"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!
There is no mistaking Caroline's, 401 S. 2nd St., as anything less than a classic jazz club.
Though the modest room is dimly lit, you can still make out the small details that give it a distinct, moody air. The carpet is a sea of green with somewhat gaudy floral patterns. Maroon curtains frame the small stage. Two-person circular tables with ashtrays and candles fill the space between the stage and the 365-degree bar. Big brass instruments hang from every wall and the ceiling.
It's the kind of place you'd imagine Tom Waits might pull a "Nighthawks at the Diner." Although that album was actually recorded at Record Plant Studios, Waits did invite a small audience to join him in the studio as he joked and rambled in between jazzy arrangements. The record feels intimate, smoky and spontaneous, not unlike a Friday night Annie & The Jazz Orphans gig at Caroline's Jazz Club.
Annie Denison takes commanding control of her microphone and the room settles to a hush as her band backs her in powerful originals as well as covers of works by Thelonious Monk and other greats. Her raspy, sultry voice fills the room completely and every person in the bar is fixated on her as she croons.
An hour before the show, the place looks like a ghost town. As 10 p.m. approaches, the club begins to fill and it becomes clear that most of the customers are at least somewhat acquainted. They all say hello and welcome each other to their regular weekend hideaway. It feels like a community.
Regular bands like The Jazz Orphans and the Paul Spencer Band and are the focus of this little club tucked away in Walker's Point. With live music every Wednesday through Saturday, jazz is the pulse of its existence and the actual bar -- despite the old fashioneds prepared with delicate care -- is more of an afterthought.
Owner Caroline Rubitsky has an obvious penchant for jazz sessions, but this month she is trying something new at Caroline's. Thursday, Feb. 19 is Chick Singer Night, with host Alaria Taylor.
Taylor, Chick Singer Night's director, invited some of Milwaukee's most powerful female voices to perform, including Rhonda Begos, Jamie Brace (of the band Hounds Tooth), Jayme Dawicki, Windy Hope and Julie Moffitt. Admission to the show, which begins at 8 p.m., is $8. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”