Posted On: 01/01/2006
After doing this column for a loooong time, it’s become abundantly clear that new and current bar/club owners rarely take what I have to say seriously. Why would they, really? I’m just some hack nightlife critic, not a restaurant critic. I rip spots for improper Schlafly Pilsner usage, not an improper rosemary-to-cracked-pepper ratio on the beef tenderloin. I admit it: I am
Sarcastic prose aside, my columns have often harped on one thing – appropriate signage. Even if your club is on the busiest thoroughfare in all STL, no one is going to know where you are if you don’t have a well-lit, subtle yet eye-catching sign. This is even more important for clubs/bars buried in suburbia’s deeply set strip malls. If you don’t have a good sign, you’ll look like the closed UPS Store.
The latest culprit: Cookie’s Jazz and More. If you’re not familiar with new Old Webster, there’s no way you’ll find this jazz club on your first try without circling the block three times, and chances are you’ll only know you’ve found it when you actually see the stage through the large picture windows in the rear corner of a three-story building.
Cookie’s inconspicuous sign is indicative of nearly everything on the inside. Non-alcoholic items (sodas, teas, juices, waters, coffees) far outnumber the alcoholic selections (wines, malt beverages, beers, zero liquor). Nearly all liquids come in plastic/Styrofoam cups, except the beer and wine.
You won’t come here to tie one on, make a date, smoke or see and be seen, but you may, like most of the people on my visits, come to casually sip hot chocolate and listen to live jazz.
Cookie’s is tastefully decorated with reds, blacks and candle-lit tables. With so few bottles behind the short “bar” and so many tables on the floor, Cookie’s layout, minus the stage, is unfortunately reminiscent of a fast-food restaurant. But, oh, that stage. That stage is the saving grace of all that
Every evening, Wednesday through Saturday, Cookie’s showcases quality live jazz(y) music. Cookie’s request-friendly bands typically flaunt with drums, upright bass, piano, guitar and horns for vocal numbers from the Frank Sinatra catalog and instrumental numbers from the John Coltrane catalog.
Wednesday evening’s Open Jazz Jam Session is damn fun, with brave souls sitting in with the band, Sound Unlimited. I heard a teenage girl team wail (that’s good) through the Grand Funk Railroad’s (excuse me, Joss Stone’s) “Some Kind of Wonderful.” Next, an unnamed young piano virtuoso treated Sound Unlimited like Marty McFly treated Marvin Berry & The Starlighters (“OK, this is a blues riff in B; watch me for the changes.”) before grimacing his way through Ernie Watt’s classic jazz instrumental “On Green Dolphin Street.” It’s high entertainment, particularly when yet-unknown talent takes the stage.
The straight 411 …
For quality live jazz, and effectively nothing more, head to Cookie’s … if you can find it.
Ever wonder what it would look like if you threw a jazz club into a strip mall? Well look no further folks, Cookie’s Jazz and More is just that, a swingin’ little club located in an upscale Webster Groves
Like most music venues, Cookie’s has a nightly cover charge, so before you walk in the door you will have to lighten your wallet a little. Covers are $5 Wednesday and Thursday and $10 Friday and Saturday. Once you pony up your cash and walk into the club, you will find a bevy of tables available to choose from. If you come in late, most of the open tables will be located in the back, but they still provide an ample view of the action taking place on stage. Most of the upscale patrons clump in the front of the venue to get an incredible view of the live jazz act.
The alcohol menu at Cookie’s is extremely limited, offering only beer, wine and a few Bacardi products. It seemed odd to me that a place that fancies itself a jazz bar wouldn’t offer hard liquor for those who desire a snifter of brandy or tumbler of Scotch. My father-in-law – a true jazz lover – would definitely have something to say about the lack of Scotch at a jazz bar. Cookie’s does, however, have a wide assortment of sodas, teas and coffee specialties.
Once you have your drinks you are free to relax and soak up the music while taking in the quiet environment that a club filled with patrons mostly age 40 and up provides. Also, the smoke-free environment of the club allows you to enjoy the music without having to smell like an ashtray when you leave.
Cookie’s generally offers one act per night and makes sure that only first-class jazz acts, mostly from St. Louis, are featured. There’s a jam session on Wednesdays and bigger acts on weekends, such as Kim Massie. The acts always seem happy to be there and not just schlepping themselves on stage for some extra cash. The performers who grace the stage at Cookie’s truly enjoy their craft, and it shows in their performances.
Overall, the looks and sound quality at Cookie’s are average at best and fail to break out of the strip-mall shell they are enveloped in. But the exceptional music gives the club a calm and inviting feel perfect for true jazz followers. Cookie’s is the place you should go to listen to jazz in a quiet, smoke-free environment with a group of friends who intensely enjoy jazz or for a romantic night with your significant other.
The straight 411 …
Cookie’s Jazz and More offers up a low-key environment to enjoy drinks, jazz and, well, more.
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