Fort Worth's love affair with jazz hasn't always been so cozy. Cowtown produced many great jazzbos like Dewey Redman and Ornette Coleman, to name a few, but legendary jazz venues and festivals like Jazz on the Boulevard, Caravan of Dreams, and Sardines Ristorante Italiano have gone the way of the dinosaurs in recent memory.
During all the ups and downs, though, working jazz musicians continued to hone their craft and please crowds wherever they could find them, catering to a small, but very loyal following. Today, you can find several great spots to hear that great American tradition called jazz.
Top on my list is Lili's Bistro on Magnolia where pianist Johnny Case can be found most Friday and Saturday evenings performing with ensembles that feature a mix upright bass, brass, or saxophone. The cozy, dim setting at Lili's is the perfect setting for straight-ahead performances of songs by Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, and other great American composers. Jazz fans may remember Johnny from his decades-long stint at Sardines. He recently told me that he is enjoying the new venue much better because for the first time in his life he can "pack up at 10pm and head home."
The Kimbell Art Museum's restaurant features bassist Paul Ungar and guitarist Tom Reynolds every Friday from 5:50 to 7:30pm. Paul, who performed with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, has his own progressive jazz trio, Flipside, that gigs regularly at Shipping and Receiving and Scat Jazz Lounge. Speaking of Scat, if you haven't been to Fort Worth's only dedicated jazz venue, it's more than worth the trip. Everything about the club, from the back alley entrance to the posh interior, reminds me of a New York jazz club and there's live music almost every night.
The Third Thursday Jazz Series runs May through September at the Central Library of Fort Worth each year bringing in big names like the Freddie Jones Quartet and Benny Green Trio.
With all the great choices, maybe Fort Worth's love affair with jazz is warming up.