After a delicious birthday celebration dinner at Life Alive, my family strolled over to Ryles Jazz Club, with the hunch that there would be something to see. At Ryles Jazz Club, which is tucked away on Hampshire Street, a few blocks down Inman Street off of Mass Ave, you will typically find the best jazz in Cambridge. They didn’t collect a cover charge because we were fairly early (it’s usually $10), but we ordered a few beverages and snacks from their late night menu to pay our dues. (Their Sunday Jazz Brunch actually features an award winning brunch menu, but I wasn’t impressed by the sweet potato fries I had that night.)
Ryles is unique in that it typically has two floors with ongoing entertainment. Upstairs you’ll find the Ryles Dance Hall. I can guarantee you won’t find me partaking up there, but I’ve heard it’s a kickin’ place with some pretty good deals. For example, there’s Salsa Sunday, which offers $10 Salsa lessons for beginners starting at 6 PM. For an additional $5 anyone can enjoy the Ryles Dinner Buffet after their lesson. Starting at 7 PM, everyone has a chance to put their newly found skills to the test as Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, and Cha Cha music fills the air until midnight.
Back on the ground floor though, it’s a whole different world; you have no idea that you’re below a dance floor. The ground floor is an intimate jazz setting with dining. The room has an authentic vibe. The house big band is the Ryles Jazz Orchestra directed by Frank Vardaros. They make an appearance once a month at the venue, often featuring a national artist. When it’s not RJO playing, you can count on coming to enjoy the best in live jazz music in the area. And that’s why we were there.
The artist of the night was the Laszlo Gardony Quartet, which featured Gardony (pictured) on the piano, Stan Strickland on reed, vocals, and kalimba, John Lockwood on bass, and Yoron Israel on drums. The quartet mostly played songs from Gardony’s newest album Signature Time, but dabbled in music from his other nine albums as well. Signature Time is something like Brubeck’s Time Out (which happens to be my absolute favorite Jazz album) in that the quartet strays from your typical time scheme. “On African Land” has a 13-bar vamp that I adore. Even though I’m a pianist myself and Gardony is supposed to be the main show, Strickland had my attention for a good portion of the night. Everyone loves to see a kalimba (thumb piano) incorporated into jazz. It was great to see this group live.