I had heard (from Upright brewer/owner Alex Ganum) that there had once been a jazz club on the site of his brewery, where I play on Sunday afternoons. Alex was tickled to find out about the club, because he is a huge jazz fan. In fact the name of his brewery, Upright, is a tribute to the upright bass, an instrument Alex loves, especially as played by Charlie Mingus. You may have noticed the bass clef on Upright tap handles and bottles. And you might also have tasted Monk & Mingus, which Alex brews annually for the Cheers to Belgian Beers festival.
Of course I also was delighted to find out that there had been live jazz in the building (now called the Leftbank Building, 240 N Broadway), since I carry on the tradition by playing live blues in the basement every Sunday. And I am even more delighted now that I’ve found out more details, from reading Jumptown: the Golden Years of Portland Jazz 1942-1957 by Robert Dietsche.
The club in the building was called the Dude Ranch, and here is how Dietsche describes it: “There never was and there never will be anything quite like the Dude Ranch. It was the Cotton Club, the Apollo Theater, Las Vegas, the Wild West rolled into one. It was the shooting star in the history of Portland jazz…”
Apparently the building started as a hazelnut ice cream factory (!) in 1908, then became a speakeasy in the ’20s. It was the Dude Ranch 1945-46. Among the shows was Norman Granz’ traveling Jazz at the Philharmonic, featuring Thelonious Monk (and Roy Eldridge, Helen Humes, Meade Lux Lewis, Coleman Hawkins et al, playing together in various combinations). So Monk, one of the two jazzmen commemorated in Upright’s Monk & Mingus, actually did play in the building!
Besides being the hottest club, it also is significant now for being the ONLY remnant, sadly, of that scene. Everything else was bulldozed for the freeways, Rose Garden, hospital etc.
So…come celebrate Portland history while sipping fabulous beers and hearing old-style blues, 3:30-5:30 p.m. Sundays at Upright Brewing, in the basement of the Leftbank Building, 240 N. Broadway.