Georgetown's Blues Alley jazz club celebrates its 50th anniversary
GEORGETOWN, D.C. (WJLA) – Blues Alley, Georgetown’s renowned jazz club, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary over the next week, with a special concert at Strathmore’s Music Center as well as a featured artist at the club.
The current owner, Harry Schnipper, says it’s the oldest continuously operated jazz supper club in the nation. Countless music legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and Sonny Rollins have played here. Others, like Wynton Marsalis, have recorded live at the club.
Schnipper started visiting as a teenager, and welcomes music lovers of all ages now.
“We don’t put a prohibition on age here,” he says. “So, we will allow anyone to come through our doors. That’s how I got here. That’s how I think the future of jazz is going to stay here.”
The music at Blues Alley, he says, is evolving with its audience.
“Let’s face it, spoken word, hip hop, there are so many different aspects of jazz. Jazz is an enormous umbrella. It incorporates so many different styles, but you have to stay one step ahead of your audience.”
Some staff members have been at Blues Alley for decades.
“I’m so glad I don’t have to drag myself to work every day, “ says operations manager Kris Ross. “I love comin’ in here.”
Ross thinks the intimacy of the venue keeps patrons from all over the world coming back.
“People would call, spend $200 on tickets, and then say, ‘by the way, who’s playin’?’ It didn’t matter, they were comin’ to see the room.”
Blues Alley’s walls are covered with photos of past performers.
“If these walls could talk, there’d be a whole lot of people in trouble,” Ross jokes. “And a whole lot of history in music that just can’t be relived.”