Wednesday, March 22, 2023

An Evening at Brick Bar

When Murphy’s Place was hoppin’, and I mean the original, Toledo was a different city. Men like Claude Black and Clifford Murphy, Art Tatum and Jon Hendrix were part of a community that thrived on good music, booze, and entertainment. I’m not from Toledo, not even from Ohio, but moving here in the early 2000s, as a music student, I realized pretty quickly that this city’s contribution not just to jazz music, but to jazz as a culture is a huge part of this city’s identity.

Dr. Janet Brehm Taylor (r) seated with Adams Street Publishing sales rep Gabrielle Huff at Brick Bar. Photo credit: Nathaniel Light.

Fast forward several years, I’m now an opera singer (as well as sales administrator for Adams Street Publishing), and I’m again living in Toledo. I get a call one night from a few City Paper staffers to show up at Brick Bar, a new joint downtown, for drinks, BBQ, and Live Jazz; how does a singer say no to that? 

The atmosphere inside Brick Bar takes me back to the Murphy’s of yesteryear; fitting since it’s in the old Murphy’s location where Toledo’s best musicians either got their start, or ended illustrious careers. Those walls have heard some of the most influential jazz musicians in the world and the night of January 5 was no different. 

Scott Kretzer. Photo Credit: Dr. Janet Brehm Taylor.

Trevor Deeter, partner and owner, says, “Knowing that it was the original Murphy’s place, we wanted to try to incorporate the live music and [support] of local musicians as much as possible. When we did introduce the weekly jazz nights, however, it was very much a very pleasant surprise how much support and buzz that created among the community.”

That night was one of the best nights of my musical career, and it wasn’t even my gig. The entire night was a fundraiser for Beinstrumental, a program in Toledo that provides the opportunity for everyone to experience music in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Doug Logston and his board have created a way for students who may not have the ability to play an instrument, be in a band, experience music the way they’ve always dreamed, to do just that. They work with instrument banks, local schools, local musicians, and teachers to ensure that everyone in our area has the ability of a hands-on relationship with music.

The first Wednesday jazz night Scott Kretzer, Josh Silver and Dylan Bretz Jr. filled the place with sexy, soulful jazz, as it was meant to be played. Josh Silver, on keyboard, is always a blast to watch, and to perform with. His active playing and improv make every tune come to life in a way that Art Tatum would be proud of. Scott shared the kit with a few others that night, but it’s hard to beat his steady tempo, fun fills and exciting treatment of driving rhythms. There aren’t many out there I’d rather play with. On bass, Dylan Bretz Jr. filled the gap between the kit and the keys with an inviting and provocative sound that brought this musician to the edge of her seat. He has a way with the bass that any woman would pay attention to. 

Photo Credit: Nathaniel Light @glasscityvistas

But the magic doesn’t end with the music. Deeter is passionate about bringing jazz back into what was once THE establishment for jazz in Toledo. Deeter says “If you just look at the buzz that’s come from the small amount of jazz exposure that Toledo’s gotten just over the past month or so— between the opening of Lucille’s, an exclusive jazz club, the jazz nights that we’re doing on Wednesdays, and there’s a couple other places around town that are doing jazz, as well— it’s obvious that Toledo’s missed the jazz culture and the jazz ambiance that used to be so rich in downtown.”

(l-r) Scott Kretzer, Trevor Deeter and Doug Logston. Photo Credit: Dr. Janet Brehm Taylor.

He’s absolutely correct. This city was once alive with jazz music, and the return of that excitement is palpable to the music lovers in Toledo. Brick Bar doesn’t just cater to jazz lovers, though we are a cool crowd, they have live music of every kind Wednesday – Saturday. Deeter wants “it to become a place that people know they can come and enjoy some kind of live music, every night we’re open.” This is what Downtown Toledo has been missing for a long time. He has helped bring a part of the history of Toledo, music, and community back to this city. 

Scott asked me to sing. I sang “Summertime,” and it made me remember why I became a musician in the first place. As far as unplanned nights go, this one is the top of my list, and I’m looking forward to many more. 

The Brick Bar, 413 Madison Ave. Open 4pm-midnight, Wednesday-Sunday. 419-464-7200.

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