Meet Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club’s Proprietor Rick Brown
You grew up in the DC area. What was the DC area jazz scene like when you were growing up, how has it changed, and how would you describe the current jazz scene in the DC/MD/VA area?
The Jazz scene has always been very good in Dc, lots of small clubs, One Step down, Bohemian Gardens, Blues Alley, etc. I am the son of a jazz drummer who raised 4 boys and dad was always booked! Lot’s of clubs, restaurants, etc., had live jazz. My dad played Congressional Country club every Sunday night for 10 years, it was a different time the pre DJ era!
What other Blues and Jazz Supper Clubs were your favorites when you were growing up? Did any of these come into your mind when you were deciding how to design this club?
My image was of the “Copacabana Night Club” in New York. This was the gold standard in jazz clubs in the 40’s and 50’s and my mother worked there as a cigarette girl and dancer!
How is The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club paving the way for preserving the rich history of jazz in our area and introducing jazz lovers to jazz stars of the future?
We are booked at least 5 nights a week and in our first 18 months have had over 300 artists. By keeping the prices down, having parking in the building and walking to Metro, we feel we’re easily accessible in a good neighborhood, so people will come.
We also have outstanding food, which people are surprised to find when they arrive!
Jazz artists that have played here include Branford Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis,JR., Delfeayo Marsalis, Chic Corea, Freddy Cole, Cassandra Wilson, Big Bad Voodo Daddy, Judith Hill, Landau Murphy Jr., Eddie Palmieri, Irvin Mayfield, and others.
Which of today’s young jazz artists do you feel are destined for greatness and why?
Not my area of expertise, I would ask you to ask our talent buyers, Wendy Wang and Tom Carrico,
When did you first get the idea that The Bethesda Theatre would make a great Blues and Jazz Supper Club?
When I first walked in June 2, 2011. The building is so fabulous and throw the location and parking, and terrific acoustics, it’s a winner!
How long has The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club been up and running and how is it doing?
We opened on March 1, 2012 and have had over 300 artists, 65,000 customers, and 55 private parties and events.
How long did it take to transform it into what we see now?
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you bought the space?
Construction, staffing and mainly , recognition. We still need to let people know we’re here!
When you walk into The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, what memories flood your mind when you walk through the doors and into the club?
When I was a child attending movies here with my mom!
How would you describe the design and ‘soul’ of The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club?
Authentic décor, outstanding music and great food! A bygone era, recreated for your listening and dancing pleasure! Doc Scantlin plays here quite a bit, and he’s the 30’s-40’s era band and packs the place!
What kind of sound system do you have and how many employees do you have?
We have an outstanding sound system made up of multiple speakers and monitors. We have 58-60 employees presently.
You grew up around music and restaurants and you worked in restaurants. How did music and restaurants play an important role in your life growing up in the DC area?
My grandfather owned restaurants and our lives revolved around them. Being the oldest child of the oldest child, I was there quite a bit. Working tin the business taught me about organization, service, and pleasing the customer.
He also ran the local pinochle and poker games, so I learned how to gamble!
How did your work in restaurants and growing up around music and musicians influence how you designed and manage The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, and did it influence the menu?
Somewhat, yes. Having a great selection of foods was important and constantly updating the menu, allows us to offer seasonal sections.
What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned from your family that has helped you succeed in business and life and running this new club?
How to handle rejection and failure. Life is about being resilient and I think I have a PHD in resiliency!
What are your first memories of hearing jazz or liking jazz, and who was your first favorite jazz musician or singer or band? And who are some your favorites today?
My earliest memories are Count Basie Band and the vocalists, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn, Carmen McCrea and Peggy Lee. My favorites today, Freddy Cole, The Marsalis’, The Count Basie Band, who I saw in 1962, (age 14) at the Howard Theater.
What is the process of booking in artists into your club and creating the calendar?
We have 2 full time talent buyers. We are always searching for new artists and touring artists. It just comes down to their schedule, as we’re always interested in booking great talent.
What have been the biggest surprises for you since you have opened the club?
That the private parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, corporate parties would be in such demand for our space! Very pleasant surprise.
Some staffing mistakes, some artists aren’t what they say they are, but that’s about it.
Tell us about the food and the menu and about your Chef.
All very good, we’ve improved over the year and now our Yelp reviews are terrific!
What changes have you made since you opened that have really made the club even better?
Too many to mention, but start would be the private parties and banquets have exceeded expectations.
What have been your favorite performances of the year so far and why?
Too many to mention again, but Marsalis, Freddie Cole, Landau Murphy Jr, Pablo Cruise, Irvin Mayfield, Maggie Rose, are a few.
If you could book 4 jazz legends (who are no longer living) who would they be and why would you choose them?
Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles David, Louis Armstrong; shouldn’t have to explain why.
Tell my readers why they need to come to The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club and what kind of experience they will have.
Great music, great food, excellent service in a clean, neat, beautiful facility!
Events Manager, Karla Rosenfeld Azachi
Joel: What kinds of events are held at The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club?
