Fareed Haque & His Funk Brothers

I first met Fareed in the 1980’s at The Piano Man, a jazz bar I was involved with in Chicago.  A bar dedicated to presenting the best in live jazz and blues. We lost our lease before I had the opportunity to book him. After totally leaving the bar and music business for 30 years, I found myself back at it in Madison.

A month after I moved to Madison, I went to the Waterfront Festival, and there was Fareed. I said to myself, if I ever have the opportunity to book music again, I will for sure book Fareed. Last night Fareed Haque and His Funk Brothers performed at North Street Cabaret. They were phenomenal.

I am so appreciative of fulfilling this dream and so appreciative of the great Madison audience. It is truly a pleasure to bring the best that I can to you. Without you, the audience, our stage would be silent. Thank you.

Fareed Haque.jpeg

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

As a life-long listener of jazz, world and classical music, I didn’t know much about bluegrass, even though I often talked about the virtues of roots music.

Moving to Madison five years ago, in the interest of serving my listening audience at Tip Top and now North Street Cabaret, I expanded my horizon to bluegrass and country.

Thursday night, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley absolutely blew me away. Not only are they gifted musicians, but they cross genres, take songs from one world and transform it into another.  

They borrowed from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Grateful Dead, and even The Beatles. They also performed a version of Sonny Boy Williamson/Willie Dixon song One Way Out (made popular by the Allman Brothers). Thank you Sugar Maple Music Festival for including our venue in your shows. Hope they return to our stage soon.

To get a sampling of this crossover listen to Rob Ickes playing Horace Silver’s jazz classic “Song for My Father”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odWHkgIco2k


Rob & Trey.jpeg

August is Charlie Parker Month

Joe Segal, owner of Jazz Showcase, America’s oldest jazz club, proclaimed August to be Charlie Parker month.

Charlie Parker was born August 29, 1920 in Kansas City. He started playing saxophone at 11. He would practice for 12-16 hours a day in the woodshed. “Woodshedding” became a common  term used by jazz musicians for practicing.

Charlie Parker was the leading innovator of a form of jazz known as Bebop. At first, it was rejected, just as Hip Hop and Rap were rejected not long ago.

Friday, August 10, North Street Cabaret will host musician/composer Shawn Maxwell. Shawn plays saxophone, clarinet and flute.


“This is bold music. Maxwell isn’t afraid to try out new ideas and take chances….that risk-taking pays off—big time.”- Frank Alkyer‚ Downbeat Magazine

 Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow performing at Jazz Showcase under the watchful eye of Charlie Parker.

Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow performing at Jazz Showcase under the watchful eye of Charlie Parker.


“In the mid 1960’s, when I was too young and didn’t have any money. I stood outside of the Plugged Nickel in Chicago, because on the other side of the wall there was a performance by John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, Jack Dejohnette & Rashid Ali. Tonight, I am very pleased to have a Coltrane in the house”.

Those were my introductory words about my guest, Michelle Coltrane, on Thursday, July 12.

Michelle was backed by 3 members of the Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra, Curt Hanrahan on reeds, his son Tim on bass and brother Warren on drums. With special guest, guitarist Shae Welsh. I always expect for jazz musicians to be of a high caliber musically, As one who never had the chops,  I know the rigors needed to become a jazz musician, but when they bop their hearts out, that makes for a very special concert. That was the case on this evening.

North Street Cabaret was the perfect venue for the 80+ in the audience. Great acoustics, great music and a very appreciative audience.

Only about a year had passed since my standing outside of The Plugged Nickel, when I met a friend in Chicago’s Old Town district (where The Plugged Nickel was located) and he told me that Coltrane had died. It was July 17, 1967. He was only 41.  My heart sank. My world stopped spinning for a moment.

The name Coltrane evokes very special feelings for me. His music did and still does have a very deep place inside of me.

When I attended art school and pursued my photography seriously, I listened to Coltrane and experimented with my images, leaving the shutter of the camera open and moving to the music. I tried to duplicate visually what Coltrane was trying to achieve in his music, creating "sheets of sound", as he called it.

Very little of these images remain. This is one.                                                                                

 The power of music is great.  I’m fortunate to be playing a role in it, as small as it is.

The power of music is great.  I’m fortunate to be playing a role in it, as small as it is.

How we got here

This first blog is dedicated to Tommy Ponce, who brought jazz home to me and who dubbed me Al of the Universe. To Bill, the owner of Piano Man, who had the vision of turning a long-time neighborhood tavern into a world class jazz bar. And of course, brother Benjamin who is forever seeking a higher ground.

In the 1980’s I got involved with The Piano Man (2 blocks north of Wrigley Field). The goal was to be the best jazz and blues bar possible. In the beginning there was Dixieland on Sunday afternoons. Added more music on weekends. Eventually the Sunday afternoon Dixieland turned into a regular jazz jam led by Chicago’s multi-instrumentalist Tommy Ponce and his quartet.

In no time, jazz increased to seven days a week with the addition of The Sons of the Blues (3-time Grammy nominee Billy Branch and Lurrie Bell, the son of the legendary blues man Carey Bell) on Sunday nights.

 Jeanne Carroll & the Nite Owls in 1980,              one of first bands to perform at The Piano Man

Jeanne Carroll & the Nite Owls in 1980,              one of first bands to perform at The Piano Man

The Piano Man was an incredible scene, after a five-year run, the music stopped in 1985 because of lease issues. I thought that it was a once in a lifetime experience, that the magic couldn’t possibly be repeated.…fast forward thirty-two years and North Street opens.

As we celebrated our first anniversary on June 9, I reflect on our achievements and imagine what is yet to come. We’ve had some great talent on our young stage; we opened with Quebec band Les Poules å Colin and soon after hosted Septeto Santiaguero from Santiago, Cuba. But really, it is the local talent that is so amazing. Per capita, I can’t think of a more talented city than Madison. We are most fortunate.

This summer we have had the good fortune of booking the newly inducted into Afro Pop Hall of Fame Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba and the sound of Sahara legend Vieux Farké Toure from Mali.

Thank you for supporting live music.