BLUE NOTE: Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus 86’d


Ortlieb’s 6/9/04 by JEFF FUSCO

CITY PAPER: It’s never cheerful when musicians booked to play a gig are forced to scramble because the venue has a licensing problem/water main break/some other mellow-harsher. But early last night when the word came down that Ortlieb’s — the nearly 24-year-old jazzhaus in Northern Liberties — had closed over the weekend it truly stung, leaving the likes of Bobby Zankel and Nick Millevoi to find new digs for their end-of-April gigs. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Over at Ortlieb’s, which has been at its current location on North Third Street since Northern Liberties was cool the first time around, it’s time for the second set of the night for Bootsie Barnes and his organ trio. Bootsie’s tenor sax-playing is the stuff of legend on the local jazz circuit, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He eyes the PW photographer warily when informed he wants to take his picture. When Bootsie Barnes stares you down, you start to take seriously all the things they whisper about him behind his back — that in younger days, he killed a man in self-defense and learned to play sax in prison. And that even though he’s a jazz man, he uses his horn to vent the blues. But it’s hard to square that outlaw image with the avuncular man in summer shirtsleeves benevolently blowing out “Happy Birthday” for 84-year-old Dot Watkins, who’s sitting at the table in front of the stage. After a round of applause, drummer Craig McIver starts tapping out the intro to the next song on the cymbals. Barnes tries to introduce the song, but the drummer’s making a little too much racket for his liking. “The name of this tune is … ” he says, then pauses mid-sentence and coldly stares down the drummer, who immediately cuts his volume in half. The song is “Funk in Deep Freeze,” a Hank Mobley number, and Barnes and his boys make it sound like classic neon-and-manhole-steam big-city jazz. Midway through the song, Barnes arches his back a little more than usual and raises his horn a little higher, tilting it back like the note’s gonna fall out of the ceiling and he wants to blow it back. And then he blows that note, and it sounds like a ray of light is coming out of his horn. “You caught a good night for Bootsie,” says the guy on the barstool next to me. “I never heard him hit that note before.” MORE

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