A new jazz club, Live @ Courthouse, opens in Toronto March 22 – a new, permanent venue to take up the slack created when the Montreal Bistro and Top o’ the Senator stopped presenting live jazz. With 25-foot ceilings, an oak stage, two levels of seating, and an ambience based on Spike Lee’s film, Mo’ Better Blues, Courthouse is no basement dive. The owners – Liberty Group Entertainment – estimate that they’ve invested about $500,000 (Canadian), including $60,000 for a new piano. With cover charges in the $30 range for out-of-town artists booked on weekends, Courthouse is clearly aiming to attract a moneyed crowd, though some $10 gigs will be available on weeknights.
This puts Courthouse in line with some established New York City clubs like Iridium and The Jazz Standard. Hopefully, manager Patrick Taylor’s booking policy will follow the model of those clubs, too, because they’ve made their mark by not equating great sound, good food and comfortable seating with conservative music. While Iridium and The Jazz Standard do their share of safe, predictable bookings, they haven’t shied away from bringing in Cecil Taylor’s big band or Myra Melford, either.
Time will tell if Courthouse is as open-minded.