The club had been noisy and dimly lit. Heavy wooden chairs and long tables placed end to end beer hall style in long rows, filled the large room. The jazz was good, the wine was good…We were crowded together shoulder to shoulder. One had to turn and stretch one’s neck to see the stage. The music was hardly audible above the hollow din, but the overall atmosphere was cozy…I had been aware of smiling often at my neighbors, and the smiles had been contagious. Laughter permeated the air as thickly as the smoggy cigarette smoke, which hung like a forgotten cloud over our heads…
So begins the introduction to “that jazz club” in my novel, The Metal Girl, which takes place in the late winter of 1974 in Copenhagen. While I did venture to Denmark that winter and spent a delightful time at Jazzhus Montmartre, I didn’t actually write the book until 1992-1993, when I lived in Brooklyn, NY. What was it about one famous yet intimate jazz club that enabled me to recall that scene so vividly almost 20 years later in another continent, another city?
Perhaps the narrator offers the best explanation, the night she returns for a second visit:
I went back to that club, Montmartre. I had liked it. I had always liked jazz clubs. This one was friendly and had made me feel at ease.
If there was one outstanding quality of the original Jazzhus Montmartre–besides the obvious attraction of world-class jazz music–it was that the “overall atmosphere was cozy” and made one feel at ease. The club’s ambience embraced the Danish cultural idea of “hygge” [HOO-geh]–a cozy, warm tranquility that gives you a general good feeling of life.
This and great jazz made Jazzhus Montmartre an international landmark and a special place for Danes and visitors alike. The club was started in the late 1950′s and prospered until 1976, when it finally closed. That is, until now.
In May 2010 the club opened its doors as a nonprofit jazz venue and cafe in the exact same space it occupied originally at Store Regnegade 19A.
“Serial entrepreneur” and jazz lover Rune Bech teamed up with Danish jazz pianist Niels Lan Doky to co-found the new Jazzhus Montmartre. The launch of the nonprofit Jazzhus Montmartre realizes the vision of reviving the jazz club as a place for all to experience the wonderful legacy of the past as it meets the exciting artists and technological advances of the present.
Left: Rune Bech, CEO and Co-Founder of Jazzhus Montmartre
The new club is a unique, inspired and inspiring music organization. Jazzhus Montmartre is a nonprofit jazz club, an organic cafe run by Michelin chefs, and an online record label (with Sony Music) called Montmartre To Go, which offers downloads of live concerts from the club.
But the Jazzhus Montmartre strives to create something more, as laid out in the Montmartre Manifesto and its Eight Guiding Principles. These include not only a commitment to make the Jazzhus an international landmark of great jazz and discover new talent, but also to create “a paradise for life lovers…with a cozy and sincere ambience”, and most notably embody #8 — “A warm and special spirit: Montmartre should be known for its warm, welcoming and homely atmosphere attracting good people that follow their heart in life”.
They had me at “life lovers”.
While wishing to provide the best in jazz music and fine cuisine, the Jazzhus Montmartre’s organization also want this cultural richness to be affordable and available to all. The club’s nonprofit status allows them to keep the prices low and the quality very high.
Besides the generous support of corporate sponsors, an esteemed advisory board of media and jazz music notables, patrons and individual donors, the club depends on a talented and dedicated staff of volunteers, who were instrumental in getting the club off the ground and continue to keep it running.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with co-founder and Jazzhus Montmartre CEO Rune Bech, who told me, “We have 15 volunteers who have been working with us since February without pay. Everyone is working hard to make this a success”.
Also helping towards that end is Jazzhus Montmartre’s new Chairman of the Board Michael Christiansen, who will be directing the organization’s fundraising efforts. Mr. Christiansen is the Chairman of Denmark’s national public radio broadcaster, Danmarks Radio (DR) and was formerly the managing director of The Royal Danish Theatre.
The latest ground-breaking development of the club is the live broadcasting of concerts, which are being audio streamed in stereo from the Jazzhus over the Internet in collaboration with Noonan Media (UK) and LiveRec (DK) and accessed by the club’s Facebook page and website, which has been an overwhelming success. So, if traveling to Copenhagen is not on your current agenda, just turn on your computer and be a guest at one of the best jazz clubs anywhere. How great is that!
Fortunately for jazz lovers, in Denmark and everywhere else, Jazzhus Montmartre invites us to experience a new era of world-class jazz music and first class ambience, offering the best of Danish culture then and now.
Hygge to go, please.
For more information see: http://jazzhusmontmartre.dk
Join them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/jazzhusmontmartre
Follow them on Twitter: @montmartrejazz
Photographs by Massimo Fiorentino (Copyright: Massimo Fiorentino)
Photos courtesy of Jazzhus Montmartre (Thank you!)