It’s the 10th anniversary year of the hot spot Jazz Standard, below the restaurant Blue Smoke, and on a recent visit I found it living up to its reputation as a lively part of the New York night scene. In addition to its jazz attractions, the food menu is connected to the Blue Smoke kitchen and the specialty is smoky ribs with sauces to match. One doesn’t have to eat, but why forgo the extra attraction?
On the night I went, July 7, the jazz attraction was Dr. Lonnie Smith and his Octet with a show titled “In the Beginning.” There were three sets that evening and I took the middle one at 9:30 p.m. Smith and his jazz cohorts, giving the jazz a Far Eastern bent, practically blew the roof off the club. Smith’s style, at least as evidenced on this occasion, is to start soft, build, and then reach a fever pitch, exemplified by superb drummer Allison Miller looking as if she was in a state of ecstasy, clearly not mere showwomanship, but really getting into the exaltedly high spirits of the escalating frenzy.
Dr. Smith—the doctor was affixed along the way in his career—has had vast experience performing and recording. He also converted to Sikhism, and accordingly, he has a beard and wears a turban, his look meshing with the unusual tone of the version of jazz served up that night. One of his numbers was titled “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” It was a composition full of the rage expected with that title.
The other talented members of the octet include John Ellis (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Ian Hendrickson-Smith (woodwinds, alto sax), Jason Marshall (baritone sax), Andy Gravish (trumpet), Ed Cherry (guitar) and Little Johnny Rivero (percussion). Smith himself is a master at the organ.
Jazz Standard and Blue Smoke are part of the Union Square Hosspitality Group, which is headed by Danny Meyer and is most famously represented by Union Square Café, a restaurant that consistently gets high ratings and has a loyal following. The cover charges at Jazz Standard are modest ($15-$30) and there is no food or drink minimum. The club has a seating capacity of 125.
Among the various attractions yet to appear during July are the Don Byron Gospel Quintet, the Orrin Evans Trio, the Mingus Big Band, the Michael Carvin Experience and the Lou Donaldson Quartet. August attractions include The Freddy Cole Quartet, The Dafnis Prieto Proverbs Trio, the Tierney Sutton Band and the Alvin Queen Quintet, among numerous others. Jazz Standard is located at 116 East 27th Street. For information on schedule and for reservations: Phone 212-576-2232 or go to www.ticketweb.com.Reviewed July 10. 2012.