“Jazz is the great American tradition,” woodwinds professor Joseph Lulloff said. Though jazz has been around for decades, the influences of jazz today stretch far and wide – everything from rock and roll to hip hop. Whether you are a true connoisseur of jazz, a student looking for some live entertainment and good food or a jazz studies major looking for a performance venue, East Lansing provides a variety of options for any jazz lover.
“Ideally between Tuesday and Saturday, you should be able to go and hear music [in the Lansing area],” jazz studies professor Wes Anderson said. For students that know where to look, live jazz music can be found at a variety of venues throughout Lansing and East Lansing, including Rendezvous on Tuesday nights, Green River Café on Thursdays, Landon Cafeteria on Fridays and Coral Gables on Saturdays.
[saxy2]On Tuesday nights, students can head on over to Rendezvous night club. From 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., the club features live jazz performances. Andy Wilson, an MSU alum, coordinates “Jazz at the Rendezvous.” Most of the bands he hires are professional jazz groups from the greater Lansing area. The bar provides a dance floor, but if you are not in the mood to dance, there are plenty of other options – including pool tables, the lottery game “Keno,” and arcade games from Megatouch. Feel free to either hang at the bar or sit down for lunch or dinner. The club specializes in American cuisine – including your basic hamburgers and hot dogs. For those under 21, be sure to call first to find out whether the show is 21 and up only.
Magdalena’s Tea House hosts “Open Mic Nights” every Wednesday from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. The event is organized by Vee Peterson, who also works at the Tea House. There is a $5 cover charge to get in, but this includes your first drink. Artists are allowed to express themselves however they wish, which tends to be through poetry and music. The music tends to be a variety of folk, acoustic and alternative, “usually everything besides hard-core thrash metal and rarely rap” Peterson said. She added that “occasionally people, bands…the musically gifted, come out and host the Open Mic Nights.” The Tea House décor creates a very intimate setting, allowing audience members, who tend to be other artists, mingle with the performers. The alternative, independent atmosphere is complimented by an all-vegan menu. You can eat anything from your basic veggie wrap ($6) to herbed nut stuffing ($11) to a sushi nori roll ($6), while enjoying local and mostly unknown artists hone their skills. The Open Mic Nights are open to “everything, everyone,” Peterson said. Even founder Miko Fossum’s 5-year-old daughter, Magdalena (who the tea house was named after), occasionally plays piano on stage. [Slonim4]
If you are interested in hearing what your fellow MSU students have been up to, check out Green River Café on Thursdays. The cafe hosts primarily students enrolled in Music 131. “It’s more of a quasi-class; one-credit thing,” math and physics sophomore Ryan Goh said. At the beginning of the year, Anderson and Randy Gelispie host auditions in order to place the students in combinations, made up of anywhere from four to six people. These combos play at Green River on a rotating schedule: two weeks with four combos, where each group gets to perform for 20 minutes, and one week with two combos and a grad student combo who typically perform for about an hour. Generally, the shows begin around 10 p.m. and last until midnight, at which time a improv jam session begins. Those can last until the very early morning. Currently, the class is not required for music majors but will be required for incoming freshmen in the class of 2012. The type of jazz depends on the combo itself – some groups choose to play more modern jazz, while others play “be-bop” jazz from the 1960s.
[jazzypiano]Social relations and policy junior Laura Kovacek describes the atmosphere as “a mixture between hipster and hippie.” The audience tends to be mainly students – primarily other music majors, and their friends. “It’s a big family; we all support each other,” Goh said.
The café itself has a light menu with sandwiches and salads, along with a wide array of teas, smoothies and coffees. While there is no cover, it is suggested to buy a small snack or drink if you’re an audience member. “I don’t know much about jazz,” Koveck said, “but I enjoy it. I always feel welcomed there. It’s a great place to just go and hang out.”
Jazz studies and education senior Nicole Matthews organized “Java Jams” at Landon Cafeteria, in West Circle. “I wanted to expose people to jazz music, and offer mentoring,” Matthews said. “I heard about how the cafeteria has different events throughout the year and I thought the cafeteria would be an easy location for all students, especially those without cars.”
Along with wanting to expose students to jazz, Matthews also wanted to provide a venue for her classmates to perform. Jazz studies and comparative cultures and politics junior Sarah Slonim, who performs at Java Jams, agreed that performing is the best way jazz students can improve. “The best experience is to go out and play together,” Slonim said. “Jazz is unique because people don’t have to work together to play together.”
Java Jams takes place every other Friday from 8:00 – 11:30 p.m. Matthews and her quintet, which consists of Slonim on piano, Kathleen Murray on bass, Ryan Ptasnik on drums, and Marcus Miller on tenor saxophone, perform a few songs each week, and then encourage others to “sit in” (join) once the jam session officially begins. These performances are open only to stduents with meal plans, so if eating in the dorms is part of your daily routine this may the performance for you.[bassy]
Coral Gables restaurant on Grand River Avenue in East Lansing hosts live musicians every Saturday night beginning in mid-to-late fall and ending Memorial Day Weekend. Jazz student groups are usually featured about twice per month. Stuart Vanis, the owner, decided to pair his music season with the school season for various reasons. “We have so many student groups and do a lot of business with students and things related to the University,” Vanis said. “There are more people during the school year. There is also less competition in winter, because during summer there is a lot of outside music in the area.” [Vanis]
Coral Gables began hosting live musicians roughly ten years ago after a remodeling of the bar opened up new opportunities.
“We had remodeled the bar ten years ago, so [the restaurant] is more conducive to live entertainment,” Vanis said. Lulloff then approached Vanis with the idea of hiring musicians to play live. It began on Thursday nights, but soon switched to Saturdays. The music played consists of “mostly jazz, because that’s what my interest is,” Lulloff said. “I’ve been playing jazz all my life.”
Live performances benefit the venue itself, the jazz performers, and the audience all at once. For owners of the cafés and clubs, “having live jazz music introduces the restaurant to a different clientele,” Vanis said. “It’s also a nice place for a date; provides an alternative to going to movie; it’s a different venue with high-quality music, because all of those students are trained to be professionals,” he added.
For those hesitant to go out and try new music, or think they do not like jazz, assistant Professor of Vocal Jazz Sunny Wilkinson stressed giving jazz a second chance. “Do not let one bad record ruin jazz for you,” Wilkinson said. “Just because you don’t like one record doesn’t mean you don’t like the art form. There is a whole wide world of jazz out there to be explored.” And that world starts right here in East Lansing.
Rendezvous Night Club
226 E Grand River Ave
Lansing, MI 48906
Magdalena’s Tea House
2006 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI 48912
Green River Café
211 Mac Ave
East Lansing, MI 48823
Landon Hall, Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48823
2838 E Grand River Ave
East Lansing, MI 48823