The venue: Julius Kimbrough’s Prime Example
Location: Gentilly (1909 N. Broad St.)
Genres: Jazz, blues, Latin
Crowd: Jazz connoisseurs, in-the-know tourists, elder statesmen of the 7th Ward
Ambiance: Relaxed, respectful, appreciative
Ask ten people to describe jazz music and you’re likely to get ten wildly different responses. It could be the smooth shuffle of Louis Armstrong or the melodic abstractions of Miles Davis. It could be Benny Goodman’s big band or the four-piece funk of the Meters. But one thing all jazz music has in common is the audience’s deep appreciation for the music and their willingness to follow their favorite musicians to sonically far-off places.
Julius Kimbrough’s Prime Example stands as one of the best clubs in town to get up close and personal with some of our best musicians. The intimate setting is respectful without feeling uptight, where the conversations between old and new friends roar across the room between sets and die down as soon as the first note is played. It’s real New Orleans music in a real New Orleans club that’s worlds away from the tourism-approved sounds of French Quarter jazz clubs.
The Prime Example comes out of the night like a lighthouse at the corner of N. Broad and Saint Bernard on the edge of Gentilly in an unassuming building across the street from a McDonald’s. Out front there’s a small collection of chairs that spill onto the sidewalk and always seem filled with older guys holding court on everything from the Saints to politics. The inside of the club has a no-frills approach that gives the people what they want while keeping the focus on the musicians. The seats and tables face the stage and are set up to allow just enough room for the waitresses to weave through and keep the cups full.
The club brings in a good mix of sounds, including Latin, trad-jazz and free jazz to keep each night different. Grammy-nominated trumpeter Christian Scott recently lead his quartet through two smoking sets of modern jazz that sounded fresh and contemporary while still adhering to the classic jazz handbook. Scott’s playing effortlessly shifted from second line melodies to blasts of avant-garde madness while managing to keep the totality of his set cohesive.
But while most major American cities have a few quality jazz clubs, certain aspects of The Prime Example give it a distinctly New Orleans character. Secondline umbrellas hang from the ceiling and the smell of fried catfish hangs in the air as plates are brought down from the upstairs kitchen. Most refreshing, though, is the complete lack of ego within the Prime Example. The musicians are more than happy to share the stage with whoever happens to wander in, whether they are NOCCA students or local legends (Herlin Riley and Eric “Benny” Bloom were both spotted at the Christian Scott gig). The crowd warmly receives all who take the stage and it’s clear that the musicians relish the chance to play to a packed house of music lovers.
This laid-back attitude shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has spent more than a day in our fair city, but within the modern jazz world it’s something that’s absent all too often. This is jazz for the people. At The Prime Example, everyone is here to have a good time and get lost in some exciting original music as they forget about the craziness of the outside world for a bit. And what else could you really want out of a club?
The Prime Example is open Tuesday-Saturday 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM. Call (504)701-9007 to get the most updated listing and reserve a table. More info here.