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Steve Carter | Photo: Nick Prendergast | November 21, 2012
Brad Williams trips the night fantastic at the new NYLO South Side.
When you think jazz, New Orleans and New York are the two cities that immediately come to mind. But Dallas has a rich jazz tradition of its own, and greats like David “Fathead” Newman, Norah Jones, Shelley Carrol, Red Garland, James Clay, Marchel Ivery and many others have called it home. Ironically, opportunities to hear jazz in Dallas aren’t always plentiful. So when the new NYLO Dallas South Side (nylohotels.com/dallas) boutique hotel decided to bring live jazz to its Lobby Bar four nights a week, celebration was in order. Pianist and educator Brad Williams is the NYLO’s music coordinator, and his booking policy of local piano trios (piano, bass, drums) adds the perfect note of urbane sophistication to the hotel’s ultramodern vibe. “The music sets the tone when you walk in,” Williams says. “NYLO South Side isn’t trying to be a typical Dallas venue; it’s trying to fit into the neighborhood, and jazz represents a mixture of a lot of different elements.”
On my recent visit to NYLO’s Lobby Bar, Williams’ trio, which includes bassist Ross Schodek and drummer Andrew Griffith, was smoking. Musically, that is. Weaving sets comprised of tunes by Monk, Gershwin, Brubeck, Cannonball, Dizzy and others, the trio was brilliant, utterly in command of the idiom. Williams, Schodek and Griffith play with a fine-tuned ferocity, with that miraculous telepathy that great empathetic players bring to their craft, seemingly effortlessly. Up-tempo, ballad, Great American Songbook or re-imagined pop, the group’s eclecticism fits the bill, and jazz’s indigenous gumbo is the ideal metaphor to accentuate NYLO’s melting-pot decor. “The interior here is a mishmash of styles,” Williams observes. “A French chandelier next to midcentury modern furniture—industrial chic, but elegant at the same time. We try to capture that when we play—classic jazz with our own spin.” An added bonus is the surprisingly sympathetic acoustics of the room, ideal for really listening.
A key element of the lobby is the graffiti-adorned grand piano; further along the room a similarly defaced pool table bookends the space. On the walls, the works of local artists Deanna Kienast, Teri Lueders, Tom Morningstar and others heighten the contemporary feel. “The ambiance here puts us in the mood for playing jazz,” Williams notes. “You want to improvise and cover a lot of creative ground; there’s just a creative energy when you walk into the place.” In addition to his own group, Williams has brought in the trios of pianists Kelly Durbin, Tony Palos, Dave Zoller and Chris Villanueva, and on Wednesdays, solo pianist Markus Little. “Every musician who’s played here loves to play in the trio format, and the NYLO is a great opportunity,” Williams adds. “It’s a great sound, it’s danceable, it’s listenable and it’s drinkable.” “A Night in Tunisia”? Make it a night at the NYLO.