Keeping up with jazz venues in Fort Worth is a little like the music itself: it ebbs, it flows, it floats, it ducks into corners, and it bursts out to slam you with sound. Here are a just a handful of the places in Fort Worth and parts east, where jazz gets a proper showcase:
Scat Jazz Lounge
111 W. Fourth St., Fort Worth; 817-870-9100; www.scatjazzlounge.com
Backbeat: Scat opened in December 2007 in the basement of the Burk Burnett Building in Sundance Square, near the Jubilee Theater. It's owned by Cary Ray, co-owner of Daddy Jacks Lobster & Chowder House; Neil Connell, a partner in the Fort Worth Daddy Jack's and a partner in the Cavern in Dallas; and Dallas lounge singer Ricki Derek, under the name Satchmo Llc.
Scene: The owners wanted to emulate a swanky speak-easy vibe, and so they did -- starting with its alleyway entrance, lit by the hepcat neon sign. Down an elevator and, once inside, it's dark, intimate and simply elegant: small round tables, framed black-and-white portraits of classic jazz greats dot the walls, and faux votives flicker on every tabletop. Things get jumping on weekends and late nights. But even on a recent Tuesday night, we ran into a handful of serious jazz fans.
Groove: You'll find classic jazz here, with an accent on Rat Pack-style ring-a-ding (thanks to co-owner Derek, who's also a performer), and the occasional nonjazz event like the Country Hoedown. Our recent visit showcased Flipside, an improvisational trio featuring Paul Unger on bass, Dave Monsch on sax and Dennis Durick on drums.
Crowd: This 170-capacity club gets jumping on weekends and late nights.
Buzz: "This place is underground, and it feels like 1920s, Prohibition-era, Al Capone sort of style," says Lindsey Anderson of Arlington, a jazz cellist schooled at the University of North Texas. "I think it's great," she says. "The candlelight, the drinks, the atmosphere -- it's very representational of this historical point in time when jazz was really important, and it was key player in politics and society."
Don't miss: Black Dog Revisited (every Sunday at 8:30 p.m.), a jazz-jam homage to the old Black Dog Tavern on Throckmorton (no cover); Nawlins Nights presented by Adonis Rose (9 p.m. Sept. 15; no cover); a Miles Davis Tribute, put together by Paul Unger (9 p.m. Sept. 16) Note: Also catch Unger's Miles tribute this weekend at Jazz By the Boulevard.
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday-Friday; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday; 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.
Ridglea Jazz Cafe
6115 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817-377-1722; www.ridgleajazzcafe.com
Backbeat: In June, this Camp Bowie restaurant took the place of another former jazz-flavored restaurant, Keith Hicks' Ovation. The new joint comes from partners Stan Hatcher of the soul-food favorite Hatch's Corner in Forest Hill, and George Johnson, who owns Dickey's Barbecue stores.
Scene: It's a restaurant first (dig those chicken and waffles plates), with jazz on the side, creating a mildly dinner-theater vibe. A recent Saturday night brought out an impressively diverse crowd (the jeans-and-T-shirt set fit in just fine right along with a smattering of snappy fedoras, Kangol caps and on-the-town duds). By 8 p.m., the tables were about 80 percent full.
Groove: The venue's events calendar is dotted with jazz events (and the occasional poetry reading). Acts lean toward smooth rather than straight-ahead jazz. Our recent visit featured the Brehms Band, a swingin' standards-influenced ensemble with Stephanie Young Brehm on lead vocals.
Crowd buzz: Neki Pierce of Fort Worth, there with a gaggle of girlfriends, came for the food and the music. "It's nice and mellow," she says. "I like the band; they're good. We'll definitely be back. I think the whole vibe is nice, and it's culturally diverse, so that's always good, too."
Roswell and Shonda Green of Fort Worth were celebrating their 28th anniversary. "I like it," Roswell says. "I was here in its previous incarnation [Ovation]. I was disappointed when it moved to Buttons. Buttons didn't have the same feel. This [the Ridglea Jazz Cafe] is a little closer to the tempo I like."
Restaurant hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays
Performance hours: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 7-9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 2-4 p.m. Sunday
Two locations: Fort Worth: 4701 West Freeway (corner of I-30 and Hulen Street), 817-735-4900; Addison: 15207 Addison Road; 972-503-2888
Backbeat: Keith Hicks, the former chef at Ovation and Gunsmoke Grill, and Herbert Hughes, an investment banker and regular customer, opened the restaurant/bar in 2008, promising "food and music for the soul." The name Buttons is Hicks' childhood nickname. A second Buttons is slated to open Saturday in Addison.
Scene: "Come inside, and you just see so many different peoples," Hicks says in his dreamy, spoken-word poetry way of speaking. "I've said it before: It's really like Baskin Robbins -- there are all different flavors in there. It's definitely the vibe."
Groove: Sweet jazz, smooth jazz, every night but Sunday; but there's jazz during Sunday brunch
Crowd buzz: "The eclectic mix of food, mood, music and clientele makes Buttons a one-of-a-kind experience in Fort Worth," our critic crowed last year.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday ; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
McDavid Studio at Bass Hall
301 E, Fifth St., Fort Worth; www.basshall.com/mcdavidStudio.jsp
Jazz is a heavy focus at the McDavid, which serves up world-class artists in an intimate setting. The North Texas Jazz Artist Series has brought the likes of trombone player Vincent Gardner and bassist Michael Formanek to town, and you'll also catch New Orleans native-turned-Fort Worth resident Adonis Rose, founder of the Fort Worth Jazz Society here.
2504 Montgomery St., Fort Worth; 817-737-0043
Through various clubs and restaurants, Nick Kithas has been bringing jazz to Fort Worth since the '70s. You'll find it here during Sunday brunch.
210 E. Eighth St., Fort Worth; 817-870-9750; www.embargofw.com
Check out Jazz Monsters, a 25-piece band that throws a free concert every second and fourth Sunday of the month.
509 University Drive, Fort Worth; www.sardinesftworth.com
This Italian restaurant features jazz from pianist Johnny Case just about every night.
Spots to check out jazz in Dallas
Brooklyn Jazz Cafe (1701 S. Lamar St.; www.brooklynjazzcafe.com)
TePheJez Nightclub (2226 Elm St.; www.tephejez.com)
Soho Food and Jazz (5290 Belt Line Road; www.sohofoodandjazz.com)
The Balcony Club (attached to the Lakewood Theater; 1825 Abrams Road; check out its Facebook page)
Bad Ass Jazz Night at The Amsterdam Bar (831 Exposition Ave.; amsterdambar.blogspot.com)
Sandaga Jazz, a nonprofit devoted to jazz in Dallas/Fort Worth (1325 E. Levee St.; www.sandagajazz.com)
The Kessler (1230 W. Davis St.; www.thekessler.org)
Watel's World Piece Cafe (1802 Greenville Ave.; watels.com)
In Denton, you can hear jazz on every corner, thanks to UNT's Jazz Studies Division, but one place that came highly recommended by some Denton jazz enthusiasts was the GreenHouse Restaurant & Bar, at 600 N. Locust St. (www.greenhouserestaurantdenton.com).