Jazz in Portland did not die with Jimmy Mak's. The closure of the long-standing Pearl District club at the dawn of this year—and the passing of its owner and namesake a day later—served a hard blow to a music culture already on the ropes. The fallout has been the decentralization of the jazz scene, casting it out to less-visible corners of the city.
When owners Frank Faillace and Manish Patel bought the century-old Rialto Poolroom and announced their intention to convert the downstairs space into a jazz club, they made no bones about trying to give the music a prominent new home downtown, taking in a few Jimmy Mak's regulars while also talking about creating a "broader access point" by featuring younger musicians as well.
A bar in the basement of another bar might not be ideal when it comes to accessibility, but the Jack London Revue (529 SW 4th Ave., jacklondonrevue.com) does feel like the sort of place where jazz was meant to be seen. Small and low-ceilinged, with red-velvet drapery and a knee-high stage, it's like a diorama version of Jimmy Mak's.
The vibe is classy, but still dressed down enough to fit the crusty billiard hall you walk through to get there. Faillace and Patel replaced the carpeting from the room's days as a poetry lounge with hardwood, lit it with candles and Christmas lights, and installed vinyl booths in the back near the bar.
Otherwise, there's nothing to distract from whatever is happening on the stage. On a recent Tuesday night, that was trumpeter Farnell Newton and his tight three-piece band, who played a slow, funky arrangement of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" for a light but appreciative audience. Seems there might be hope for jazz in this town yet—provided you can find it.