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World class Jazz, quality beverages, excellent service, great tapas and light meals in this chic, sophisticated New York style Jazz Club. A real haven for new world and classic cocktails, sumptuous tunes and the slickest service. Weekly events include Sessions at The Shed with Ernest Turner and the Rising Stars Series, which features students from North Carolina Central University’s jazz studies department.
Stark caught up with the INDY about these early days of The Shed and what he hopes to accomplish with it.
DANIEL STARK: I was working in nonprofit fundraising and doing arts education with AmeriCorps through public schools, so I wanted to find a project that would help me present local artists.
New York has amazing jazz clubs, and I really felt that there could be a space that brought some of the magic of the best small New York jazz clubs in Durham, because the caliber of musicians here is absolutely on par with the musicians in New York and San Francisco and New Orleans. Durham has the Beyu Caffe and the Blue Note Grill, but it seems necessary to have a club, too, that's not also a restaurant and bar. Yeah, and by the same token, I think you need those spaces in order to have a musical environment where a venue like this can succeed. I think there is a lot of potential and a lot of pressure, because for musicians having a venue is a great opportunity. In a broad sense, we all have the same goal, and that goal is to make Durham the center of creative, cool music in the South. I plan to bring touring artists in, but the best resource that I have is the body of amazing musicians who live in Durham. Just continue to expand awareness of this as a creative nightlife option in downtown, just make more people aware that this a place people can go and hang out and see something they haven’t seen before. Because the boundaries of jazz are so fluid in terms of composition and improvisation and band structure.
When I did eventually find one, I was tussled aside by a rather glamorous thirty-something-year-old couple trying to order drinks and exiled to the corner of the bar that smelt suspiciously of turps.
The Queens, contemporary pub with timeless style, where food, friendly staff and great beer come together as one. Open all week long the Court showcases the hottest DJs as well as drag shows, live bands and more. Three months ago, Daniel Stark added to Golden Belt's list of attractions with The Shed, a 50-capacity club dedicated to jazz. This week, The Shed will also bring in Shirlette Ammons and Harmony Holiday to read poetry for the Manic Caravan series.
Yet there is a gap in terms of the musicians who are playing at the smaller venues or restaurants in town and then musicians who are playing at the Carolina Theatre and huge venues like that. When I came to Durham, the scene was really happening, and there were a lot of shows and a lot of things going on around tow. A lot of responsibility falls on the venue to make sure that it succeeds because people’s careers and livelihood depend on it. They're a local organization that focuses a lot of trying to reinvigorate jazz in the Triangle. The focus is always going to stay on developing local musicians and giving them a way to connect to their audience. It is a perfect format for the implementation of imagination as a tool for creating new paradigms of social reality in America, because it was developed as social resistance in America. But jazz exemplifies the potential for radical transformation that music can facilitate, so that is what I look for in artists like Ernest Turner, for example. Finding the right kind of space for jazz in Durham hasn't always been easy—Stark says he once got booted from the American Tobacco Campus for busking with his saxophone—so he’s made one that he hopes, along with Beyu Caffe, will fit his and other musicians’ needs.
Daniel, who has a master’s degree from Rutgers in jazz saxophone performance, worked in Raleigh with the music nonprofit Band Together NC before deciding to give The Shed a shot. So what I really wanted to do was have a venue where you can focus 100 percent on the music and present the music and really be a part of the artist on a smaller, more accessible scale. And just to keep investing in the continued development of our artists professionally and make it clear that, as a space, we are invested in our artists and whatever they do.
The red brick and thick wooden beams of the former textile mill make the room more warm and inviting than the average rock club, and colorful fabric-covered hangings made from materials culled from The Scrap Exchange serve as sound-insulating panels. So all musicians in Durham are invested in having that succeed, and not just the people who perform there, because ultimately it becomes Durham in its own way. The sleek dark colours, wooden extensions and crushingly intimate size made it seem authentic, even if the twenty-something jazz-geeks beside me didn't. The occasional younger person who actually knows all things jazz appears, but seemed too caught up in his own world to notice much else but his drink and the music. Our hope is that we will be able to cultivate a community around jazz education and direct people to existing channels for jazz education in the long term and help play a role in building awareness and meeting a need for accessible music education in the community. That level of musical intensity, attention and awareness responds to and catalyzes politics, and that is incredibly important.
No wines over $15 a glass (and big glasses too), no beers over $10 and cocktails ranging from $15-$25.
The food ranges from pizzas to tapas plates to salads with nothing hitting over $25 and decently sized. Following a collective of more knowledgeable folks, I found my way upstairs to the second bar, which was completely empty of people bar two others canoodling in the corner. The same sleek design followed, but there seemed to be more room upstairs (whether due to lack of people, I couldn't tell). If you can, make a run for upstairs upon arrival and enjoy the company of the television and sound system feeding the band up to you rather than deal with the hard-core enthusiasts seeking musical enlightenment and hogging all the chairs. The couches upstairs are much more comfortable.The music is authentic jazz, and for those not quite soul-minded, you will probably recognize a lot of the stuff played if you ever received a blasting of any during your younger years from your grandparents and parents. The Ellington is a true jazz club that isn't looking to attract the rambunctious younger crowds but give solace to those wanting a romantic or relaxing night out.
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