Baton Rouge is getting jazzy with the opening of Chorum Hall.
A longtime fan of the genre, Rick Jackson opened the nonprofit jazz music venue in September. So far, Chorum Hall has hosted five concerts, most of them in December.
At this point, Chorum Hall is still an experiment. Jackson wants to know if Baton Rouge will support a 100-seat jazz listening room.
“The three events in December were our learning experience,” he said. “We’ll get feedback and then approach the new year with a fresh slate.”
Jackson, for one, is delighted. “I’ve loved every one of our events."
While this year's lineup is still being set, what's clear is that Jackson has created a comfortable concert space for musicians and listeners.
The main event room includes a low stage with a baby grand piano on it, plus tables and chairs for the audiences. Classic jazz album jackets and black-and-white photos of jazz greats cover a wall. No alcohol is sold, but concertgoers can bring their own.
The soft-spoken Jackson introduced the recent Masakowski Family concert at Chorum Hall with some gentle advice for the audience.
“Get your cellphones corralled and silent,” he said. “Hold the bar fights to a minimum.”
Like other listening rooms in Baton Rouge, Chorum Hall is designed to be a place where people actually listen to music.
“Where people aren’t shouting, talking and entertaining themselves while the music’s going on,” Jackson said, describing the vibe of the venue. “A place where you respectfully listen.”
In addition to a concert space, Chorum Hall offers a lobby with comfortable seating and TV monitors — for those patrons who do want to chat. Chorum Hall also has a nice green room for musicians to relax in before performances.
“We’ve gotten a lot of compliments from musicians,” Jackson said. “Of course, most people are polite enough to not complain about stuff, but I can tell that this is a nice place for them to perform and different from other venues.”
Jackson has yet to charge admission. He has asked for donations from the audiences that attended concerts by the Lawrence Sieberth Quartet, the Masakowski Family, six-string bassist-composer Roland Guerin, the Mike Esneault Quartet and Jay Miles Griggs Quartet. In the future, Jackson hopes sponsors will support shows.
“I don’t mind losing a little money, but I don’t want to lose lots of money forever,” he said. Attendance has been light thus far, he added, but audiences are growing.
Jackson compared jazz, once America’s popular music, to opera.
“I suppose it’s an acquired taste,” he said. “I hear people say so quickly, ‘I don’t like jazz.’ But you never know what their concept of jazz is.”
He hopes to expand interest in jazz in Baton Rouge, especially among younger people.
“If they’re exposed to real jazz in an environment like this, maybe they’ll think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “And because this isn’t a bar, high school students can come, with their parents or whomever. It’s a unique opportunity for them to experience something like this.”
WHERE: 1024 Executive Park Ave., Baton Rouge