Longtime Charlotteans and music lovers bring a new jazz concept to the Queen City.
When Larry Farber was a young boy, he loved experiencing live jazz. “I remember going to Nixon’s Steakhouse to see Ziggy Hurwitz play,” he says, referring to the one-time Nixon Bros. Steakhouse restaurant on Independence Blvd., which often hosted the jazz pianist.
Farber, a native Charlottean and longtime owner of EastCoast Entertainment, thinks fondly of a different era of jazz in the Queen City — one he wants to revive.
“As I’ve seen the city evolve, I felt like the time was right for Charlotte to embrace a dedicated club all about the music,” he says. “Yes, we’ll have food and great drinks, but [this is] a venue that makes music its primary focus.”
The new concept, Middle C Jazz, which was scheduled to open on Oct. 31, aims to present local, regional and national jazz acts in a 200-seat venue. “My whole life has been music,” Farber says. “When you’re creating a city as world-class and multicultural as ours, part of what makes us better and more attractive is to have a dedicated world-class jazz club. This has been a bucket list dream of mine forever.”
Today in Charlotte, while not exactly ubiquitous, jazz hangs around in a variety of improvised venues, from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, which has its own popular Jazz at the Bechtler series, to restaurants that offer jazz nights, such as the longstanding Cajun Queen. Lonnie and Ocie Davis’ JazzArts Charlotte, which celebrates 10 years this season, continues to expand its beloved Jazz Room series, celebrating the greats like Ahmad Jamal, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk (and even its returning students, like Charlotte’s own Sean Mason) at Blumenthal’s Stage Door Theater.
Adam Farber, Larry’s son and a commercial real-estate broker at Colliers International, joins him in the venture and says he’s excited about the uptown location on Brevard Street, between the Charlotte Convention Center and Spectrum Center. Poised for an influx of visitors and locals alike, the Farbers note that, much like the middle C on a piano unites the sections on a keyboard, Middle C Jazz is a centrally located meeting point for Charlotte’s musicians and music lovers.
Following 47 years in the entertainment-booking business and 13 years running the Music With Friends concert series, Farber is relying on relationships he’s built with others in Charlotte to make it all work.
Jonathan Gellman, who owned and operated the Jazz Cellar and restaurant at Jonathan’s Uptown (now Duckworth’s) during the 1980s and early ’90s, is charged with programming the music. And he’s off to a great start, confirming guests already known and loved by Charlotte crowds, such as Maria Howell and Al Strong, plus Grammy Award nominees and winners, including Special EFX with Emmy Award-winning guitarist, composer, producer Chieli Minucci. Pianist Joey Alexander is scheduled to headline in November.
The club has a partner restaurant, too. Chris Healy, formerly of the Gin Mill and Davidson Street Public House restaurant, is managing partner of the adjacent concept, The Public House. Clayton Sanders, a former chef at the Davidson small-plates restaurant who also sharpened his skills at Aria and Halcyon, has created tapas-style foods that are easily shareable, not-too-messy and, of course, quiet. “The number one priority in the space is the sound,” Healy says. “You won’t be able to hear that fork.”
Chef-driven highlights include pastrami-style meatballs, chef’s pimento cheese, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, smoked wings and bacon-apple brie. Dips and spreads, salads, and meats and cheeses are also on the menu.
Former WBTV sports anchor Delano Little partners with Healy on The Public House. “This is a local project,” Little says. “We know the community, and we know what people like.”
Little points to another local, Honey Butter Bakery founder Brandi Jones, who adds her popular desserts to the menu. According to Healy, selections will change often. For every show, the restaurant will offer a small-plates menu plus a full bar with craft cocktails and table service.
Performances run Thursday through Sunday, with one evening performance on Thursdays, two evening performances on Fridays and Saturdays, a Sunday morning brunch performance and local blues artists on Sunday evenings. Single-ticket sales are available, and a membership option offers perks such as discounted prices and early admission.
“We want to support the local jazz folks in this area,” Farber says. “Our success will be Charlotte’s success.” SP
middlecjazz.com, 300 South Brevard St.
Header photo of Noel Freidline provided by Middle C Jazz.
Originally published by South Park Magazine on November 4, 2019.