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Seattle's Café Society celebrates women of note, with singer Connor Desai

Thanks to Café Society, female artists like Connor Desai can play to your heart’s content.
Thanks to Café Society, female artists like Connor Desai can play to your heart’s content.
Café Society promo

In 1938, the Café Society nightclub sprang up at 1 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, NYC, as the brainchild of former shoe salesman Barney Josephson. Josephson fashioned his nightclub after the pre-WWII political cabarets in Prague and Berlin, while thumbing his nose at socialite/American playwright Clare Boothe Luce and her snobby, high-falutin’, exclusionary “café society” nightclubs. He envisioned a venue where blacks and whites could enjoy good, live music together, as well as play that music onstage, went ahead and trademarked the name, Café Society, and promoted the nightclub as, “The Wrong Place for the Right People.” Josephson, who died at age 86 in 1988, has said: “I wanted a club where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out front. There wasn't, so far as I know, a place like it in New York or in the whole country.” A host of African-American musicians and singers gravitated toward the nightclub as a beacon of welcome, a harbinger of cutting-edge jazz, and a much-needed level playing ground. Lena Horne, Hazel Scott, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Mary Lou Williams were among the female jazz artists allowed free berth there.

Fast-forward to April 2010, Seattle, WA, and two businesswomen—Sarah Walczyk, Powerful Voices Marketing/Development Director, and Jennifer Petersen of Sportin’ Life Records. Walczyk and Petersen got together and decided to form their own monthly Café Society at rotating venues, including 414 Pine Street’s Capitol Club up in Capitol Hill, downtown Seattle. They wanted to showcase the community’s noteworthy female artists, and have (Dice, Marissa, Thee Satisfaction, Choklate, Luxury A.K., Anomie Belle, and Lisa Dank). They also give female entrepreneurs a chance to show their wares.

This Thursday, the Seattle Café Society hosts jazz-folk performer Connor Desai and Caitlin Scott Jewelry’s trunk show. As reviewed here at Jazz Music Examiner, Desai will share her indelible hits and incredible stage presence, 8 p.m. (Before her show commences, Caitlin Scott will share her funky silver and gold-filled jewelry for purchase.)

The audiences love Desai, her easy way with words and music, turning everyday living into poignant poetry matched to flowing, cadenced melodies. A musician, songwriter, wife and mom to three children, Desai is most assuredly on the verge of crossover superstardom (she’s already a huge star in the indie-jazz circuit), but remains refreshingly unassuming, modest and concerned with everyday struggles the way we in the audience are. She juggles her career with family, works her gigs and rehearsals around babysitters and a really understanding husband, and does the best that she can given the hectic circumstances.

Here’s a slice of her life that most of us can relate to, c/o Seattle writer Brooklyn Benjestorf’s recent interview (September 12, 2010): “I can't really take off and tour the country - I can't even book a gig in my own town without first considering if I can get a sitter. Luckily, I have an extremely supportive husband who puts up with everything from bi-weekly band practices to long weekends away recording. My former bandmates were constantly laughing at my song sketches in Garageband, which I would send them so they could write their parts before practice. Invariably there would be some kid talking or screaming in the background - or my personal favorite - the constant repetition of ‘Mommy!’ I used to need complete serenity to compose, but I've learned if you want to keep the music going, you just have work within the chaos.”

For more info: Connor Desai and Caitlin Scott Jewelry trunk show happen September 16, 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m., at the Capitol Club on 414 East Pine St., Capitol Hill-downtown Seattle. No cover charge. Twenty-one and older only. Call (206) 325-2149.