Jazz music, melodies come alive at 6th Street Live on Sundays

As you walk into the dimly lit room, the band is just warming up. To your surprise, no bouncer comes to ask you for the last of your precious cash in exchange for a paper wristband. Your eyes begin to adjust, and you head to the bar and grab a Lone Star. You scan the eclectic crowd for your friends but they haven’t arrived yet, so you slink to the back of the bar and sink into the sofa. The aroma of spiced beef tips outweighs the scent of smoke as you close your eyes and let the smooth melody of a stand-up bass solo wash away all your almost-Monday blues. This is only the beginning. For the next four hours, a steady rotation of time-tested jazz musicians will enthrall you, tickling your eardrums as they frantically flail upon their instruments like they owe them money. It’s 10 p.m. on Sunday, and you’re at 6th Street Live.

Originally hosted by the Black Dog Tavern, jazz night moved permanently to 6th Street Live because of the Tavern’s recent closure, said bartender Lee. He said that the jazz show is always free, and although the bar is primarily for those 21 and up, minors are allowed if they obey drinking laws.

The jazz show is a 6th Street regular every Sunday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The house band consists of a vibraphone (a mellow xylophone) player, drummer, stand-up bassist, guitarist and singer, who work for modest wages plus tips.

Each week new talents, including some of TCU’s own, step in for members of the house band to play a song or two, creating an environment where each show will be different from the last.

Musicians are encouraged to try their hand, with the only requirement being that they can keep up – a task that could prove nearly impossible for your average band member.

Drummer David Karnes, 32, graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1996. He said he thinks about 90 percent of people haven’t taken the time to stop and appreciate jazz.

“Jazz can be just as aggressive as what the young people listen to,” Karnes said. “Not a lot of people are open enough to check it out. Once you do, it’s like a language, bro; if you speak it, you’re going to love it forever, but if you don’t, you just don’t understand it. It’s just bleeps and bloops.”

Joey Carter, director of TCU’s second jazz band, plays vibraphone for the band. He said even though listening to jazz on records is cool, it’s impossible to get the same excitement that comes from watching a live show.

Carter said he uses the jazz shows as a teaching tool.

“I think it’s an important thing for (music) students to get outside of the campus life and try to play a little bit,” Carter said, “Really, they learn more here than they will at school.”

Bassist Drew Phelps, 50, travels from Denton every Sunday night to play at 6th Street Live. He said he’s been playing the stand-up bass for 32 years, and he started playing tuba and electric bass in middle school. Phelps and the other band members attest that their passion for music is what keeps them going.

Lorea Aranzasti, a 23-year-old from Spain, is currently working on a master degree in violin performance from TCU. She said she happened across the jazz show by chance, and has come nearly every week since finding out about it. Aranzasti steps in a few times a week to sing some of her favorites such as the Portuguese bossa nova tune “The Girl from Ipanema.”

Music fans of nearly any genre will appreciate the great variety the band exercises, with set lists ranging from modern experimental jazz, bebop, smooth, slow ballads, Latin jazz and golden oldies. The house band finishes each set by playing a crowd favorite: an extended version of “What a Wonderful World,” originally sung by Louie Armstrong.

Guitarist Paul Metzger, 42, got his first guitar for Christmas at age 14. He said he feels encouraged by the variety of people who show up each week and hopes to see a younger crowd develop.

Oklin Bloodworth, 80, said he’s been singing for as long as he can remember. Starting out as a country singer from Marshall, Bloodworth moved to Fort Worth in 1941 where he began to sing jazz, blues and country.

“I love all the music. The more you love, the fuller your life,” Bloodworth said. “You’ve got more additives. Anything good, add it on; anything bad, let it be.”

Bloodworth said he has jammed with James Moody, Jimmy Smith and Freddie Hubbard simply by being in the right place at the right time. He said his passion for music gets him out of bed in the morning.

“I just want to keep on singing until the whistle blows,” Bloodworth said. “I’ll feel good going. If I fall off the stage, beautiful, at least I’ll die satisfied.