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King Pleasure: Jazz

King Pleasure: Jazz image
Parent Issue
Day
1
Month
November
Year
1973
OCR Text

Anti Arbor has finally been treated to a regular jazz club, known as King Pleasure. The small, intímate club opened a few weeks ago and lias heen bringing so me of the finest jazz musicians around into an atmosphere that puts yon right up close and inside the music. This interview with John Petrie and Usa (ottlieb. who together are managing the club. was conducted for the SUN by Chris McCabe. SUN: How did the opportunity for the jazz club come up? LG: Well. lowards the end of the summer, Richard Carlson, who owns the Frontier Beef Buffet upstairs and the banquel room in the basement downstairs where we have King Pleasure, approached John about giving him some ideas and suggestions about jazz because he wanted to have a jazz club. His conception was a club that would be oriented toward a slightly older crowd than wc later turned it into bul of course, we convinced liim that the best thing to present would be jazz that young people could relate to, the surging popular variety of avant-garde jazz and commercial jazz too. Bul tt'ï the kind of stuff that young people are really getting into these days. SUN: Is it going to be strictly a jazz club? JP: No. Riglit now it's strictly a jazz club because what we've been able to get are all jazz bookings. Unfortunately, most of the rhythm and blues booking agents exist on a totally different planet and they all want a small fortune for acts that probably play only 10 times a year. LG: At rock revivals at Madison Square Garden. JP: But ultimately our conception originally was 4Sths jaz with just a little bit rhythm and blues and the rhythm and blues that we were mainly interested in bringing in was going to tend toward historical rhythm and blues, people like Professor Longhair, Fais Domino, Ivory Joe Hunter. LG: Esther Phillips. She's coming in for a special Thanksgiving treat. We'll be serving turkey sandwiches that week, with cranberry sauce. SUN: People probably don't understand or don't know what's behind the money in a jazz club and a lot of people who come are mpressed with how much they have to pay to get in cause they're used to paying a buck and coming in and sitting down and being left alone with the music. A lot of them don't understand why it costs that much to get in and why they have to buy drinks so maybe you should talk a little about that and the expense of the acts. LG: Well the expense of the acts is most of the overhead. That's the largest thing because it's music of a very high stature. It's very popular and internationally known. These people get a lot of money for what they do, and they 're playing for a lot less for us than they get most anyplace else because we get them when they're on the road somewhere else like Chicago or Cleveland. But it's a lot of money and the $3.00 that we collect at the door does not pay for the act. That is still about 20-30% short of what they need to be paid. And that's why we have to have people buy drinks each set. So far we haven't made any money, and that's a fact. It's all gone into our initial investment, which wasn't much cause we tried to to it as cheaply as possible utilizing people's talents and abilities. But it's worth it to pay a little extra to see acts the stature that they won't see anywhere else in Ann Arbor except rare moments at Hill Auditorium possibly. JP: And if we did charge a lower cover, we'd have to bring in groups like the Harry Marimba Trio from Hamtramck. ye've had a lot of requests from people to book in Harry Marimba. LG: He's hot. JP: Ann Arbor is one of the few places where something like this is possible. The Stables for example. We went to the Stables in East Lansing to see Chick Corea. And they did exceptionally well. And most clubs can do well with ja.z if they're booking the biggest names maybe once every two months or once every three months. We're trying to book name acts every weekend. Ann Arbor, it appears so far, is going to support this. We went to Two Saints in New York City last July to see Charles Mingus, and there were about 75 people there. That's in a city of 10 million people. Charles Mingus is the premiere bassist, some people think he's the greatest bassist of all time. But he's certainly the greatest living bass player. With a pool of 10 million people to draw from and only 75 people turned out to see him. LG: Including us, and we're from out of town. But the Two Saints has the aspect of being a cruddy joint, a sleazy bar. But the Vanguard, is a reatly ciassy jazz club. I would go there to see Roland Kirk and Pharoah c-"rs and there'd only be 30 or 50 people in the audience. Thai gu , Mav Cordon, has been doing & for years. JP: And then you've got people like Joe Segal in Chicago who's been doing it for years. He just moved out of the projects. He made so Httle money from it that he was forced to live in the projects. So, for most people involved in the club aspects of it, it's a labor of love sort of thing. On the other hand, you have the record companies who have done nothing for the last 20 or 30 years but rob the artists. For example, the Art Ensemble of Chicago has countless albums out on all these labels, and received not a penny from any of the labels, with probably the only exception being the Baptizum album that the Blues & Jazz Festival put out. SUN: Maybe we should say, most of the artists got only $2000 for three nights. They have to spend that money on travel expenses, and eating, while they're in town. JP: The booking agent gets a healthy chunk out of it. LG: Right. We got them a break on motels, and we got a break on the price of food in the restaurant upstairs. They get good food, they get their drinks, they get paid every night in cash after they play. We're trying to do something that doesn't step on anybody's feet involved. We're trying to treat our audiences as best as we can. That has been one problem. We're getting a reputation for having poor service because it's difficult in the dark, it's difficult with music playing, the waitresses aren't used to the situation. But we're working as hard as we can to get that aspect together so people can come here and be served, get what they need. JP: Before we leave the price thing, we should mention, people freak out when they see a $3.00 cover, but people will pay $2.50 or $3.00 in Detroit to see a bad movie that you walk out of disappointed. No one walked out any evening dissatisfied, because the entertainment has been just fantastic. LG: And it fits in the mood of Ann Arbor, the entertainment we get, and the music made at the bar every week, is the pulse of Ann Arbor. I'm convinced, since the festivals, the free concerts, everything that's been done in this spirit, the spirit we're doing this which is the spirit of just doing the best in every possible way. You encounter a lot of-problems, and it takes a while to overeóme most problems. We're going to get a suggestion box too. We want people to teil us what they want to hear in the way of music, because John and I have been booking mostly on our own taste, our own ideas, with our friends. And we want to open that up to our audience. We want to know what they want to eat, we want to know what thev think of everything and how they think they can help it too. SUN: So the club wül be there to serve the music. the 'l musicians, and the people who come to hear it. LG: Everybody. JP: We should teil people who King Pleasure is. People have told us that King Pleasure sounds like an expensive ■ massage parlor, like the most expensive burger place. It's a jazz club. King Pleasure is this guy, whose real name is Clarence Beekes who is a famous jazz singer in the 50's who unfortunately only put out three or four record albums, but who's been a great influence on people like the Pointer Sisters, who are very popular now. Their style is pretty much a lift from Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Dave Lambert and John Hendricks used to sing with King Pleasure and King Pleasure created the style of music which was based on taking improvisational solos by jazz musicians and writing vocals to these solos andjl singing them. LG: Bob Rudnick said it sounded hedonistic. ■BW JP: It's all those thingsbut in the end it's the music. LG: We're all a bunch of hedonists anyway. We're looking for a hot time. JP: If people want to be hedonistic, we have bottles of wine available in our basement.