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All that jazz: Slope Lounge welcomes the really big bands

On the boards: The owners of the Slope Lounge, from left, husband and wife Omari Clarke and Nicole Price-Clarke, teamed up with jazz musician Joshua Schneider to create the Living Large music series every Monday night.
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They’re thinking big!

A Caribbean restaurant in Park Slope welcomes jumbo jazz ensembles and oversized orchestras to play new tunes each Monday night. “The Living Large Ensemble Series” takes place at the Slope Lounge, opened last September by husband-and-wife Omari Clarke and Nicole Price-Clarke.

The Caribbean fusion spot took over the space previously occupied by the Tea Lounge, which often invited bands to play at the space, and the music series is an expanded version of that tradition. To accommodate the musical acts, the new owners built a stage, adorned by a colorful mural in the background. Previously, bands had just set up in the corner, said the Lounge’s co-owner.

“When we walked into the space, I felt it was missing something, and it was a stage,” said Clarke. “We needed to make one just so bands could come and play, and I felt the corner wasn’t the right place.”

The center of the cafe now holds a raised platform large enough to hold up to 24 musicians at once. The expansive stage is a welcome change from other spots in Brooklyn, which can often only host a jazz trio, according to the co-curator of the music series.

“There really aren’t a lot of big rooms in town that can even accommodate groups that large,” said Joshua Schneider, who also lives in the Slope. “But the idea was to have the place where writers and players who are into this kind of music, where there are sometimes 20 people on the bandstand — can have a place to come and play. We’ve been fortunate in getting some really wonderful bands.”

Previous bands have included the Grammy-winning Afro Bop Alliance, along with some of the city’s best established and up-and-coming bands. The series has gotten a great reception from regulars and musical acts, and several groups have clamored to play again, said Schneider.

“It’s been really heartening, and a lot of bands are interested in trying to get in the series,” he said. “We are seeing bands from all over the city.”

Up next, on Jan. 14, will be Michael Sarian and the Big Chabones, followed on Jan. 21 by the Neal Kirkwood Big Band, led by the other curator of the music series.

In addition to Monday night jazz, the lounge also hosts an open mic night, soca music on Saturdays, puppet shows for kids, and karaoke with a live band.

The lounge is currently experimenting with other daily and weekly themes to find out what appeals most to its patron. The owners hope the Living Large series becomes a staple for the community.

And Schneider said that he hopes the series introduces live jazz to a new demographic of listeners.

“People are not really exposed to this kind of music, and unless you know about it or are introduced to it, you’re really not going to know about it,” said Schneider. “It’s contemporary music, and it comes from all different directions. What we are hoping to do is to make it available to people, because a lot of people aren’t exposed to live music.”

“Living Large Ensemble Series” at the Slope Lounge [534 Union St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues in Park Slope, (347) 889–5005, www.theslopelounge.com]. Monday nights at 8 pm. Free.

Updated 11:57 am, January 10, 2019
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