The Star Tribune is reporting a possible deal for the Dakota to take over the Artist Quarter space in the Hamm Building.
http://www.startribune.com/entertainmen ... 82831.html
I have a mixed reaction to this news. The Dakota is a good venue. On occasions when I've had the money for expensive tickets, dinner, and drinks, I've enjoyed some great concerts there. Sometimes they have straight-up jazz late-night shows for only $5 bucks. Their Friday happy hour features tenor sax legend Irv Williams with no cover charge.
On the other hand, this news makes me sad. The Dakota (sometimes) carries on the jazz tradition, but lacks the magic of the Artist Quarter. The AQ was a serious musician-owned club on par with only a couple others in the country. Descending those stairs in the Hamm Building was like going back in time to the forties on NYC's 52nd Street.
It sounds like the new Dakota will offer food, which may be a necessity for a 21st Century music venue, but comes at a price, as prolific local musician Dave King was quoted in the City Pages.
As an old-school jazz club, the Artists' Quarter is a model that's dying in America. There aren't many places left where you're not four feet from a caesar salad while you're playing this music. Outside of New York's Village Vanguard and the Green Mill in Chicago, the Twin Cities has the Artists' Quarter.
It's the rare jazz club run by jazz musicians. Who could understand more about what the environment needs to be than somebody from that environment? You're entering something special here. It's subterranean and black inside, with black walls, no windows, and a bar at the back. Also, it's a condensed listening experience where it's not really tolerated to talk loudly during the music -- or to talk at all.
In a lot of places, you have servers blocking the view, clanking dishes, and other things that occur when you're in a room where people are eating. When we're in rock venues, there's an incessant amount of "hang" going on. Every rock show I've been to, big or small, I can hear a lot of the crowd over the music. The Artists' Quarter provided the environment to hear and play that music without those interruptions.
So I just wanted to share this [overall good] news and take a moment to lament what's been lost. Below I've quoted my comment posted at the Strib when the closing was first announced. Thanks to the AQ for all the great times (and serendipitously not making the age of admission 18 until I turned 18, or 21 until I turned 21).
This is so sad. I've been going to the Artist Quarter since I was in high school, and brought countless people there over the last 15 years. Really there's nothing like descending those stairs into the dark (formerly smoky) club with jazz pouring out and Davis greeting you at the door. You can tell this is the real jazz club because it's where the musicians come after they finish their gigs around town. You never knew who would walk in.
I'm going to really miss the AQ and the excellent music they hosted. I just want to thank Kenny for all the great times. Like that one time an old man wearing a bowtie wandered in the club and sat at the bar. When the band finished their tune, the bassist walked up to the microphone and said, "Ladies and gentleman, I'd like to welcome the great bassist Herbie Lewis to the stage." He handed the old man his bass and sat down with the rest of us to watch the master play for the rest of the night. That's respect, and it flowed freely at the Artist Quarter.