Bebop Club dazzles the Buenos Aires jazz scene

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Luciana Morelli sings at Bebop Club

A BA newcomer with a New York twist

In the basement of the upscale Moreno Hotel, just two blocks from the historic Plaza De Mayo, couples cozy up and wait for the start of the nightly 9 o’clock show on a chilly August evening.

On the menu: expertly-crafted signature cocktails, picada plates overflowing with that famous porteño assortment of smoked meats and cheeses, and a quartet of world-class musicians headlined by the even smokier vocals of Luciana Morelli.

The newest venue to join the small but thriving jazz scene in BA, Bebop Club opened its doors in March 2014, just a few months after the death of the city’s first and most iconic jazz promoter, Jorge “Negro” González.  With his passing came the subsequent closure of his downtown institution “Jazz & Pop,” removing the oldest contender in the BA jazz club lineup.

It’s hard to ignore the feeling that it was a passing of the baton.

Bebop Club at street level in downtown Buenos Aires

Springing up not far from González’ pioneering joint, Bebop is now the only place where you can take in a serious night of jazz East of 9 de Julio.  This is very good news indeed for the many visitors to the city who will choose to stay in the downtown area, and not just because of the proximity— hotspots Notorious, Virasoro Bar, and reigning king Thelonius in the trendy Palermo district are quite a bit harder on the wallet.

Which is not to say that Bebop is a bargain.  A visit there will set you back about as much as an upscale dining experience— but one that leaves you full, happy, and convinced you got a good value for the money.  So the question remains: does this up-and-comer, which bears a Blue Note seal of approval outside its front door, live up to its self-stated mission to “simulate the experience of a NY jazz club”?

As a native New Yorker and someone who has taken in shows at both NYC’s Blue Note and New Orleans’ historic Preservation Hall, I would argue that it succeeds where it counts: in the caliber of the musicians, and the ability to leave an indelible imprint of the experience.

Bebop Club's lounge area

The small crowd size on this mid-week winter night didn’t befit the massive talent on display at the hands of Morelli and her crew.  If perfectly-controlled crooning backed by world class ivory-tickling in an impossibly elegant space is how Bebop celebrates a “slow night,” their bar for entry is high, indeed.

And not just for their musicians.  Bebop’s interior designer has painstakingly replicated the Blue Note’s detailing, and then surpassed it.  You’ll find the same signature half-moon, velvet-lined chairs, but adorning separate, circular tables rather than boxy, adjoined ones.  

The stage is kept low, but the floor is smartly raised toward the back for a better view.  The stage is exquisitely in proportion with the room such that the side-dwellers aren’t too far out in left or right field— something the cuddling couples on the plush couches lining the walls will appreciate, and the clubs of New York can’t quite replicate.

Taken together— the lush lounge seating, the shared picada plates designed to “accidentally” tangle up lover’s fingers, and the romance that only a carefully curated array of world-class musicians can muster— Bebop could easily claim to be the best jazz venue in the city for a date. Combined with a pre-show dinner at Aldo’s lavish wine bar and restaurant upstairs, this one-two punch is sure to impress.

Bebop jazz club stage

Embracing Buenos Aires jazz origins

As for the fidelity to the New York facsimile?  To echo and expand on what has already been stated, Bebop succeeds where it counts— and fails where it shouldn’t try.  By striving to provide the “NY experience,” Bebop, and all other BA hopefuls, misstep. Yes, every good artist must imitate before they find their own voice, but Buenos Aires has already crossed that threshold, and is now failing to claim its own artistic merit.

To wit, Argentina has produced international jazz icons like swing guitarist extraordinaire Oscar Alemán, master pianist Lalo Schifrin, and free jazz pioneer Leandro “Gato” Barbieri.  Their version of the genre has unique roots in the tango orchestras being the first purveyors of its sound, layering on a distinct flavor and giving birth to the important sub genre of Latin jazz.  

They even have the great underdog story of overcoming fierce repression, first from a public who decided it threatened their tango music heritage, and then from a dictatorship who banned it for being “imported” music.

Given that the scene only started to revive in the early 2000’s, it should be a mark of pride that Buenos Aires boasts a solid half dozen serious venues and no less than seven yearly jazz festivals. And, although Bebop won’t be a host venue this year in the largest of these— the Festival Internacional de Jazz, held each November— we have a feeling that will soon change.  Because regularly playing host to local legends like Art Zaldivar (see video below), Delfina Oliver, Luis Salinas, Jorge Navarro, and Manuel Fraga can’t keep them off the radar forever.

So go enjoy a trago (drink) and the buena onda (good vibes) of an unforgettable evening of jazz, perhaps after a lazy Sunday stroll through the nearby San Telmo Feria— and tell them this Yankee sent you.

Plan Your Bebop Club Visit

Address: Moreno 364 (part of the Moreno Hotel), between Defensa and Balcarce

Phone: 4331-3409 / 4343-0823 / 4334-2380

Email: info@bebopclub.com.ar

Website: http://bebopclub.com.ar/

Schedule: (Almost) daily 9:00 pm shows, with 2-3 shows per night on Fri-Sat-Sun. Closed Mondays.

