It is Wednesday night on the East Side of Milwaukee. The return of fall changes more than just the foliage -- the students are back. Not only does this infusion of new life to the neighborhood cause a scramble for parking on the non-metered streets, but it also means the North Avenue bars are back to doing what they do best, slinging cheap and uncomplicated drinks.
While two for one shots is an undeniable deal and it has been a long week, this particular Wednesday evening consists of a more relaxed fanfare. I head north on Murray Avenue to Milwaukee's coziest hole in the wall, The Jazz Estate, 2423 N Murray Ave.
By 9:30 p.m. the last trace of the day's Indian summer sunshine have long past
disappeared leaving the air cool enough to pull my jacket tighter around my waist as I stroll towards the neon sign that hangs over the faded mint green building and red door with three blacked out windows.
Just inside, a man on a stool checks IDs and collects $5 as the cover charge for the show. The evening's lineup includes Evan Christian, local guitarist and singer who has recently returned from a summer tour in Europe.
Crimson candles flicker on every table. Despite the smoking ban's passing in early July, the facility still weeps with the years of smoke gone by. But the odor is hardly a disturbance. Now it remains as the lingering memory of patrons past that have bellied up to the bar in despair or snuggled at a table with a loved one.
The slight chatter of the guests, the bartender clinking glasses, the door swinging open to the traffic on the street -- all instantly fade when Evan takes the tiny draped stage.
The mix of his bluesy voice and flamenco guitar transport listeners to a taverna somewhere on the Mediterranean. The dim lighting, the close proximity to the other patrons and intensity with which Evan plays his guitar make it a perfect location to practice the acquiring of the taste of scotch or the savoring of a glass of Spanish wine.
The intimacy of The Jazz Estate and the power of the live music create a soulful date night and a compelling escape from the bustling East Side.
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