Karla: We are able to accommodate any type of event or meeting from breakfast networking, working lunch meetings, cocktail and dinner receptions, galas, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, multi-day conferences, holiday celebrations and corporate teambuilding and outings. Our venue becomes the client’s venue for the day or several days whichever satisfies their event and meeting needs.
What are some of the most challenging events you have had to manage so far?
Every event has its challenges because they are all unique. When we work as a team while listening to the client we are always able to meet or exceed their expectations. When all the moving parts work together like a well oiled machine the challenges dissipate.
What were the most fun and satisfying events that you have worked on?
Singling one event out does not do justice to all the events we have successfully produced. Each event has been fun in its own right. And events are always satisfying. After working for weeks and sometimes months on paper, when you walk in to Bethesda Blues and Jazz and see the vision come together live, there is no greater feeling of over-the-top satisfaction. Our day always ends in a party!
What was the largest group you have had to deal with so far?
We have had as many as 600 guests enjoy Bethesda Blues and Jazz for a non-public event.
Have Bar Mitzvahs and weddings been held at the Club?
Yes, we are the hot mitzvah venue with bookings as far out as 2017. We are about to produce our first wedding in early September with both the ceremony and reception in our art deco theater.
If our readers wish to contact you about planning an outing or an event how can they contact you?
I would be delighted to chat with anyone at (240) 330-4500, extension 105, or or firstname.lastname@example.org I pride myself on returning phone calls and emails within 24 business hours or sooner.
Why is The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club a great place for groups to visit and for events to be held?
We are in the heart of downtown Bethesda with metro accessibility and parking right on the premises. We offer a unique venue with events team that has many years of experience that can provide you with exceptional food selections, artistic presentation and a friendly staff that will assist you with every step. Our production and presentation options, sound, and lighting will enhance any event allowing for the highest quality you will find in the DC Metro area.
Upcoming performances as of 9/17/2014-November 30, 2014
- September 25- 8:00 PM: Thursday: Chaise Lounge – Dance Floor
- September 26- 8:30 PM: Friday: Duke Robillard Band with Andy Poxon Band
- September 27- 8:30 PM: Saturday: Be’la Dona
- September 28- 7:00 PM: Sunday: The Eve of Jackie: A Tribute to Jackie Wilson- Back By Popular Demand
- October 1– 7:30 PM Wednesday: Chuck Redd in Hollywood- Songs from Great Films
- October 2- 7:30 PM: Parthenon Huxley & Friends perform Electric Light Orchestra Hits
- October 3- 8:30 PM The Celtic Tenors
- October 4 – 8:00 PM Saturday: The Larry Brown Quintet, Featuring Special Guest Vocalist Sharon Clark
- October 5– 7:30 PM Sunday: Jeff Lorber
- October 8- 7:30 PM: Wednesday: Steve Fidyk Quartet “Heads Up” CD Release
- October 10 – 8:00 PM Friday: The Fabulous Hubcaps
- October 12 – 8:00 PM Sunday: Guaco- La Super Banda de Venezuela
- October 15 – 8:00 PM Wednesday: The Allyn Johnson Quartet
- October 16 – 8:00 PM Thursday: Grazyna Auguscik
- October 17- 8:00 PM The Shirelles
- October 19- 7:30 PM “Talisman” Featuring Sammy Figueroa & Glaucia Nasser
- October 22 – 7:30 PM Wednesday: Lisa Engelken & the Monster Quintet: East Coast Debut of Little Warrior
- October 23 – 6:30 PM Thursday: Our House 4th Annual Fundraising Gala-“Give a Child a Future”
- October 24- 8:00 PM Friday: Daryln Jr. Cline & The Recliners- Dance Floor Available
- October 25– 8:00PM Saturday Go Live! Cris Williamson and Very Special Guest Eric Andersen
- October 26– 3:00 PM Sunday: Capital Wind Symphony
- October 31- 8:00 PM: Friday: 2nd Annual Grand Masquerade with Doc Scantlin
- November 2- 7:30 PM: Sunday: DC Doo-Wop Revue: Marquees, Spaniels, Jewels, Velons, Sonny Til’s Orioles
- November 6- 8:00PM: Thursday: Rhonda Ross
- November 7-8:30PM: Friday: Rockapella
- November 14 – 8:00 PM Saturday: The Texas Chainsaw Horns and Hot Mess Burlesque
- November 15- 7:00 PM: Saturday: WFMA Presents Chad Mitchell Trio & Friends: The Farewell Concert
- November 16-7:30 PM: Sunday: Mary Chapin Carpenter, Robin & Linda Williams, Tift Merritt and Others
- November 17-7:30 PM: Monday: Mary Chapin Carpenter, Robin & Linda Williams, Tift Merritt and Others
- November 19- 8:00 PM: Wednesday: Count Basie Orchestra
- November 21- 8:00 PM Friday: Soundconnection and Rhythm 6
- November 23– 8:00 PM Sunday: Jefferson Starship
- November 29– 8:00 PM Saturday: King Soul with Special Guests The Hardway Connenction
- December 6– 8:30 PM Saturday: Bobby Caldwell R&B Show
- December 19– 8:00 PM Friday: Blueheart Revival and Jonathan Sloan & Wayward Dog with Johnny Grave