Tenderloin jazz club Black Cat — part bar, part restaurant, part performance venue — took on a new role this week: Live recording studio, with three-time Grammy award-winning trumpeter Keyon Harrold recording what’s both his and Black Cat’s first live album.
Service at Black Cat (est. 2016) continues as usual during Harrold’s recordings, which started last night and last though Thursday. They’re just regular, ticketed performances with cocktails and applause that happen to double as groundbreaking recording sessions.
“This is monumental for us,” says Black Cat owner Fritz Quattlebaum. “[Harrold] could record anywhere he wants, and he spoke bout the special environment we’ve created [at Black Cat].”
Harrold was born in Ferguson, Missouri, and studied jazz at the New School in New York. His new album is a reissue of a 2017 studio recording, the Mugician.
It’s not just the first live album for Black Cat, Quattlebaum adds, but the first new live recording made in the Tenderloin since 1961. That’s a significant hiatus, but in its heyday, the Tenderloin was a haven for jazz clubs, hosting top performers who frequently recorded before eager crowds. Think Miles Davis’ record In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk. That one was reportedly the last, until now, to be recorded in the TL.
Live crowds make for exciting, unexpected recordings, according to Quattlebaum. “Jazz is symbiosis — That’s why it’s always been in bars, not performance spaces where the audience sits quietly.”
That said, Harrold’s audience might do well to listen attentively — if enthusiastically — during the recordings at Black Cat this week.