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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A look inside a Philly jazz club

SuedeLace plays at The Bayou Jazz Club on Oct. 29.

I heard The Bayou Bar and Jazz Lounge before I saw it.

Pre-recorded jazz music floated out from the front door of the lounge at 5025 Baltimore Ave. in West Philadelphia. The door to the lounge was tucked behind the outdoor seating of the restaurant next door, but a chalkboard sign with The Bayou’s name on it stood out in front of the door.

Inside, The Bayou looked like my dream living room: colorful suede couches lined the walls and modern yet eclectic seating with tables were dispersed throughout the room with plenty of flowers and tealight candles to go around.

The walls were painted with colorful abstract shapes and a small and modern yet simple bar was perched above the section of
the floor designated for live performances.

My friend and I were at The Bayou to see SuedeLace perform, a Philadelphia-based R&B soul band that formed about a year and a half ago during the pandemic. Shana Walker, or Shay Love, is the group’s vocalist. Dominic Wilkins plays keyboard, Devante Gaines, or Swingg, is on the drums and Kenney Rosario-Pugh, or Kenny RP for short, plays guitar.

While The Bayou listed SuedeLace on their lineup of performers as a R&B soulful jazz band, Love said the group is currently performing primarily covers of songs. Jazz is more of an influence that helps them create their own unique sound as a group, she said. They model their sound off of other artists, like Erykah Badu, who was influenced by jazz but created her own
R&B sound.

The group refers to the act of taking a song and adding their own twist to it as “SuedeLacing.”

“We’ll take a song that may be R&B and we may put a jazz feel in that song. Or, we may take an R&B song, and we may put a hip hop twist on it,” Wilkins said. “So, we kind of make our covers more exciting. A lot of these songs, people have heard thou-
sands of times. So when we play a song we put our own SuedeLacing, as we call it, on it and it just gives it a fresh take.”

Especially for many young people, jazz hasn’t been fresh since its pinnacle listening period during the 1940s. 

“I wish more people gave it a chance,” said Dan Green, director of the SJU Jazz Band. “There’s a lot of dance music [now] where I get why people want to go to a club and dance. But the music quality or the substance in the music isn’t really there so much.”

I’ve been into jazz since I was in high school, but mostly as background music to my studying. I’ve never been to a live performance, my listening experience limited to my Spotify playlists, primarily filled with big bands like the Count Basie Orchestra or the Glenn Miller Orchestra, as well as Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Philadelphia has a rich jazz history that has produced many famous jazz musicians, Green pointed out, including some popular favorites like John Coltraine, who moved to Philadelphia in 1943, and Billie Holiday, who was born in Philadelphia in 1915. 

Shay Love, SuedeLace’s vocalist, performs their set.

Philadelphia has also been a hub for some popular jazz lounges, which hosted a number of big names in jazz back in the day. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Benny Goodman were popular performers at the Earle Theater–formerly located at the southeast corner of S. 11th Street and Market Street–during jazz’s heyday. Today, artists and lovers of jazz tend to hang out in clubs around Center City like Chris’s Jazz Cafe, South Jazz Kitchen and Time Restaurant. 

The bigger jazz clubs can be a bit more expensive, with some shows at places like Chris’s costing upwards of $65 for a full dinner and show if you decide to go all out. That’s not including the cost of transportation into the city and a few extra dollars for drinks for the 21 and over students. I wanted to check out a smaller and budget-friendly club closer to campus like The Bayou.

For SuedeLace, performing in these smaller clubs, especially after forming their group in the midst of the pandemic, provides a great space to get their name out there. 

Dominic Wilkins(top) plays the keys while Devante Gainse, known as Swingg, drums during their set. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

“Little venues like that can become legendary, and that’s where talent is born. You just never know what the potential or what the trajectory of artists is going to be,” Love said. “So these types of venues make room for those opportunities and they definitely matter.”

After about an hour of listening, more people started to filter in through the front door and fill  The Bayou. My friend and I decided it was time to give up our spot on the couch we chose earlier in the evening, and make some room for more people to pop in and jam out with SuedeLace.

Green is right, the Philly jazz scene is worth giving a chance. I suggest taking a Friday night off from hanging around campus and check out some local clubs. The Bayou is a great place to start.

SuedeLace performs every Friday night at The Bayou (5025 Baltimore Ave.) starting at 8 p.m. after The Bayou’s Happy Hour from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. To learn more about the artists, you can follow the group and each artist Shay Love, Kenny RP, Dominic Wilkins and Swingg on Instagram. 

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