Portland’s jazz community suffered a shocking loss when local-legend and jazz club owner Jimmy Makarounis — better known as Jimmy Mak — passed away in early January, taking his cherished club with him. The loss appeared to signify the beginning of the end for jazz music in the Northwest, which has long been considered a sanctuary for the declining genre.
Enter Frank Faillace and Manish Patel — owners of the Star Theater and Dante’s nightclub in Portland — to save the day. After buying the historic Rialto Building Poolroom & Bar located on 4th Avenue and Alder Street in Downtown Portland, the duo decided to open Portland’s next jazz club: The Jack London Revue.
While the unfortunate circumstances in which Jimmy Mak’s had to shut down were far from ideal, the timing couldn’t have been better for the opening of the Jack London. For Nicholas Harris, the opportunity to be involved with the Jack London came the same week that Jimmy Mak’s announced it would be closing. Harris, who co-owns Portland booking agency Soul’d Out Productions, now works closely with the Jack London to schedule artists to perform at the club.
“It made for a pretty fortuitous timing,” Harris said. “Jimmy Mak’s has been a longstanding, traditional spot here in town. It’s been the home for jazz in Portland for 25 years so we obviously never wanted to see them go, but when Jimmy got sick and it was clear the club was going away, it was obvious that [the city] needed another space to take over.”
Harris is involved with the day-to-day operations at the Jack London, scheduling and both local and traveling musicians. When not working at the Jack London, Harris and the rest of the Soul’d Out team help coordinate concerts at Portland venues such as the Star Theater and Roseland Theater.
After a fire on the floor above the Jack London set the building’s sprinklers off in January, causing water damage, Faillace and Patel had to push back the club’s opening. The setback would prove to be a blessing in disguise — the Rialto and Jack London would later receive a full restoration.
The Jack London is now furnished with new hardwood floors, freshly painted walls and striking white pillars that serve as support beams. The club, which holds a maximum capacity of 220 patrons, also features a state-of-the-art PA speaker system.
Along with housing the Jack London on its basement floor, the Rialto also features a live poker lounge and an off-track betting parlor where gamblers can place bets on any dog or horse race in the country.
While jazz will remains the foundation in which the club is built upon, the Jack London will feature everything from neo-soul to R&B and hip-hop.
“There won’t be many types of music not represented at this club,” Harris said. “[The Jack London] will be rooted in the jazz experience, but it will be appealing to and providing a platform for a wide range of genres.”
Weekend nights at the Jack London will feature a variety of traveling groups from around the world and will perform various genres. On weeknights, the club hosts a rotating cast of local musicians.
Mel Brown and other members of the older Portland jazz community who previously played at Jimmy Mak’s are in the rotating cast of musicians. Younger jazz players in the city, such as trumpet player Farnell Newton, who kicked off the Jack London’s weekly Tuesday show on June 6, will also regularly perform at the club.
Harris hopes that the Jack London will not only continue Portland’s historic traditions of jazz music, but also serve as a space for the genre to develop and transform. While Harris understands that jazz is in some ways a declining market, he also believes that new genres are sprouting from jazz, citing Flying Lotus, Snarky Puppy and Kendrick Lamar as contemporary examples.
“Jazz as a certain construct is dead, and I think we should let it go,” Harris said. “But jazz as a more broad, fluid, living construct that can encompass so many things is very much alive and is healthier that it has been in a long time.”
Visit jacklondonrevue.com for club hours, menus, music listings and additional information.
Follow Zach Price on Twitter: @zach_price24