Six decades ago, in the spring of 1961, the 34-year-old trumpeter Miles Davis settled into the Blackhawk with his quintet for a two-week run—a relatively short engagement for a big-name act at the Tenderloin jazz club. The music recorded during the closing weekend, released on two classic albums, captured the ever-inventive Davis for the first time live in an intimate club setting, stretching the forms of familiar standards and jazz tunes.
Throughout the long months of the pandemic, Fritz Quattlebaum has had Miles Davis on his mind, and not just because his jazz club, the Black Cat, is located around the corner from where the Blackhawk operated from 1950–’63. (The only trace left of it is a plaque from the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District.) Before COVID struck, the Black Cat had already earned national attention as a singular West Coast outpost for rising New York players. Pandemic closures forced Quattlebaum to rethink his venue from the kitchen to the bandstand, and listening to Miles Davis helped.
“What struck me is not just how timeless his music is, but how each of his bands brought together great musicians and elevated them by giving them the freedom to create,” Quattlebaum said. “That’s what we’re doing at the Black Cat. We’re coming together to create one experience, so that every facet of the operation harmonizes with the music.”
It’s easy to dismiss restauranteurs talking about creative synergy as puffery, but there’s no gainsaying the unprecedented series of residencies that Quattlebaum has booked to celebrate the Black Cat’s pandemic survival and reemergence. The club’s JAZZ@theEDGE Festival, which runs August through October, presents three of the music’s most celebrated young trumpeters in extended 15-night residencies.
Theo Croker, who divides his time between New York, Los Angeles and several other cities, leads off Aug. 4–22, followed by New Orleans-reared, New York City-based Maurice “Mobetta” Brown on Sept. 8-25. Ferguson, Missouri-raised, New York-based Keyon Harrold, a Grammy Award-winner who recorded a live album at the Black Cat in 2019, headlines Sept. 29–Oct. 13.