It’s 8:45 on an early fall evening at the slanted-T intersection of Westport Road and Main Street. A few pedestrians straggle here and there, while southbound Metro buses regularly pull up to the spotlight and turn toward Westport or continue on toward the Plaza. Based on Yelp recommendations and a recent ink article, we’ve decided to come experience Harling’s Tuesday night no-cover jazz for ourselves.
Having found the second-story window neon beer signs referenced by the Yelpers and the ink article, we locate a once-white door labeled “3941 A” and head upstairs. A few folks are sitting at the bar, a few more are seated around a table, and one girl sits by herself looking out on Main Street with her back to the rest of the bar. After ordering $2.75 bourbon and “cokes” (RC Cola from a two-liter, actually), we grab a table by an open window and look out on the streetscape ourselves as the band slowly assembles, unfolds their music stands, and lays out their music. Because we’d heard rumors that Harling’s has no (or, at least, severely underperforming) air conditioning, we had decided to wait until temperatures had cooled down for the season before our foray. Our decision seems like a wise one: we feel a perfect, slight breeze come in through the window while the band now tunes and takes a few stabs, in fits and starts, at what must be a new addition to its repertoire.
Once they get through the new piece to their satisfaction, Clint Ashlock and the New Jazz Order pause a moment, adjust their music, then launch a wall of sound through the bar with an uptempo rendition of “Love for Sale.” The band, 16 or 17 strong tonight, including trumpets, trombones, saxophones, electric guitar, upright bass, and drums, barely pauses for the next hour, pouring its jazzy big band sound into the bar and out onto the street below. The band members all appear young–college age to early 30’s–and their youth seems to add vibrancy to their interpretation of a genre of music that is often written off these days as the irrelevant soundtrack of a dying generation.
An hour flies by. The band takes a well-deserved break, and we have to head home to prepare for the demands of work tomorrow. But with its cheap drinks, great live jazz, and a divey Midtown authenticity, you can bet we’ll be back at Harling’s on another Tuesday before long.
(Notes: If you want to check it out for yourself, New Jazz Order plays at Harling’s most Tuesday nights. There is ample parking along Wesport Road across Main Street and in the Thriftway store lot just south of the bar. And be aware that the rumors that Harling’s may have the most foul-smelling bathrooms in the city are well-founded.)