Did you know that the double Ls in Blue Llama Jazz Club’s name stand for “Love of music” and “Love of food”? Pretty apropos considering the goal of Owner Don Hicks and Artistic Director Dave Sharp when founding the club was to marry the best of the best food with top-notch music.
How it started
Hicks and Sharp met when they coached their sons’ soccer teams. Over the years as they got to know each other better, they realized they both loved food and music.
Eventually, the idea of opening their own jazz club was born.
The jazz clubs they frequented across the country tended to leave them wanting.
While the music was usually superior, the food was typically inferior.
They knew they wanted their club to break that mold by providing the highest level of both. In fact, while in the planning stages in 2018 critically acclaimed Chef Louis Goral created the menu and was the head chef until last year when renowned Chef Jorge Morales took over.
As far as the music goes, they book musicians from all over the world which brings up another interesting thing to note about their name.
The llama, a native South American animal, signifies their international exploration of music.
The jazz series
Their latest offering is their signature Jazz Series in partnership with the Michigan Theater that “thematically connects cinema and music,” Sharp said. “We like to clue people in on jazz history.”
In November, they featured a Chet Baker tribute, and December was all about Blue Note Records, an American jazz record label.
This month’s theme is Thelonius Monk, the second-most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington.
He is credited as being one of first creators of modern jazz and bebop and is known for his unique style. His music follows its own rules using dissonant harmonies and melodic twists and his distinct look included suits, hats, and sunglasses.
It starts off on January 11 with Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser, a one-night-only screening of a documentary about Monk featuring live performances and posthumous interviews with friends and family.
Then for those who would like to hear Monk’s music live and in-person, on January 12, the Rick Roe Quartet will be performing.
Two-time semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition and winner of the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in the 1990s, Roe is considered to be ‘one of the best piano players in the Midwest,’” Sharp said.
Although the Jazz Series has been happening every month since November, the offerings will be more sporadic than that and future pairings are still to be determined.
Live performances four days each week
Blue Llama also hosts a couple of dozen performers every month, offering live music every Wednesday through Saturday.
Wednesdays focus on Latin jazz featuring groups from the Ann Arbor and Detroit areas. Thursdays usually feature local jazz artists. On Friday and Saturday evenings, they offer two sittings of a 3-course dinner with a show.
They even have no-cover late-night performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m.
What the future holds
Further into the future, don’t be surprised to see clubs opening up in other parts of the country.
“The business model we have would work well in a number of cities,” shared Sharp. “I think it would work well in Chicago…the Southwest…New Orleans. And then, there’s also been talk of overseas cities [like] Paris [and] London.”
An auditory and gustatory treat
Check out all that Blue Llama Jazz Club has to offer today! You might want to reserve ahead of time instead of walking in as they do get booked up. Your ears and taste buds will thank you.
314 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. 734-372-3200.