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Clip: Jam with chocolate at Gullifty's

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  • Carl Z.
    If Kenny Blake had played at Gullifty s back when I still lived in Pittsburgh, I would be over 400 pounds from overconsumption of the chocolate chambord
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2006
      If Kenny Blake had played at Gullifty's back when I still lived in
      Pittsburgh, I would be over 400 pounds from overconsumption of the
      chocolate chambord parfait. (That overconsumption might be more
      healthful than the extremely generous -- and potent -- Long Island Ice
      Teas the Crawford Grill used to serve during the jam sessions.)


      Gullifty's treats diners with a new dessert -- jazz

      Tuesday, May 30, 2006

      Gullifty's is a family style restaurant known for its 10-pound apple
      pies, chocolate cakes, cheesecakes and other desserts.

      Lately though, the popular Squirrel Hill eatery has become known for
      something else -- a hot spot for jazz in the city.

      Few things are better than great food and great jazz. And Gullifty's
      provides the perfect mix. Now, if they could only mask those fruit
      paintings that tower above the bandstand, the ambience would be just

      There was a time when more than 50 local clubs, restaurants and
      theaters spotlighted jazz nightly.

      And few nightspots offered more thrills than the old Crawford Grill.

      In its heyday, the former Hill District nightclub featured groups
      ranging from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to the volatile Charles

      Most of those venues are gone. But the music is still alive in the area.

      Venues such as Dowe's on Ninth, Downtown; Martini's Restaurant in
      Jefferson Hills; the Rhythm House in Bridgeville; and other spots
      regularly present some of the areas more accomplished professionals.

      On June 7, the phenomenal seven-string guitarist Charlie Hunter will
      be in town with his trio for a performance at Club Cafe on the South
      Side, and in the coming days and weeks, fans can look forward to jazz
      at Katz Plaza in the Cultural District, the Omni William Penn,
      Pittsburgh Citiparks' summer jazz series, Mellon-sponsored events and
      other concerts around the region.

      But the buzz today is coming from Gullifty's at 1922 Murray Ave.

      Inside, young music fans are mingling with old jazz regulars in seats
      along the balcony. Others stand on a walkway overlooking the bandstand
      or are seated in the center of the room, absorbing the music between
      light patter and fork-sized portions of chocolate chip cheesecake.

      On this night, like every Wednesday night, saxophonist Kenny Blake is
      holding court. His weekly jam sessions have lured young and old
      musicians to the bandstand, not to mention a few old-timers who
      haven't been present on the scene in years.

      The vitality of a venue can be determined in a number of ways, but one
      of the best tests is when you find musicians hanging out when they are
      not working.

      "I think it's wonderful what they are doing here," said bassist Dwayne
      Dolphin, who is seated with his wife having dinner.

      "Any time there's a new opportunity to play and a new venue to hear
      music, it's great for musicians and vitality of the scene."

      Management has yet to bring in the kind of national talent that will
      complete the transformation, but there's enough local talent and
      excitement here to suggest it's only a matter of time.

      Last October, Dave Papale was hired as the restaurant's manager and
      entertainment director.

      Papale, a Pittsburgh native, returned home after living more than a
      decade on Long Island, where he had successfully owned and operated a
      blues club.

      "My responsibility is to expand the sales of the business," said
      Papale. "People can still come in, have dinner and dessert, but at 9
      o'clock this transformation occurs."

      It can take different forms -- from trumpet blasts and saxophone
      wails, to the greasy licks of guitarist Jimmy Ponder, who inexplicably
      remains one of jazz's best-kept secrets.

      Ponder is always a musical treat, but on this night he's in
      particularly good form because he is celebrating his 60th birthday.

      Also invited to the bandstand is trumpeter Sean Jones and Hammond B3
      titan Gene Ludwig.

      Where else but Pittsburgh can you hear that much talent in one room for free?

      Every Monday (8 p.m.) Wednesday and Thursday (9 p.m.) -- and now,
      Friday (9:30 p.m.) -- the restaurant has live music.

      Beginning this week, Heineken will sponsor a Friday night jazz series,
      but the last Friday of each month will be sponsored by the Manchester
      Craftsmen's Guild. This Friday, Sean Jones and Mission Statement will

      Marty Ashby, executive producer of the MCG, said the monthly Friday
      night concerts will feature local as well as regional artists.

      "We're taking our aesthetic into the community as part of our audience
      outreach and development," said Ashby. "I think Dave is doing a good
      job. He enjoys the music, but most of all he provides quality,
      consistent service."

      Papale knows the importance of consistency.

      "Customers are looking for you to be consistent even when they are
      not," said Papale.

      "Jazz is how we are going to be defined. We are never going to leave
      the genre and start programming other styles of music to draw in a
      larger crowd. Once you do that, you start to lose your regular
      customers. To be a successful restaurant, you have to be consistent."
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