Café CODA Re-Opens September 8th with
the Alexis Lombre Trio
The Jazz Goes On
|Top: Cafe CODA is reopening in its new digs
at 1224 Williamson Street on September 8th.
Above left: Hanah Jon Taylor
Above right: Alexis Lombre
After jumping through some hoops and experiencing a false start, Café CODA will open in a new space at 1224 Williamson Street. And it just may have put the
pieces together to create a stable arts-listening venue that will help Madison strengthen its world-class reputation.
For one, Café CODA is opening up in an entertainment district and neighborhood that appreciates the performing arts, hosting 4-6 music festivals each year. It has
a ready-market within walking distance to the club.
Second Taylor has been a performing artist for most his adult life, something that normally doesn’t lead to the accumulation of wealth. With this iteration of Café
CODA, Taylor has attracted the perfect set of investors.
“It’s always a struggle getting investors because most investors have their own notion of what the place should be and their own agenda as to how their
investments should benefit them,” Taylor said. “We just happened to have a couple of major investors who were not necessarily concerned about either of those
things. And that has not necessarily seeded more enthusiasm for investors, but it has given us the ability to acquire some tangible resources that are just going
to make Café CODA a unique place. We are the only music venue that can brag of having a Yamaha C7 concert grand piano, suitable staging and a green room,
which are basic requirements for the hosting of professional acts. I can’t think of a place other than the Barrymore that has those accommodations outside of the
Overture Center in Madison. And the Barrymore is not a venue designed for intimate listening. So we are very unique in this area and community. We are hoping
to attract audiences not only from the Madison area, but also from surrounding metropolitan areas who are lovers of the music who also have an interest in
hearing it in another environment other than a big city.”
Most of all, what will make it Café CODA is its ambience.
“There are certain things that you will not experience,” Taylor said. “You will not experience a pool table. You will not experience a dart board. You will not
experience a television. It is a listening room that presents traditional, contemporary and creative music while offering a unique venue of various wines and
As a musician originally out of Chicago — and still performing there on a regular basis — Taylor knows the jazz talent that is out there including up-and-coming
musicians from the Midwest. Taylor has tabbed Alexa Lombre and her trio to open up Café CODA on Saturday, September 8th.
Jazz is in Lombre’s blood.
“My mom was a huge jazz fan,” Lombre said in a phone interview. “My grandparents were huge jazz fans. And then I picked up piano when I was nine-years-old.
I studied classically for about three years. And then when I was 12-years-old, I started playing jazz because my mom just figured it was time. ‘Know what? You
can play classical. Now it’s time to play jazz.’ She made that switch for me. And then growing up in Chicago, there are a lot of other musical genres I was able to
get into from a young age. I started playing in different churches off and on since I was 14-15-years-old. I’ve gotten my gospel stuff together, R&B and Blues. Just
growing up in Chicago, I just got my feet wet in a lot of genres from a young age. But jazz was my main thing that I was brought up in.”
Lombre is bringing two musicians with her whom she met at the University of Michigan.
“Brian Juarez is wonderful and from Berkeley, California,” Lombre said. “He has a fab sound. He totally respects the culture and the music. He was mentored by
Ndugu Chancler and people like that. Brian is a heavy cat. David Alvarez used to play in the Benny Green Trio playing drums this past year. And now he is in the
Clayton Brothers Band, playing with Gerald, Jeff and John. That’s another cat who is super serious about the music and respectful about the culture. It’s just an
honor to work with him.”
And Lombre’s goal is to have the audience feeling good after their performance.
“We’ll play something from my album, Southside Sound, my compositions and arrangements,” Lombre said. “Then we do some funked-up arrangements of
classic jazz tunes. We’ll kind of freshen them up. We’ll give them lots of energy and lots of soul and lots of straight-up swing too. We’re just trying to serve this
music and make sure that the audience has a good time.”
The Alexis Lombre Trio will perform two sets, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. And they are just the start of several months of world-class jazz coming Madison’s way.
“I have the great singer Ugochi who is another young woman of West African descent coming in to perform with her Afro-Pop band on September 15th, “ Taylor
said. “On the following Saturday, I have Ari Brown coming in with his quartet presenting a tribute to John Coltrane. It’s John Coltrane’s birthday weekend. That
following month, I have Kahil El’Zabar and David Murray. In November, we have Lynn Arriale, the great pianist, coming in from Florida. And In December, we
have Dee Alexander returning for a holiday show. I’m constantly filling in my schedule. I just signed on this morning this band I’m going to be a part of called The
Liberators featuring Thurman Barker on drums on December 1st.”
Café CODA will be open Wednesday-Sunday with everything from jazz jams to poetry readings and everything in between. And Taylor is working hard to keep the
cover charge affordable.
“The cover fee will range from $5 to $25,” Taylor said. “Our Saturday evening events will range from $20-$25 for reserved seats, $10-$15 for general seating.
Our Thursday events will be $10.
People can buy tickets through www.cafecoda.club. Or you can call Susan Fox at 608-251-8565.”
With all of the ingredients that Taylor has blended together, one can’t help but feel that Café CODA will become a permanent part of Madison’s rise as a world-
class city. Onward!
By Jonathan Gramling
For many, making Madison a world-class city means having a world-class university. Madison has that. For
some, it may mean having a vibrant IT sector attracting hundreds of young entrepreneurs. Madison has that. And
for others, it may mean having a top-notch performing arts venue. Madison has that. But for Hanah Jon Taylor and
others, there is still something missing.
Taylor is an internationally renowned jazz saxophonist who has performed in a diversity of venues, from
international outdoor festivals to intimate concert halls. He knows something is missing.
For several years in the 2000, Taylor and Susan Fox teamed up to create the Madison Center for the Creative and
Cultural Arts located a stone’s throw from the Overture Center. And last year, they teamed up to create Café
CODA, just off of State Street. What they have been trying to create is a performing arts venue — with jazz as its
anchor — where people gathered in a stylish place to appreciate the performing arts for its own sake.
While Café CODA closed because the owner had other designs for the space, it proved its point and sparked
some interest in aficionados of jazz and other non-commercial art forms.
“The iteration of Café CODA on State Street closed in August 2017,” Taylor said. “In that year, we have developed
an enthusiasm and a momentum in the community that is greater than before. What the first iteration of Café
CODA achieved was sparking the interest and maybe in many who did not believe that such a place could
happen in Madison. Once we demonstrated that not only could it happen, but also there were many people in the
community who were ready to support it, then the idea developed and became a moving train. And we couldn’t
stop it even if we wanted to. I feel at this point, most of the people in the community who are interested in live
venues are just waiting for the doors to open. I am very happy about that.”