Tonight, I’m doing dinner and drinks at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, NJ. I remember stumbling on this best kept secret while in the area a few years ago, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. The venue is typically busiest on Friday and Saturday nights, but snagging a reservation during the week means the space is less crowded, with more seating options closer to center stage.
The story of how this hidden gem got started is quite interesting. Owners David Niu and Martha Chang opened Shanghai to the public in the summer of 1995 and, over the next twenty-five years, have seen their labor of love hit the list of “Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the World” (Downbeat Magazine), and garner a host of accolades from The New York Times, Star Ledger and Zagat. In 2017, Thomas Donohoe took over as proprietor, leveraging his expertise in the hospitality industry to further enhance the space and dining experience, while positioning it for continued success in the next quarter century.
In addition to the outstanding Asian fusion cuisine, one of the things I love most about Shanghai is the exposure I get to musicians I wouldn’t ordinarily bump into. Touching stage tonight is Madison, NJ resident Jerry Vezza, an accomplished pianist, band leader and musical consultant who has rubbed shoulders with such icons as Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck and Harry Connick, Jr. While most (myself included) would probably think his collaboration with these heavy hitters is limited only to their music, Jerry has also made a name for himself as a concert piano technician. And his versatility doesn’t end there!
Jerry performs tonight with Hal Slapin on bass and Pete McDonald on drums. If you’re like me and have never seen him perform live, here’s a snippet of Jerry and his quartet performing at Shanghai a few years ago with Grover Kemble. Boy am I in for a treat!!
Been to any cool jazz spots you’ve fallen in love with? Shoot me a note and share yours.