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Jazz and Blues at The Mezz

By Pamela Rouse
Published: Thursday, April 01, 2010, at 06:31PM
Mezz Bar Pamela Rouse [Flickr]

The 104-year-old Alexandria Hotel has seen a lot of changes over the years. The hotel once hosted Hollywood stars like Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo and was the height of grandeur, but a changing Downtown and a tragic mid-century lobby renovation have left little of that legacy visible.

If you head inside and up the stairs next to The Gorbals, though, you'll find a trace. New jazz and blues club The Mezz occupies a large area with a low, classically decorated ceiling that used to stand high above the lobby below.

The club, the brainchild of Lamont Hyde, Jesse Gibbs and Carlos Vasquez, has been open about two months.

The motivation was simple. "We were out drinking and were putting down about $300 here one night and another $300 another," says Hyde. "We thought we should open our own bar."

Bartender Jesse Gibbs says the Mezz has "a vibe-y feel on the weekends.." When pressed on what the bar was about, he says it's a little bit speakeasy, with a little bit of everything: good martinis and a nice list of bourbons.

Live music focuses on Jazz and Blues acts like The Makers or BB Chung King and the Buddheads (who performed last Thursday night) and the soulful sound of Jamila on Friday.

There are more great sounds to come, says Gedina Jean Bergstrom, a singer/ songwriter herself (website / myspace) who has been booking acts at The Mezz for the past month.

A downtown dweller formerly of Santa Cruz, she has been singing all her life. She was headlining at the Regent at February's Art Walk night when she met Ruben Islas, President of the Amerland Group, the company that owns the Alexandria. She said she made a proposal to him that "we need to get live music in Downtown."

They struck upon a mutual agreement. "So many places are pay to play," she said. Often there's a cover charge just to get in the door and the band is paid from what's left of the proceeds. There is no cover charge at the Mezz and the bands are paid a guaranteed rate to perform. "It's a place where they value entertainment and creativity."

Right now she's in charge of booking the acts Thursday nights through May, but impressed upon the fact that there are some great bands lined up every night at the Mezz.

"I perform here once a month. My next date is April 22nd," she added. After that, she's planning some tour dates in the summer to the Midwest and Northeast. Already having released a seven-song album and at work on a full length, she sings both blues and R&B.

Hidden away in the hotel, The Mezz isn't somewhere that many people just wander by. The bar has used its Facebook page to keep fans up to date on the latest acts.

The Mezz Bar / 501 S. Spring / Thursday through Saturday, 9:00pm - 2:00am / 213.626.7484

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