North City Jazz Walk: The Back Story

Friday, July 20, 2012


North City Jazz Walk celebrates its fifth anniversary – August 14, 2007 to August 14, 2012
By Robin McClelland

Some years ago Keith McClelland attended the Centrum Jazz Camp at Ft. Worden and the Port Townsend Jazz Festival.  In the evenings, streets were alive with jazz lovers strolling in and out of downtown clubs.  Keith thought the scene was magical.

He held the idea, imagining a similar event in Shoreline with live jazz in venues along a neighborhood street.  The redeveloped 15th Avenue NE in North City presented the opportunity as a compact commercial area with restaurants, sidewalks, and plentiful parking. 

Doug Reid
Photo courtesy SCC
He talked it over with Doug Reid, music professor at Shoreline Community College and another Port Townsend participant, who offered valuable suggestions. Keith then approached Gary East and Steve Cook, leaders of the North City Business Association (NCBA), to promote the concept to promote business in North City and to support jazz, America’s original art form. Gary and Steve embraced the idea and launched the North City Jazz Walk. Gary and Steve immediately brought in NCBA Secretary Ellen Sullivan to round out the Jazz Walk steering committee.

The first North City Jazz Walk was scheduled for Tuesday, August 14, 2007. Doug Reid was assigned the North City Bistro.  Keith put Shear Jazz in the Hot Wire Café (now Laughing Ladies Café) and the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council presented a free performance by the Summer Jazz Camp students and faculty on the Showmobile.

Many folks in the community pitched in to get ready. A few days before the event, Keith ran into Parks Director Dick Deal who wondered aloud, “How do you think it will go?”  Keith said 250 people would be good; 300 a success; 350 a smash.  “What are you talking about?” Dick replied. “You’re going to have 500 people!” 

Last year at Brown's Coffee Shop
Dick Deal was right. Five hundred people turned out the first year.  On a splendid evening the venues were jammed from start to finish.  Folks strolled along the streets of North City chatting about venues and food. An election year, 2007 saw candidates making use of the evening to meet and greet. The musicians loved short sets and quick breaks. The musicians’ “after party” at the Bistro buzzed for hours. The first North City Jazz Walk was a hit!

Now in its sixth year, the North City Jazz Walk is an anticipated annual event. Partners, sponsors, and civic groups continue to provide invaluable support, in-kind services, and goods. It is a community effort that depends on a corps of volunteers thanks to Ellen Sullivan, Vicki Carnahan, Charlotte Haines, Scott Keeny, Gary Batch, and Sharon Knight.  

For variety, the 2012 line up boasts the fabulous salsa dance band Tumbao, Northwest jazz icon Greta Matassa, and Hook Me Up (discovered last year at Celebrate Shoreline). The complete line up and ticket information may be found at the website. The street closes to vehicles at 6pm for Jazz Bites, a new feature this year offering good, quick food as you stroll.


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