Can you feel it? There’s a new steady beat and a swingin’ rhythm in Montgomery County. In a region with too many suburban jazz deserts, some folks in Norristown decided to make a change for the better. Crying Sam Entertainment is rolling through its fourth season of Crying Sam Second Saturday Jazz at August Moon Restaurant.
Shows take place every 2nd Saturday of the month from 8PM to 11PM, October through May. And this season’s line-up is nothing short of fantastic.
Join the fun at the next show on Saturday, November 14 at 8PM (doors open at 7:30), when the Rhenda Fearrington Experience take the stage. This renowned four-piece comprises:
- Jim Holton – Piano
- Anwar Marshall – Drums
- Nimrod Speaks – Bass
- Rhenda Fearrington – Vocals
Without question, Philadelphia always has and continues to boast many of the world’s greatest leaders and innovators in and of jazz music. The list of jazz legends is impossibly long, the tradition deep and wide. Philadelphia is even home to one of the world’s best jazz radio stations: Temple University’s WRTI 90.1.
Traditionally, suburban dwellers in search of the real thing — be it hard-driving force and improvisational styles of Bebop and straight-ahead jazz; the timeless seduction of classic Hart, Porter and Gershwin-type standards; or the sultry setting of the crowd-hypnotizing, traditional jazz club — have had to tie up loose ends at home, call the babysitter, and make the trek into Philly. But in 2012, Rich Rogers, of Crying Sam Entertainment, and Mrs. Myong Ja Ryu, of August Moon Restaurant, decided to do something about it.
“I always wanted to be able to do something with jazz in town,” said Rogers, a Norristown native who grew up in Blue Bell and graduated from Wissahickon High. As the president of Norristown Arts Council, he was used to working with others to create events of destination for Norristown. When Rogers got his first look at the intimate new room across from the August Moon bar, he knew he could stop daydreaming and finally get to work on his longtime goal of reviving a missed jazzy vibe here in Norristown.
“Through the Arts Council we had already brought some jazz to the Arts Hill Festival, but I wanted to try to start a more legitimate and steady club-style offering,” Rogers said.
“Ideally, you want people to be able to drink and eat while they listen. I happened to be at August Moon for a meeting and asked the owner, Mrs. Myong Ja Ryu (Mrs. Kim), about the room opposite the bar that she had renovated. I knew I had found the perfect, pre-existing jazz space in Norristown. And there was even a baby grand piano sitting in there!”
For Rogers, the room recalled one of Philadelphia’s most popular and sorely missed jazz venues, Zanzibar Blue, on 11th Street.
“The room brought me back to that place in the ’90s where I used to go a lot when I was living in the city,” said Rogers, who now lives in Norristown. “Zanzibar Blue was the quintessential traditional jazz club.”
Stepping into action in sync with his vision, Rogers worked with Mrs. Kim and her daughter (manager), Jee Han, to embark on a monthly Second Saturday Jazz series at the restaurant. Rogers called on a childhood/musician pal and lodge brother, vibraphonist George Weldon to get things moving in as soon as two months.
From there things took off, as Rogers and Weldon formed various ensembles with heavy hitting jazz giants and vocalists from the current Philadelphia scene, to wow local suburban audiences with the exact same jazz folks were privy to in Center City. The vibe caught on and has provided an incredible ride for that has lasted more than three years and counting.
In that time, the Jazz Room at August Moon has been graced by such groups as:
- The George Weldon Quintet
- The Barbara Walker Story
- The Tony Williams Quartet
- Miss Justine and Friends
- The Nimrod Speaks Quartet
- The Jim Holton Quartet
- The Harry “Butch” Reed Group
- The Dylan Taylor Quartet
- Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society
- The Luke Carlos O’Reilly Quartet
- The Kevin Valentine Quartet
- The Lynn Riley Quintet
- FVC (aka Fortune, Vinson and Cruse)
Patrons have become regulars and new faces arrive at every show with only positive things to say:
“This is the real deal!”
“This is by far as great as, if not better than, any jazz I have seen in the city!”
“How do get these great musicians to come here from the city?”
Luckily for residents of Montco, we don’t have to think about it. We get to just show up … and enjoy.
For a full schedule and additional info, please visit cryingsam.com or facebook.com/cryingsam. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you plan to dine, August Moon encourages reservations for parties over four; for reservations, please call 610-955-2830.
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“He didn’t seem to notice [the Scotch and milk I’d sent him], but just before they started playing again, he sipped from it and looked toward me, and nodded. Then he put it back on top of the piano. For me, then, as they began to play again, it glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling.”
-James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”