from Bill Anschell:
Tonight will be a special evening at Tula’s. The club’s owner, Mack Waldron, is receiving a “Jazz Hero” award from the Jazz Journalists Association; he’s one of two dozen jazz advocates around the country chosen for the honor.
At the bottom of this email, you can read Mack’s bio, put together by KPLU host (and JJA board member) Robin Lloyd. What isn’t mentioned, and is unknown to many people, is that Mack kept Tula’s open when it wasn’t in his financial interest to do so; he knew the club’s importance to the local jazz community and didn’t want to let down the musicians who play there.
He’s also probably the only jazz club owner in the country who tunes his own piano, almost daily, and very well. It’s always a treat to play there, and the jazz scene wouldn’t be nearly the same without it. I’m honored that Mack chose my trio to help celebrate his well-deserved award.
At 6:30 the award presentation will take place, then at 7:30 my trio will hit the stage. It’s my Standards Trio, with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer D’Vonne Lewis. None of the music is pre-arranged, and Jeff and D’Vonne always manage to surprise me (which is what spontaneous arrangements are all about).
Thursday, April 30th, Tula’s (www.tulas.com), $10 cover.
I’m guessing it will be a full house, so reservations are a good idea; while you’re at it you can pick your own seat. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the city’s best players stop by and sit in. Highly recommended.
2015 Seattle Jazz Hero
Elliott “Mack” Waldron is the proprietor of Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club in Seattle, which for two decades has featured local and regional jazz musicians seven nights a week, filling an important cultural niche here. Seattle is just lucky enough to be Waldron’s wife’s hometown.
To explain: Mack began his personal association with jazz in his youth. He played in his high-school jazz band in Kilgore, Texas (in the northeastern part of the state), and continued when he attended Kilgore Junior College. He enlisted in the Navy, joined the band and eventually becoming a bandleader – making that his career for 26 years. He was stationed at Sand Point Naval Base on Lake Washington when he retired, and he and his wife Tula (yes, the club is named for her: it’s a diminutive of Demetra) decided to stay.
At first, Mack worked booking musical acts, but then he decided to plunge into the business directly. “It had always been my dream to own a jazz club,” he’s said.
Mack knows his jazz. In the service he’d been considered a players’ bandleader, and today he’s considered a players’ club owner. He books the bands, treats the musicians well and in turn is well respected by the musicians he hires. “We have a mutual admiration,” he says. “I admire them for their musicianship, and I think they do appreciate me for providing a venue for them to perform.” He acknowledges difficulties in keeping Tula’s open for the past 21 years, but has always accepted them as a personal challenge. He’s quick to credit the support of his family and abundance of highly talented players in the region for the club’s success.
Wynton Marsalis has ranked Tula’s among his top 10 clubs in the nation for USA Today, saying “This is a cool place.” Tula’s has been featured in DownBeat’s guide to the world’s “150 Great Jazz Rooms,” too. Mack has been honored with Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award for providing a key showcase for our local musicians.
And he’s trying to make sure there are more of them to come. In support of music education, Mack invites high-school bandleaders to bring their bands to the club. “Seattle has a wealth of good high-school band directors and music teachers,” he believes. “The parents are also very supportive of music education. We have a wonderful education system here. It’s very exciting to participate and I feel like I’m contributing something to further young musicians in the Seattle area.” Which makes Mack Waldron a Jazz Hero for everyone in hailing distance, and even further.
– Robin Lloyd
JJA Board Member
(from Earshot Jazz profiles written by Jason West, 1999 and Gregory Brusstar, 2012)
Photo: Daniel Sheehan