Rated as one of the best jazz clubs in the world, Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club is hidden away up an alley off La Trobe Street and was even a little hard to find. We thought we should book some entertainment before we left Queensland and had heard Bennett’s Lane was an experience not to be missed. Tickets were easy enough to get online at $25 each plus $5 booking fee, just by Googling the club. The act billed for the night we were available to attend was Zulya and the children of the underground. We’d never heard of them but that only added to the mystique of going to a real live jazz club.
At about 8.30pm we were walking around in the cold wondering where it was when we saw a line up of people at the end of an alley and thought that must be it. Either that or we were lining up to be mugged. A sign above our heads that said Jazz Club gave it away. We didn’t have to wait too long before the doors opened and we were ushered inside to a dark low ceiling venue with a stage in one corner and a bar in the other and small round tables throughout. The stage had a baby grand piano and lots of other musical instruments ready for the band. There was a real buzz in the place and it was nice to see a large proportion of the crowd were like us: young and groovy middle aged music lovers.
Once we were settled in I headed for the bar to checkout the beer and food situation. Not a huge variety of beer, although I did see some good domestic beers and Asahi Japanese lager. I settled on Coopers Pale Ale at $7.50 a stubby. Spirits, mixed drinks and bottles of average priced red and white wines were also available. As for the food, I was a little disappointed to find that the restaurant wasn’t operating but cheese platters and cold snacks were available over the bar. I didn’t buy any but the cheese platter looked pretty good with an assortment of cheeses and anti-Pasto titbits at $19 a plate.
Jazz is one of those rare mediums that transcends language as the music tells its own story and expresses a gamut of emotions through rhythm and melody. Zulya sang beautifully in Russian and her home language of Tartar which was alien to just about the whole audience, but we all sat spell bound by her heavenly sound. I’ve never heard Russian Jazz before and this was a real treat. The piano accordion was play superbly and the double bass, drums and guitar drove the performance along at a pace that compelled the listeners’ attention. This was truly masterful craftsmen at work. Live music performed at its best.
This was grown up entertainment. I could easily imagine sitting in a 1930’s club, except for the lack of gangsters and a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke. The atmosphere was so enchanting, even civilised. It was all about the jazz, as it should be.
When ever we visit Melbourne, a night out at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club is top of our list for entertainment.