The famed musician Art Blakey once said it takes an intelligent ear to listen to jazz.
Ricky Jackson agrees. He thinks jazz music is like a fine wine—not everyone can truly appreciate it. Perhaps that’s why its popularity is declining among Americans, only accounting for around 1.1% of all music album consumption in 2018, according to Statista.
This decline is one of the reasons behind Jackson’s Chorum Hall, a nonprofit organization and listening room that exclusively hosts jazz shows. The hall aims to not only cater to seasoned listeners hungry for live jazz performances, but to also introduce the style to new generations.
Jackson’s journey began in 2015 when he closed down his previous business—a lighting maintenance service—in the space Chorum Hall now calls home. He says he planned to put the building up for sale but realized the potential it had for a listening room.
“I started to think that it would make a wonderful place to host jazz events,” says Jackson, who also plays jazz drums. “I really didn’t even know about this emergence of listening room-type places, but it turned out to be a trendy idea I happened upon.”
By September 2017, Chorum Hall was welcoming its first show. It has since hosted jazz musicians from all over the country, ranging from Louisiana locals like Roland Guerin to world-renowned jazz drummer John Bernard Riley.
Many Baton Rougeans would be hard-pressed to find Chorum Hall on their own: The venue is hidden in an old industrial office park off Florida Boulevard and North Ardenwood Drive.
But despite the location, it has fostered a loyal audience and reputation among jazz musicians as a great place to play. Many credit Jackson and Chorum Hall with reintroducing live jazz music to the city.
“Once we booked two or three performances, musicians began reaching out to us. They love it,” Jackson says. “In New Orleans, there are a lot of opportunities for people to play jazz, but very few where you have a captivated audience. Most of the time you are in a bar or hotel lobby where it’s almost a background-music situation. They love that people actually listen here.”
The listening room oozes coolness and intimacy. Small tables and close seating fill the performance space, complete with dim lighting and a sizeable stage. There is also a small kitchen to prepare food and drinks, which audiences can bring themselves, and a living room-like lounge for patrons to take a break or make a quick phone call.
While Jackson prides himself on Chorum Hall’s small but loyal fanbase, he hopes to expand its audience. There is a lack of younger generations enjoying jazz, he says, but he looks to change that. The hall plans to have a jam-packed lineup for its fall season and offer music camps for kids to learn how to play jazz instruments.
“There are so many people that just do not know we are here,” Jackson says. “It sure would be nice to think that there is enough interest in Baton Rouge to keep jazz alive here.”
Chorum Hall is at 1024 Executive Park Ave. Learn more about its events at chorumhall.com.
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.