Noal Cohen has chronicled jazz in 1950 and 1960s Rochester on his AtticToys site. He makes clear just how vital that period was, and how much Rochester shared in that history. Noal’s list of jazz artists who played in Rochester is a who’s who of jazz at the time. I noticed that Noal was also a great fan of the Ridge Crest Inn. Like him, I heard my fair share of jazz there, most for the first time in person: Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Ventura, Carmen McCrae, Ray Bryant, and so many others. I noted that in 1957, the year I turned 18, Stan Getz was playing a gig there from March 19-24.
That performance stands out in my memory, although I had thought the date was March 26, my birthday. It stands out because Jane Morey, the owner, brought Stan to my table and asked him to sit down with my cousin, Jack, and me. We told Jane we were celebrating my 18th birthday. True enough. But we were celebrating it early by two days. I need to note that at that time 18 was the legal drinking age, so we wanted to be able to eat and drink.
In March of 1957, Stan was not in the best period of his career in playing well and was in a sullen mood. He nursed the drink we bought him and answered our over-eager questions in monosyllables. It didn’t matter. Stan was an icon and he was at our table. We were happy to share it with him. When he resumed playing we watched his every move carefully, applauding along with the sell-out crowd. The birthday party was a success as far as I was concerned.
A year later I spoke with a more congenial version of Stan. I was teaching a Jazz and Society class in New York. I called Stan and asked him to speak to my class. Stan offered me many dates, but our schedules didn’t work out. He seemed very disappointed and spoke easily with me, in contrast with our earlier meeting. Stan had kicked his drug habit, was remarried, and was living in California by that time. These changes had mellowed him out, and many others had noted his gentler demeanor and stronger playing.
I found another remembrance of the Ridgecrest Inn in the D&C from 2014. What are your memories of the Ridgecrest Inn? Please add a comment by clicking on the link below this post and let us know! I'll pass your comments on to Frank for a response. If you have an image from that time send it to me with an acknowledgment of who took it so I can add that.