I was in Portland, OR last week on business and decided to check out the local jazz scene. No big surprise there. After doing a quick internet search, I determined that the best bets would be the Brasserie Montmartre and Jimmy Mak’s. I had been to the Brasserie several times long ago and had a blast. It was on the verge of being condemned, and closed for a long time for upgrading and remodeling. It reopened a couple of years ago, and while it still retains the black and white checkerboard floor, great food and music, it has lost a whole lot of the funkiness which I so enjoyed. Gone are the butcher paper tablecloths for drawing on (it used to be frequented by students from the Art Institute), though they did save and frame a lot of the best ones for wall decor, and the roaming magician who could make your signed card miraculously appear pinned to the ceiling was nowhere to be seen. I ordered off the bar menu and had the Menage a Trois (a charcuterie platter) and the soup de jour – lobster bisque). It was very good, as was the Sidecar, mixed by Jason, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender.
Local musician D.K. Stewart was playing a bluesy mix on the piano with vocals. He hung out a bit at the bar before his set started and chatted. One of the great things about the Monday night music scene – you can often hang with the musicians before the show or between sets. I really liked his style, as you could tell he was classically trained and had unexpected chops that kept each piece interesting. I sometimes get bored with straight blues, but Stewart was able to constantly surprise me with unique and colorful phrasings that added a definite jazz flair. I hope to make a return visit, have a sit down dinner, more drinks and stay up later dancing the night away.