz room, lit by candlelight, with dinner tables, cocktail tables and a bar. Celebs such as Jamie Foxx, Dave Chappelle and Tyler Perry have made appearances at the place over the years, and the club remains a must for jazz enthusiasts.
290 Hilderbrand Drive
The St. Regis New York is heralded for its embrace of jazz legends such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Trying to introduce similar music to Buckhead patrons, The St. Regis Atlanta, which opened in 2009, has hosted its Jazz Legends series every Thursday night since 2015 in the hotel’s Wine Room, an intimate 35-person capacity space next to The St. Regis Bar. Guests gather comfortably in the lounge, sipping on cocktails and nibbling on light fare from Executive Sous Chef James Ellis. Theresa Hightower, a frequent stage musical performer with a devoted fan base, is the guest artist every week, accompanied by various piano players. Her rich, elegant voice and blues and jazz selections attract crowds week after week. Rosa Romero, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, says her clientele are in-house guests and locals who love listening to jazz in an intimate, exclusive atmosphere. Hightower makes her evenings memorable by interacting with guests and occasionally pulling musician friends up on stage to perform with her.
The St. Regis Atlanta
88 West Paces Ferry Road
As if a morning blast of beignets and coffee wasn’t enough to kick-start a Sunday morning, Watershed’s jazz should do it. The Buckhead location of this former Decatur-based restaurant opened five years ago and has built a successful Sunday brunch, with a twist. According to Marlo Mauricio, one of the restaurant managers, Watershed’s live music component began with its former chef, Joe Truex, who specialized in creole cuisine and brought in the Ruby Red’s, a trio of jazz musicians who’ve been together 50 years. While the restaurant experiments with other jazz events on certain dates, the Ruby Red’s are Watershed’s in-house crowd pleaser, engaging brunch-goers with their rowdy, weekend New Orleans jazz and gutbucket blues. Mauricio describes Sunday jazz brunch as lively, but not overly crowded. The band performs in the bar area inside, next to the restaurant’s patio, facing both diners grabbing a drink or settled in at a table for a meal. Many regulars come specifically for the music, too, and make reservations—either by calling ahead or putting in a special request online—to sit as close as possible to the performers.
1820 Peachtree Road N.W.
STORY: Jim Farmer