Tickets: Purchase online to reserve specific tables, at the venue between 3:00 and 8:00 pm on show day, or directly before the show for best available.

Arrivals: 30 minutes before show start is recommended with no reservation

Thelonious Jazz Club

July 11, 2007 by · 2 Comments 

Jazz in Buenos Aires

Thelonious Club Jazz Cocktails - Keyword stuffers are alive and well in Buenos Aires!

If you are looking to spend a night in a setting of utmost Buenos Aires cool, check out the famed Palermo jazz club, Thelonious. This bar features live jazz bands Wednesday through Sunday nights, starting at 9:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights there are two bands in the line-up. Thelonious, named after the legendary American jazz pianist, is not a place to hear second-rate jazz. The performance on any given night will enrapture you with the energy, talent, and improvisational skills of the musicians.

Cover fees vary depending on the night: you can check their website, call for more information about that night’s particular show (see below for contact info), or stop by Thelonious to pick up the current month’s schedule.

Jazz performance at Thelonious Club

Reserve a table for a night of elegance and spectacular jazz

In order to make sure you have a space to sit and view the musicians, you should call ahead and reserve a table. They will hold it for you until 9:30pm, when the music is supposed to start (but remember, this is Argentina and nothing starts exactly on time).

If you come with a date, you’ll get a cozy table for two; bigger groups get couches and coffee tables; otherwise you can pull up a stool at the bar or even hang out on the stairs leading to the upper level. The place is small, so get there early if you don’t have a reservation. Your experience will be much more enjoyable if you have a seat, as the jazz sets are often quite long (an hour and a half on average).

Sip on a cool cocktail in the color of your choice

Located in a fairly posh part of Palermo, near Plaza Guemes and its lovely Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Thelonious club is usually packed with smartly-dressed Buenos Aires hipsters, old-school jazz fans, and foreigners visiting the city. It’s okay to be casual, but if you are looking for somewhere to show off your trendy new Palermo boutique finds, this is the place.

Everybody checks each other out, wondering who is going to be having drinks with the band after the show. So make sure you order a fashionable drink, like the local-standard Fernet and coke, or one of Thelonious’ colorful cocktails, such as a daquiri, or a frozen mojito.

Daquiri cocktails at Thelonious Jazz club

Thelonious offers a very complete list of cocktails, and some creative ones, like the Keith Richards: vodka, lemon, and sugar. Of course, if you are on a budget, be glad that you are in Argentina and you can share a bottle of Malbec with some friends for a reasonable price. And if you’re just a regular beer guy, grab a bottle of Heineken or Guinness.

Thelonious, a recycled building decorated with a special touch

The atmosphere alone at Thelonious is reason enough to stop by. As with many modern restaurants and bars in Buenos Aires, Thelonious is a “recycled” rendition of an old house. One special feature of Palermo architecture that you will see at this club is the bare brick ceilings. Above the stage hangs a light fixture consisting of subdued yellow light bulbs twisted every which way like an unruly nest of wires.

The place is designed to be a live music venue, with low-wattage spot lighting placed strategically around the premises. The sturdy bar seems to be made of adobe, and it has built-in lights that cast a glow on the face of your date as he or she absorbs the frenetic bleeps and bloops of the trumpet or the whirring drum rhythms.

Enjoying Jazz from the bar of Club Thelonius

Whatever act is on at Thelonious, you can be assured that it’s a respected, nationally or even internationally acclaimed group of artists who dedicate themselves to their instruments. Depending on the artist, the songs may be original compositions with influences from classical jazz, modern rock, and Latin American musical genres, or they might be renditions of standards from the likes of John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. The late-night bands on Fridays and Saturdays are more the dance-and-groove types, while the weekday night bands are better for listening and watching attentively.

Worth an after-dinner visit, for an evening of musical bliss

Even if you aren’t a jazz aficionado, Thelonious Club is pretty much sure to guarantee a unique and interesting evening. The service is not especially warm but it is certainly professional and efficient. It’s best to eat before the show (or after, at the café on the corner of Salguero, which is open late), but if you come hungry, you can order simple pizzeta (personal pizza) or a tabla de quesos (cheese plate).

Thelonious also offers desserts, making it a great place to bring your date after an early dinner. Try their gooey chocolate brownie with walnuts and vanilla ice cream, or simply a coffee or tea. Possibly one of the best after-dinner drink choices on the menu is the Irish coffee, which is deliciously sweet with a kick of liquor. Or for an even more elegant dessert, cozy up to a bottle of Chandon champagne to enjoy the jazz in true style.

Jazz in Palermo, Buenos Aires at the Thelonious Club

A place like Club Thelonious could exist in any fashionable international city: New York, London, or Paris. But in the tastefully decorated upstairs space of Thelonious, surrounded by eclectic people from all over the world, sipping Malbec with good company, you will be glad you are watching a jazz show in Buenos Aires.

Location of Thelonious Jazz Club

Jeronimo Salguero 1884, corner Guemes, Palermo

Tel: 4829-1562   Website: www.thelonious.com.ar

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