Half Note Jazz Club 40 years on!
A cross between a hallowed landmark and an edgy, intimate, no-frills joint, The Half Note Jazz Club has had a roster of bonafide musical titans, avant-garde boppers and bands-in-residence to claim its rightful place among the most influential jazz venues in the world. As it celebrates its four decades in show business in style, a grateful city thanks the passion and perseverance of brothers George and Panagiotis Georgas and Dimitris Diktakis for the music, magic and emotions they have charged countless Athenian evenings with.
It all started with a drunken promise when the original Half Note was threatened with closure. Like most inebriated words, when brothers George and Panagiotis Georgas promised they’d do everything to help Dimitris Diktakis keep the club alive, they were forgotten with the next morning’s hangover. Dimitris reminded them persistently and finally the brothers came through with a venue – a former marble tombstone parlour, just across Athens’ cemetery where the city’s greats are laid to rest. “We didn’t find any skeletons, but the marble floor was a mosaic of recycled tombstones!” reminisces Panagiotis Georgas.
What started off as a very romantic idea, soon found the brothers with frequent overnight stints in prison, (the licences were always questioned even though they were legit!) financial anxieties and the onus of putting on live-acts from across the Atlantic, week after week. They pulled it off, pioneering in the bargain, an improvised jazz music scene in Athens where New York sounds meet the electricity of Chicago, romantic Mediterranean ballads cross-over with the fiery passion of Buenos Aires. Looking back on their 40-year journey, “imprinted on countless bricks, at 250 live concerts each year, in the hundreds of small and big stories they hide, and in the unforgettable musical emotions that have been offered,”Georgas confesses that the success of the club was largely thanks to their choice of “honest music, that speaks to the soul,” and not financial wizardry. The club’s reliable sound and fully equipped stage attracted the attention of the most important names in creative music and set the tone for an authentic live story-making jazz scene, with a completely different interactive story every evening.
It is easy to walk past the inconspicuous door that leads to Half Note, wedged as it is between a morbid array of funerary flower parlours, undertakers and tombstone markers. Its unlikely setting amongst the city’s dead, if anything, has only heightened the intrigue and awe the club holds amongst its legion of jazz fans.
Jazz legends such as Archie Shepp, Benny Golson, Chico Hamilton, Steve Lacy and Lou Donaldson have graced the Half Note and blues greats such as Magic Slim, Hubert Sumlin, Big Joe Turner, Linda Hopkins, Carey & Lurrie Bell, and Lucky Peterson have performed to appreciative fans multiple times. In the ’90s and ’00s, the Half Note integrated world and ethnic music into its programme by hosting great artists of this endless genre. Celebrate the Half Note’s remarkable milestone this season with the legendary Lucky Peterson capping his 50-year career, Charles McPherson, Billy Harper, Dave Murray, Jesse Davis, Eddie Henderson, Fred Wesley, Petter Molvaer who comes to Greece for the first time, Piazzola’s partner and Grammy legend Pablo Ziegler and many others. It is easy to walk past the inconspicuous door that leads to Half Note, wedged as it is between a morbid array of funerary flower parlours, undertakers and tombstone markers. Its unlikely setting amongst the city’s dead, if anything, has only heightened the intrigue and awe the club holds amongst its legion of jazz fans.
Mark your calendars
- Jonathan Kreisberg quartet on November 12
- Billy Harper quintet on November 15 and 19
- Anthony Joseph & People of the Sun on November 22 and November 25
- Cinema Paradiso on December 5
- Velvet Candles, from December 20 to 26
- Prof. Cunningham & his Old School from December 27 to 30
- George Kontrafouris Trio on January 8
- Jesse Davis Quartet from January 24 to 27
- Boticelli Baby from February 21 to 24
- Eddie Henderson Quartet from March 6 to 9
- Bys Trio, The Charlie Haden Project on March 11