Trumpets jazz club in Montclair NJ to become restaurant
Trumpets, a legendary Montclair jazz club that has hosted music greats like Wynton Marsalis and Betty Carter, was sold to Newark developers, the Hanini Group, for $ 1.2 million.
The historic two-story building opposite Walnut Street Station will become a restaurant with alfresco dining and a separate café, and two apartments on the second floor will become four, according to plans presented at the June meeting of the Commission. of historic preservation of Montclair.
Although the developers have said they will bring back some of the building’s historic features from 1880, such as decorative cornices and masonry, a venue for live music is not in the plans.
The club was listed in 2019 for $ 3.6 million. But that included the liquor license, which would typically fetch around $ 1 million, and Hanini didn’t buy it. Montclair owner Dick Grabowsky is in negotiations to purchase the license to use elsewhere in the city, said Enrico Granafei, who has owned Trumpets with his wife, Kristine Massari, since 1999.
Trumpets was the couple’s home – they lived above – and a home for many jazz musicians, both well-known and those new to and experimenting with their music, said Massari, a jazz singer who taught the Italian in West Orange Public Schools until 2019.
Since opening in 1988 under the leadership of founding owner Emily Wingert, the club has hosted jazz greats Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Etta Jones, Gato Barbieri, Astrud Gilberto, Dave Samuels and Dave Valentin. Local notables Billy Hart, Houston Person, Vic Juris and his wife, Kate Baker, Dave Stryker and Hernan Romero also jammed on stage.
Managing a jazz club “never easy”
Granafei, an Italian classical guitarist and jazz harmonica player trained with Toots Thielemans, said he often performed at the club after meeting Massari at an Italian Renaissance music festival in New York City in the 90s. Wingert decided to sell Trumpets in 1999, the couple tried to persuade friends to buy him so that it remains a musical hangout. Otherwise, they bought it themselves, mortgaging their house in West Orange.
Running the club has “never been easy, strictly from a financial point of view,” said Granafei. While there was a multitude of talented jazz musicians in the area, there weren’t always the fans to appreciate them.
Years ago, George Benson and Mel Davis came to the club with their loved ones to listen to a threesome and were “the only people in the room all night,” Granafei recalls.
When the owner apologized for the low turnout, Benson laughed and said, “You know how many times I’ve had to play for two or three people? It’s jazz.”
There were also many uplifting moments, such as when the couple got a call on the Saturday after September 11 to ask if the club would be open that night.
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“The caller said, ‘It’s George Benson, I want to come and play with a trio that I know,” said Granafei. “He came up with a Hammond organ trio and played all night.”
Over time, the number of shows and sets decreased. But in the early 2000s, Trumpets was open six nights a week with three sets a night.
“Imagine that,” said Granafei.
Reviews on Yelp have also made a difference. Although most of the customers liked it, there were times when one of them would “write a whole paragraph about the coffee not being hot enough and not even mention the legendary musician performing on stage”, did he declare.
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Tim Ries, the saxophonist from Millburn who played with the Rolling Stones for 20 years, was playing one night when a woman approached Granafei to complain about something. “She said, ‘By the way, my brother-in-law is a musician, and these people aren’t that great.’ I replied, “I’ll make sure Mick Jagger knows this,” Granafei said.
For Granafei and Massari, running the club for two decades was a labor of love.
“We had a very loyal and select audience, and the musicians appreciated that I was part of that too and knew exactly how they were to be treated,” said Granafei. But the details of the club’s management have kept him from playing as much as he would like, and he is happy to return.
“The trumpets were an anomaly,” Massari told NorthJersey.com in 2019. “There aren’t many jazz clubs in New Jersey anymore, and they don’t have the same history, the same vibe.”
Now there is one less.
Julia Martin covers Montclair for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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