North Shore residents don’t have to trek to Boston to hear good jazz; the city’s more accomplished musicians from the genre often make the drive to Beverly to appear at Chianti Tuscan Restaurant and Jazz Lounge, an intimate live-music venue opened in 2010.
Players from Salem, Beverly, Swampscott and Cape Ann — all part of a long-established North Shore contingent of musicians — play Chianti, too, providing area residents with nightly high-level entertainment with no cover charge.
Chianti Jazz Lounge is an extension of Chianti Tuscan Restaurant, a small Italian cafe founded almost 20 years ago by Rich Marino, a Medford native. He built the club in a former liquor store ajacent to Chianti, realizing a dream he had since opening the eatery.
“This has been a stated goal of mine for two decades,” said Marino, seated as a long marble bar as Cambridge-based singer-songwriter Jody Blackwell entertained 30- and 40-somethings sipping wine and martinis at small, candlelit tables on a recent Wednesday night. “When places like Lenny’s and Sandy’s closed, jazz never died (on the North Shore), it was just orphaned.”
Marino is referring to Lenny’s on the Turnpike, located on Route One, and Sandy’s Jazz Revival, two now-defunct jazz clubs that hosted such luminaries as Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie. Sandy’s has special significance for Marino because he said he modeled Chianti after that club, formerly located less than a mile down Cabot Street. (Ironically, Marino and his wife and son live around the corner in Sandy Berman’s former home, which they bought without knowing its musical lineage.)
According to Marino — a singer and bassist — the spot has become a favorite for jazz musicians from around the region. His staff backlines the stage with drums, keys and amplifiers. A stand-up bass is provided, too, said Marino, who has a preference for horn- and piano-driven bands.
That’s not to say he won’t mix it up: Last month’s acts included Fats Hammond, a jazz quartet led by two Hammond organ players; Members of Morphine, featuring two surviving members of that seminal band; Gabrielle Agachiko, a Kenyan singer with a penchant for Nina Simone’s music; Wally’s Fabulous Funk Band, featuring regular players from Wally’s Jazz Cafe in Boston; and Benny Sharoni, a tenor saxophonist who studied at Berklee College of Music. In fact, dozens of Berklee students or faculty members have graced Chianti’s stage, playing a wide variety of musical styles.
“We try to highlight the many forms of jazz,” Marino said. “On any given night you’ll find traditional jazz, funky jazz, Latin jazz and more. We also feature some blues and singer-songwriters. Our goal is to have a consistently high level of musicianship on stage.”
Chianti Jazz Lounge
285 Cabot St., Beverly, Mass.
(Free entertainment six-to-seven nights a week. Most shows start by 9:30 p.m.; Sundays begin at 6:30 p.m. Check web site or Facebook for special events. No reservations in jazz lounge; seating is first-come-first-served. Full dinner menu served in lounge.)