Lael Batelohin and Shannon Brenner had a front-row seat for jazzing up their dinner out on a recent Friday.
Inside Travinia Italian Kitchen at The Market Common, the Myrtle Beach friends liked watching and taking in U 'N' I jazz and blues quintet as their appetizer.
“It's pure pleasure,” said Batelohin, who collects jazz CDs of music dating to the 1930s. “That's how I feel when I listen to them.”
The spots for jazz across the Grand Strand are few, but the following is strong – and a movement's afoot to expand that reach.
This month, drummer Arlin Strader celebrated four years of leading a jazz trio every Wednesday at Coastal Ale House in Conway, S.C .
“That's something for any town,” Strader said. “For our area here, that really speaks of the loyalty of the jazz audiences.”
Strader also meets his trio or quartet to perform at studios and galleries, and sometimes at fundraisers.
“Anywhere you can get it and anywhere you can play it is fine by me,” Strader said. “I guess that keeps the audience healthy at the jazz events that we have. The audience is hungry for it.”
Back at Travinia, U 'N' I finished its first set with Classics IV's “Spooky.”
Saxophonist and band leader Dan O'Reilly said people like jazz standards as well as popular fare.
“Most of the stuff we do, it's real melodies,” he said. “It's got a groove.”
O'Reilly, a music professor at Coastal Carolina University, where he directs the Jazz After Hours Big Band, said U 'N' I playing Travinia on Fridays helps in building a jazz fan base on a different level.
His wife, Lisa O'Reilly, sings for in U 'N' I. “I grew up with jazz music from the '30s and '40s and appreciate it,” she said – adding that the late Harry James had asked her mother, Betty Phelps, to lend her vocals in his famous big band years ago.
The passersby outside the restaurant stopping to peer through Travinia's windows out of curiosity might prove his point. Dan O'Reilly also said he likes playing Travinia's lobby because the music is heard throughout the restaurant without being too loud.
Charlie Lee, leader of the Swing Time Big Band Jazz Orchestra, stepped up the beat on Sundays twice a month this winter and spring at 2001 Nightclub, near Myrtle Beach. The “Big Band Sundays” events will resume in the fall.