It occurred to me the other night that the Montage Grille has apparently passed (again) from the Rochester music scene. As far as I can tell, it went under quietly following the tragic circumstances that occurred there in July of this year. It's not he first fade out for the Montage; it has happened before. In the pages of the earlier incarnation of this blog, I noted much about the Montage and it has been a love-hate relationship (for example see here, here and here). However, the music I've heard there has been some of my greatest music experiences, rivaling the best I experienced in Chicago. Of course, as you can see by my postings from past Rochester International Jazz Festivals, the Montage was where most of the artists I wanted to see played. In addition, I've seen a rich diversity of music there over the past few years, including: Thomas Mapfumo, Alejandro Escovedo, Maria Muldaur, and John Hammond.
Although the business plan of Montage was never completely clear (am I a restaurant, am I a bar, am I a club?) and it sometimes enforced really bizarre policies about reservations for dinner trumping everything else in seating (OK, it's not that bizarre for Rochester), while it clearly tried to book a truly diverse selection of local and national acts from all ranges and styles of music, including some great live jazz, unlike any other club in town.
Like so many others, I didn't get out to see enough there, so I too share in the underlying causes of its demise. However, there is another factor that contributed to its end—fear. By connecting the tragic death outside the club to the music playing inside the Montage, it seems that Police Chief David Moore probably sealed the deal on the Montage by connecting it to violence. The Chief tried to recast the violence in terms of a battle between two separate hip-hop camps (calling to mind the well-known feuds in rap music that have lead to deaths) with absolutely no evidence or thought of how it might affect a viable business in the heart of downtown Rochester. He then made it clear that there would be no hip hop music without clubs giving the city advance warning. The music was not the cause of the shooting death that occurred outside the club (apparently after it closed); the many causes of the behavior of individuals that resulted in that death are known and they are not attributable to music.
What does this have to do with this blog that is focused on jazz music? For starters, we may have one less venue for the RIJF, with another major leap in growth in attendance likely to occur. Additionally, while jazz was not the Montage's main focus, its programming included some great jazz artists throughout the year. Water Street may be picking up some of the slack (quite alot so far), but fewer venues will lead to less, not more. Moreover, in order for the City of Rochester to rekindle a lively and vibrant downtown, it will need to nurture places like the Montage, which was one of the few anchors in an area of dowtown that needs businesses to survive in order for those plans to work. I heard nothing about this after the article on the shooting and I pay attention to these things. Did I miss something? What happened? If you know the real story, please comment to this post.
Added 9-16-2006: Well, this post may have been somewhat premature. As I was adding a comment to ROCWiki to let people know that they were no longer there, I gave the Montage's phone number—(585)232-1520—a call to see if it was still in service. It was and there was an announcement dated September 15th about their Grand Re-Opening weekend ands a Save the ROC benefit being held this weekend.