December 15 2010
On our first ever night in Rome, my husband and I decided to pay a visit to Gregory’s, a tiny jazz club recommended by a musician friend. When we turned up at 8.30pm the dark wooden door was firmly shut and there was no sight or sound of any music, jazz or otherwise. Feeling decidedly uncool, we sloped off for a pizza on nearby Via Sistina. Returning at 10.30pm, I was glad to see a few louche, be-hatted types hanging outside the door, which opened to reveal the tiny ground-floor bar.
Inside, we sat at the bar gazing at black-and-white (of course) photographs of famous jazzers and the impressive collection of whiskies. Warmed by an Apulian red wine, Primitivo, recommended by barman Homer, we headed upstairs for the music, which takes place in a 1970s-style lounge room furnished with those low chairs and corner units that the Italians do so well. At one end, the stage was set up with grand piano, double bass and drum kit.
From what I saw, Gregory’s brand of jazz seems to lean to the traditional rather than progressive, played by musicians – mostly Italian – of an excellent standard. That night featured a violin and guitar tribute to Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt; the following evening we went back and were lucky to catch the fantastically entertaining clarinettist Emanuele Urso. Wearing a bright red jacket and a moustache, Urso plays like Benny Goodman, brandishing his clarinet at his band, urging them on to faster tempi and splashier solos. He also performs an unforgettable showpiece drum solo, in which he throws up and catches sticks to play the snare and toms, while keeping time with the bass drum (catch him on YouTube). The packed crowd cheered, the atmosphere was of something special happening and we left at 1.30am with a swing in our step.