Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Masque on Hess. Hot food. Cold beer. Cool jazz.

Hot food. Cold beer. Cool jazz.
When I hear live jazz at a club like The Masque I love the feeling of intimacy with the musicians. You might as well be in their living room at a private party.

That is the exact feeling manager Barry Reid wants you to have when you arrive with your friends at The Masque at 13 Hess Street South. The place has a great outdoor bar comparable to something you would see at an ocean resort. The bright and airy stage facing into the main room of 30 seats is what used to be the front porch of 13 Hess. It has ample room for a jazz trio, quartet or quintet. The house PA is more than adequate. Duos can set up on the stage or outdoors on the patio, depending on the weather, making them visible to everyone on the front and back decks, where additional seats for at least 60 more people are found.

Street View
What's cool about The Masque's main stage is that the band is visible from all sides, including people on the street. It makes for a great vibe. In the cooler weather when the outdoor patio closes, a glass enclosure around the outdoor bar will allow sunlight in to brighten the room for those Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Picture it: the cold, damp November weather completely obliterated by the warm friends, great music and excellent food inside.

Manager Barry Reid has decades of experience serving great food in Hamilton. He was the maitre'd at the McGill Steak House for nine years. Back in the 70s he was the flambée king at the old Cavalier restaurant at Mohawk and Upper James. At The Masque, Barry continues his royal service to customers as "king of the mojito," which is a mint julep mixed with white rum. Yum.

If you're not coming to The Masque for the music or the majitos, then you'll be there for the food. Reid has put together a reasonably priced bistro menu. All main dishes are $10, with each item having its own character. If you like a roast beef sandwich, ask Reid for some of his custom-ground horseradish, supplied by a local market vendor. Reid is big on buying local. As a foodie with a hot sauce habit, he can get you a fix of whatever amount of heat you need. He tells about one sauce that was kept behind locked doors at the market because the vendor didn't want to be responsible for any careless purchases!

But I digress. At The Masque it is all about the music. The Masque is the place to hear and play jazz in Hamilton. With the counsel and blessing of friend and owner Jim Skarratt, who runs the Lazy Flamingo a couple doors down, Reid is determined to bring jazz and great songs back to Hess Village. For example, last Sunday afternoon, Danielle Beaudin graced the patio from 3 to 7 with her "delightful, pure voice." Local soundmaster/bassist Carl Jennings (Freedom Train, Westmoreland Studios) has been working with her on her latest song, "Sun Will Shine."

On Thursday nights, 7 to 11, you can bring your horn or your voice to Jimmy's Jazz Jam open mic. Sit in with the trio for a tune or a few. Reid and house band leader Jimmy will be courting and welcoming many Mohawk and McMaster music students along with other vocalists and instrumentalists from all over town. Friday nights, 6:30 to 10:30 (before Hess Village changes its face to a twenty-something dance club/rock bar scene) you can enjoy JH Standards with Jimmy's trio and special guests. Reid is looking at booking duos on Wednesdays and weekend matinees. To find out what's going on week by week, sign up for Behind The Masque, the weekly newsletter.
Hess Street

There's no doubt that it's all about the music at The Masque. The enthusiasm and vision of Reid and Skarratt has made it possible. The memory of Hess Village as a musicians' den is alive and well.

It's wonderful and inspiring to see this kind of leadership by a venue. The supper/happy hour at Hess Village has been musically rescued and given the royal treatment by the Masque.

Make your dinner plans around Jazz at The Masque or drop in with some friends after work.

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