Rosy's

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Rosy's Jazz Hall, 2012.

Photo Credit: Jordan Matthews

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History

In 1976, Rosy Wilson, a twenty-one-year-old oil industry heiress, renovated a 19th century brick warehouse at 4701 Tchoupitoulas Street for an Uptown music club after recognizing the density of clubs east of Canal Street. [1] Shortly functioning as a restaurant and performance space, Rosy’s has since seen a succession of turnovers and vacancies; currently Rosy’s is a wedding venue. By combining a variety of musical types with national and local performers along a busy Uptown corridor, Rosy’s established a well-known venue which aided in the development and accessibility of New Orleans jazz.

Renovations

The 9,600 square foot building required an enormous renovation in order to function as a jazz club; Rosy’s was once a cotton depot, grocery store and Felden’s, a neighborhood barroom that closed in 1971. [2] A second floor balcony, punctuated with a rhythm of tall shuttered windows, wraps the corner from Tchoupitoulas to Valence Street. Floor-to-ceiling French doors allow parties to permeate out onto the wide, heavily planted sidewalks. Within the two-story brick and steel building, a forty-foot tall glass atrium holds a sanctuary of fig trees, overlooking the back patio.

Over a period of eighteen months, Wilson personally financed the $1 million restoration; the Times-Picayune reported on Wilson’s project as an “uptown jazz palace” that “…[has] been regarded locally as something less than highly commercial and maybe just a little eccentric.” Wilson responded to criticism directly by explaining: “But if people didn’t make little eccentric moves sometimes, culture as a whole would be terminated. There would have been no Renaissance, and no jazz for that matter.” [3] Such eccentricities emerged with Wilson’s high budget décor that combined Victorian, Art-Deco and Art Nouveau styles with artwork by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauchenberg. Wilson installed a state-of-the-art recording studio inside her club and hired the nationally known graphic designer Milton Glazer for the club’s marketing materials and advertisements. [4]

Rosy’s 1976-1979

Local reviewers commented on the “tasteful lineup of jazz, rock and other acts” at Rosy’s, especially bookings of new and famous performers who rarely played in New Orleans. [5] Cover charges varied with the popularity of each artist, with nightly acts at 9:30 and 11:30pm. For guests seeking to avoid paying the cover but still experience the music, Rosy’s served three course dinners for 200 patrons. A late-night oyster bar also fed hungry concert-goers.

When asked why Wilson chose to open the hall, she succinctly responded, “It just seems like the right time now.” [6] However, Rosy’s closed soon after opening in 1979 due to Wilson’s shifted interests, reportedly moving to New York in pursuit of a career in music. Alternatively, speculations on the club’s closing also point to the large debt from investments in equipment, renovation charges, and operating costs. In addition, profits were low since the quality of performers and relatively high cover charges were not sustainable for the smaller, neighborhood style venue.

During Rosy’s short first incarnation, Wilson and her crew secured a wide range of acts including Dizzy Gillespie, Irma Thomas, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, The Neville Brothers, Sarah Vaughan, Bobby Short, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, the Temptations, Bob Dylan, Peter Frampton, the Eagles, the Who, Tom Waits, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Cover charges ranged from $12 to $20 depending on the artist’s notoriety.

Jazz in the 1970’s

Rosy’s at the time responded to the trends in 1970s American jazz, a combination of jazz, bebop and 1970s style rock; the range of lineups at Rosy’s represented an international transition of the genre. [7] Musically, this transition is distinguished by a swing-based rock beat and rhythm as well as electronically modified instruments, like the bass guitar and synthesizer keyboards. [8] Jazz artists played their own compositions as well as the classics of their predecessors, demonstrating the lineages of their craft. [9] Rock artists were influenced by jazz and blues musicians, while rock conversely influenced jazz, thus creating a hybridized and cyclical rhythmic relationship. Such “cross-overs” are categorized by key elements including: “studio effects, rhythm-section patterns, musical instrument digital interface, new melodic structure and improvisational control. [10] While Wilson’s attempts to capitalize on the genre’s shifts proved unsuccessful for her club, Rosy’s is still known for the diverse lineups and memorable performances of its heyday. Wilson’s programming is significant in the region’s history of jazz as her diverse lineup provided the venue for New Orleans to experiment with a rock-jazz juxtaposition, a cutting-edge contemporary fusion in an Uptown setting.

Rosy’s Big Easy

In the 1980s and 1990s, Rosy’s next iterations ranged from an R&B booking agency (Omni Attractions in the mid 1980s), a planned office building (not actualized, 1985) [11] , a filming location (for “The Big Easy” with Dennis Quaid, 1986) [12] and eventually a bar. Purchased in September 1992, the new owners restored Rosy’s in only three months time. Seeking to capitalize on both the history of the venue and the colloquialism for the city of New Orleans, the name changed from Rosy’s to Rosy’s Big Easy. The group also chose to eliminate live music from the hall and focused instead on a rich, Caribbean-New Orleanian influenced menu and an assortment of barroom-related programs: raw oyster bar, billiards room, sports bar with stadium style seating and late night dance club. [13] On their reopening, owner Kevin Moran reported: “[When people call,] the call that they make is not, ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ but ‘Who’s playing tonight?’” [14] Quickly learning the value of music in this location, Rosy’s Big Easy began booking rock, reggae and jazz performers. This was a short lived venture; Rosy’s changed hands again in 1998.

Rosy’s Jazz Hall, Present Day Conditions

Phillip Wagner and Steve Zweibaum, Rosy’s Big Easy switched names to Rosy’s Jazz Hall in late 1998. As manager and head chef, Zweibaum’s focus is back to music and food as a private venue with catering, primarily focusing on wedding receptions. The distinctive qualities of the 1976 restoration in the courtyard, atrium and hall spaces offer clients a range of unique area for their events.

Works Cited

  • Desplas, John. “Rosy’s: Birth of a new jazz club on Tchoupitoulas.” The Figaro. 29 September 1976. 28.
  • Desplas, John. “Rosy’s: Birth of a new jazz club on Tchoupitoulas.” The Figaro. 29 September 1976. 28.
  • Simon, John Alan. “Rosy’s: A jazz risk.” The Times-Picayune. 30 September 1976. 4-16.
  • Desplas, John. “Rosy’s: Birth of a new jazz club on Tchoupitoulas.” The Figaro. 29 September 1976. 28.
  • Tucker, Kelly. “Ole man river’s keeps rolling.” The Times-Picayune. 29 August 1980.
  • Simon, John Alan. “Rosy’s: A jazz risk.” The Times-Picayune. 30 September 1976. 4-16.
  • Megill, Donald and Richard S. Demory. Introduction to Jazz History, 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 264.
  • Megill, Donald and Richard S. Demory. Introduction to Jazz History, 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 267.
  • Davis, Francis. “Jazz: religious and circus: if not exactly a golden age, the seventies was a time of remarkable artistic ferment.” The Atlantic. February 2000. p. 88-92, 94.
  • Megill, Donald and Richard S. Demory. Introduction to Jazz History, 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 278.
  • Pope, John. “Offices planned for nightclub.” The Times-Picayune. 17 February 1985.
  • Anding, Jill T. “Rosy Future for Popular Bar.” The Times-Picayune. 17 January 1992. L8.
  • Anding, Jill T. “Rosy Future for Popular Bar.” The Times-Picayune. 17 January 1992. L8.
  • Aiges, Scott. “Now you hear it, now you don’t…” The Times-Picayune. 27 November 1992. L7.

This page was last modified on 10 December 2012, at 02:45

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Rosy's Jazz Hall

4701 Tchoupitoulas Street