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Jan 24, 2018
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Jazz at The Bistro Swings
By Steven Fitzpatrick Smith
Posted On: 03/08/2001   

Bars can be very different. Some can be true to their purpose neighborhood hangouts at the corner tavern. Other bars are a place for people to come from all over the city. There is always a compelling reason why people go to a particular bar. The Jazz at the Bistro offers the finest in Jazz during the winter Jazz season. The word is that the Bistro may soon be offering music year round.

The difference of the Jazz at the Bistro is evident from the first impression of the doormen. There are two large well-dressed men hovering near the door. Both men wear a stern, but congenial expression. The two take turns politely greet the arriving clientele and diplomatically informing them of cover charge of a very stiff 25 dollars per person. The doormen, one is black and the other white, are a good reflection of the diverse crowd. Both of the men have a very proper business like attitude and they share a love for jazz.

The crowd is elegant. Many of them are true jazz lovers. Others come for the high-class experience. The cosmopolitan looking and well-dressed crowd is very diverse, with both black and white, but also others from all parts of the world. The age ranges from the mid thirties to sixties. The common trait in most of the concertgoers is they are of an affluent background.

The bar is within a larger building that faces the square opposite the Fox Theatre on Grand Avenue in Midtown. Midtown is home to the Symphony and may other arts organizations. Complimentary valet parking is available for the Bistro patrons. The interior is finely decorated with a high design. Jazz is not a year round staple at the Bistro, but it is the highlight entertainment attraction of the establishment.

Expensive lamps are hung from the ceiling in the off-white painted interior. The bar itself is located near the entrance and the stage is set at the far wall at the other end of the softly lit dining area. The white clothed dinner tables are immediately set off the stage with an open ceiling and balcony seating that looks down on the crowd and stage. The overall feel is cozy and intimate.

The etiquette of Jazz is unlike most other music performances in smaller venues. Blues clubs can be rowdy compared to this setting. The most obvious difference is the entrance fee, but the differences do not stop there. Dinner is served at the dinner tables in the main seating area.

This is not a typical service that is offered at a musical performance. There are two separate shows a night. There is a two-drink minimum for everyone who comes. All of the performers are in a musicians Union. One of the doormen will go up to the stage and welcome the artist during each set. The doorman will also remind the audience to please be quiet during the performance in respect for the artist. There is no dancing or any sort of rush toward the stage to actively participate. The crowd just sits back and enjoys the music and shows the artist their appreciation through gracious periodic applause. The crowd will give a more roaring approval at the end of the set.

The fancy Frotenac caterer Ces and Judy's now does the food for the Bistro and has now upgraded both the food and the name, which is now formally the Bistro Europa. The menu consists entrees such as grilled swordfish with white beans and choron sauce. There is an unusual twist to the menu with an offering of an extravagant meatloaf. This hearty Americana staple is no doubt an influence of one of the newer well rounded Chefs that cut his teeth cheffing at fancy downtown Chicago Hotels, but also a stint slinging at Saint Louis' own popular Courtesy diner.

The best shows are often the debut nights on Thursdays. Many of the local jazz singers in town will come see the Thursday performance and will often join the touring artist up on the stage for a fine jazz hootenanny. All of the finest touring jazz acts stop through Saint Louis because many of the better current jazz artists are on the Maxjazz label, which is based out of this city.

The door charge may seem stiff for the average bar patron, but this entrance price is similar, if not less expensive, to the equivalent bars on a national level. This, however, does not make the entrance any less expensive. The economics of jazz at this level is much different than other music venues. The musicians are in a Union and all of the performers are well paid for their work. The artist typically comes in for one or two weeks of performances. There are two performances a night and there are usually shows on Thursday through Saturday. Tasteful banners advertising corporate sponsors are hung behind the performers on the stage.

Things to remember to get in cheaper, but always be prepared to pay full price:

* Consider going in during a weeknight.
* Dress to impress
* Act sincere when haggling with the doorman.
* Offer to sit back at the bar
* Offer to sit upstairs
* Buy tickets in advance at a group rate with a non-profit
* Get a job there

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