Seven months after launching a GoFundMe campaign, local jazz musician and educator Hanah Jon Taylor’s vision of having a premier jazz venue in Madison is coming to fruition.
Café CODA, located at 113 W. Dayton St in The Fountain, will host its grand opening on March 4. A soft opening was held last Saturday and quickly filled beyond capacity.
“Based on last Saturday it’s clear there’s an audience for this music, there’s just been no place dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the art form,” Taylor tells Madison365.
Though a Chicago native, Taylor has been in Madison for over two decades and this is his third jazz venue here.
The first venue, The House of Soundz opened on Williamson Street in 1994, but closed after just two years. The second, Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts, opened in 2003 and was located near what is now Overture Center for Arts. It lasted until 2007.
Now a decade after MCCCA’s closing Taylor and his partner Susan Fox intend for Café CODA to serve as a space where both longtime practitioners of jazz, students of jazz, and appreciators of the genre can gather to learn and listen in community.
“I’m hoping, with this being a place dedicated to the art of jazz, people will come out and feel some inclusion and some sense of community,” Taylor says.
Café CODA will be open Tuesday through Sunday with different sub-categories of jazz every night of the week.
Tuesday evening will be an opportunity for jazz musicians to come together for a “Night of Improvisation,” where Taylor and others will hold a jam session with no fake books, or music sheets, allowed.
The first eight Wednesdays will feature sessions on Gypsy Swing ensembles from the region, Thursday will be reserved for Latin jazz, and Friday will feature local and regional jazz ensembles.
Saturdays at the café will be jam packed with a drum circle at noon, high school jazz ensemble presentations from 3 to 5 p.m. and national and international artists in the evening. This will be kicked off at the grand opening with a performance by 2014 NPR Best Jazz Vocalist and Chicago-native Dee Alexander and her quartet.
Finally, Sunday will feature an afternoon of music and poetry starting at 2 p.m.
“We’re offering the jazz community the opportunity to have the kind of experience they may not have heard before,” says Taylor.
As someone who has performed around the world himself, Taylor plans to use his lifelong connections to bring in artist and musicians, but he also plans to cultivate the talent right in our backyard.
“We need to learn how to recognize the genius in our reach,” he says.
In order to create the best experience, Taylor and Fox made sure to build a standard-size stage, keep the piano tuned, and offer a well-appointed green room for artists — all standard amenities for musicians that many current venues in Madison lack, Taylor says.
Café CODA will have an authentic jazz club feel with intimate seating and small tables. Taylor was adamant about excluding billiard games, televisions and anything that would distract from the primary focus, the music.
The café’s walls are covered in art from Taylor’s own collection, many of them featuring jazz legends and icons that were personal friends to him.
In addition to live performances there will also be a full bar and small plates will be served by Sweet Tea, the soul food restaurant also located in The Fountain.
Taylor also takes pride in being one of a few Black-run businesses in the State Street area.
“This is a small municipality that lacks diversity and maybe, in a sense, is apprehensive of the growing diversity, so not only do we have an ignorance to an art form that is not European, we might have a resistance to it,” says Taylor.
Still, he ultimately hopes his venue will inspire others to open venues dedicated to jazz so that the community can have options.
“If this place is successful it will hopefully influence the jazz community to broaden and hopefully take a turn,” said Taylor.