Keep swinging: Bushwick celebrates 1930s jazz

Keep swinging: Bushwick celebrates 1930s jazz
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Everything old is new again.

A Bushwick jazz singer is offering a musical retro refuge for those looking for respite from increasingly bleak world news. Tatiana Eva-Marie, whose latest album “Je suis swing” is a tribute to the swing kids of 1930s Paris — who danced in defiance of the war and Nazi regime — says that her weekly jazz night at the Keep in Bushwick is for those who similarly choose go down swinging.

“They protested against all the upheaval with the war through joy. They were under the Nazi regime in Paris during the war and so they gathered in the little medieval cellars to play jazz and had their own underground rebel culture,” said Eva-Marie. “The best way to retaliate is with joy and saying we are still here and going to have a good time no matter what.”

Eva-Marie and her Avalon Jazz Band create that joy by playing 1930s-inspired jazz music every week at the Bushwick bar. The Gypsy-French band kicks off the show each Wednesday around 10 pm, but other musicians are welcome to pick up a swing shift, hopping on stage and improvising alongside the band until just before dawn — or to play solo while the band members pause to soothe their throats, said Eva-Marie.

“It goes from 10:30 pm to 4 am. I’m not singing the whole time — I’ll have a whiskey break from time to time,” she said. “Anyone can come. We just try to encourage everyone, even beginners, to just come join the fun. It’s a place of sharing and playing music.”

And the Bushwick bar is not just a liquor-and-beer-slinging pub — it is also an antique shop, filled with vintage frames, artifacts, and tchotchkes that are on sale during the day. The retro decor makes the spot feel like a haven from the Prohibition era, said Eva-Marie, which makes it a perfect match for the band’s aesthetic.

“It’s really not just a bar, it’s a salon, it’s an underground sort of speakeasy, everything you want. You open a door and you’re in another time and place, it’s really a refuge,” she said. “That sets a vibe anyway, and we come in and we play music inspired by the 1930s and it just fits so magically. Most people who come in they tell me, ‘Wow what have I just stepped into?’ It’s really a parallel universe.”

Tatiana Eva-Marie and Avalon Jazz Band at The Keep [205 Cypress Ave. between Starr Street and Willoughby Avenue in Bushwick, (718) 381-0400]. Every Wednesday at 10 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
They’re so money: The Keep bar in Bushwick, where Tatiana Eva-Marie performs 1930s-inspired swing songs every Wednesday night, is also a cafe and antique shop during the day.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini