Living History – Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
History isn’t always something encountered in dusty bookshelves or as events from a long-dead past. Such is the case with Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the world’s oldest jazz club (opened in 1934), which concluded its’ return from the brink of extinction with a grand re-opening celebration that wrapped up on september 8, 2012.
Baker’s was, for several generations of jazz artists and their fans, ground zero, and playing the Detroit landmark was a rite of passage for acts on their way to the big time. A small venue, probably seating no more than 100, Baker’s is famous for its’ intimate atmosphere – some seats are so close to the action that if you were any closer you’d be in the band! The bar is in the form of a giant keyboard, and is said to have inspired Liberace to have used the design in the construction of a swimming pool at his home. The headliners – George Benson, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and other legendary names – reads like a list of the Who’s Who of American jazz. Others, much better schooled in the subject than this writer, could add more detail to the story, but suffice it to say that this patron from the 1980s and early 1990s was pleasantly surprised to find the old club re-opened when out with an old friend for lunch yesterday.
Baker’s is living history in that musical history lives there – in the pictures of the jazz greats adorning its’ walls, in the memories of generation of patrons, in the musical contributions of those who played the club, and now, as a revived venue for the propagation of this most American form of music. If you’re in Detroit and can make your way over to 8 Mile Road and Livernois, the music, the history – and the food – make the opportunity one not to be passed up. While you’re there, you’ll be living history.