If you are a club that has featured jazz music and live jazz musicians for over 80 years – EIGHTY YEARS! – then you have every right to consider yourself an integral part of the world jazz scene. Particularly if you are located in a jazz town like Detroit, Michigan. And that is exactly Bakers Keyboard Lounge.
Located on Livernois at 8 Mile Rd. on Detroit’s Lower West Side, Bakers was founded by Chris and Fannie Baker in 1933 as a lunchtime sandwich restaurant. In 1934, their son, Clarence Baker, began booking jazz pianists to entertain the guests. In 1939, Clarence took over ownership and began booking piano players from outside the Detroit area and, by 1954, Baker's began featuring major jazz acts from around the world including such dignitaries as Art Tatum - who played his final performance there in April 1956 - Dave Brubeck in 1957 and Gerry Mulligan in 1958. Other very-noteworthy musicians who have played the club include Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, Maynard Ferguson, Cab Calloway, Woody Herman, Modern Jazz Quartet, and Nat "King" Cole - to name but a few.
Baker's is noted for its long history of presenting local and major jazz acts, its excellent acoustics, its intimate atmosphere - seating only 99 jazz lovers at a time- its Art Deco furnishings including a distinctive piano-shaped bar painted with a keyboard motif, Art Deco style paintings of European city landscapes by Harry Julian Carew, tilted mirrors that allow patrons to view the pianist's hands, and its Steinway piano which was selected and purchased in New York by Art Tatum for Clarence Baker in the 1950s. The club still displays its original liquor pricelist from 1934, showing the price of beer at 26 cents. In 1986, Baker's was designated as an Historic Site by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge continues its historic, world-renowned jazz reputation to this day by featuring live performances of the greatest jazz artists from both the Detroit area and from around the globe. This week, for example, catch Audrey Northington and Jerome Clark on Friday, December 6; Prime Time on Saturday, December 7; and D Sorrell on Sunday, December 8.
In the meantime, enjoy this classic ditty from jazz-great Dave Brubeck