September marks the end of an era for Seattle jazz performers and fans: the closure of Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. It’s a real blow to jazz in Seattle, says Abe Beeson, KNKX’s resident jazz expert and host of The New Cool.
“It’s really been the central headquarters of the Northwest jazz community,” Beeson told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
For 26 years, Tula’s has served as a “hub” for Northwest musicians, Beeson says — a measure of progress for artists new to the regional scene, as well as a home for live jazz six nights a week. And it’s a regular spot for performers who are friends of the station, such as Greta Matassa and Jay Thomas, to name a couple.
“It’s always like Old Home Week at Tula’s,” Beeson said, adding that it’s not uncommon to walk into the venue and sit next to a musician who is slated to play the next night.
Tula’s closure isn’t necessarily a surprise. The club has been operating on a month-to-month lease for six years, and its expiring licenses and insurance renewal in September would amount to roughly $15,000, according to a Seattle Times report.
“We’ve run out of Band-Aids and duct tape,” general manager Jason Moore told the newspaper.
Tula’s closing isn’t the end of live local jazz. But it does limit downtown offerings to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, and other options require a trip into surrounding neighborhoods: West Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue.
“A jazz musician’s life is a life of hustling,” Beeson said. “I’m sure they will be hustling a little bit more.”
What makes Tula’s special is the intimate, neighborhood feel, Kendrick says, where fans can talk with performers after they finish a set.
“I have many fond memories of going to Tula’s,” she said, including talking with Latin jazz trumpeter Ray Vega about recording with Paul Simon.
Now that Tula’s is closing up shop, Beeson says it’s incumbent on jazz enthusiasts to frequent the remaining establishments to support the musicians’ careers and keep venues vibrant.
“Jazz popularity is on the upswing, but it really is up to us. It’s up to the audience,” he said. “It’s up to the jazz fans to get out there and support the clubs. If we want the jazz musicians to have a career and to continue making great art, we need to do our part, too.”
Venues that continue to provide live jazz shows include Egan’s Ballard Jam House, The Royal Room, the Musicquarium Lounge at The Triple Door, and more.
Still, Beeson hopes that with this door closing, another will open.
“I hope that someone out there sees this as a great opportunity, to make a home for jazz in the venue that they have available,” he said.
Tula’s hasn’t closed yet. Here’s a look at some upcoming shows, all of which start at 7:30 p.m. Visit tulas.com for more details. (And be sure to call ahead for reservations. These final weeks are bound to be jam-packed.)
Critical Mass Big Band (Tuesday)
Ben Feldman & Friends, Johnaye K. (Wednesday)
Randy H. Open Heart Band (Thursday)
Greta Matassa Quintet (Friday)
Bill Anschell Standards Trio (Saturday)
Dan Kramlich Grunge Trio (Sunday)
DX-tet (Aug. 6)
Dmitri Matheny / Holly Pyle (Aug. 7)
Overton Berry (Aug. 8)
Thomas Marriott Quintet 2 nights** (Aug. 9-10)
Gail Pettis Quartet (Aug. 16)
Susan Pascal Sextet (Aug. 17)
Pete Christleib (Aug. 17)
Clipper Anderson Quartet (Aug. 18)
Jay Thomas (Aug. 22)
Marc Seales Band (Aug. 24)
David Marriott (Aug. 27)
Jovino Santos-Neto Quinteto (Aug. 31)
Really will miss @TulasJazzClub, an intimate and excellent #Seattle music venue. I have fond memories of seeing my jazz sax namesake @CatalanoMusic performing there whenever he was in town. https://t.co/EAfVXwMJWr
— Frank Catalano (@FrankCatalano) July 30, 2019
Abe Beeson and @KNKXKirsten from @knkxfm report on the end of Tula's Jazz Club in Belltown. 2 months of jazz left at this great Seattle club! Thanks for this fond appreciation ... https://t.co/CBzC09UL7d
— Curt Milton (@CurtMilton) July 30, 2019