Cheers Meets the Cotton Club: Sandaga 813 Bridges the Old and New in Expo Park
The doors just opened on January 3 and the paint is barely dry, but Sandaga 813 has a long history leading up to their current revival of the former Minc space in Exposition Park.
Co-owner Darryl "Sandaga" Thomas has been in Dallas 26 years and spent a portion of that time hosting an underground jazz night every Tuesday in his former gallery space. After 22 months of hibernation, we find him and co-owner Tim Austin with their friendly gang of musicians trading fours every Tuesday night, breathing new life into the former club.
There are still some echoes of Minc's glory days. In fact, one of those old sleigh bell beds sits cushion-less on the back patio. The booths are still cozy and a couple snuggled most of the stormy night away in the lounge area where the former DJ booth sat. Don't mind a few leaks here and there; they're nothing a little candlelight can't fix and, admittedly, the renovation is not complete.
I walked into the main room of the club just as the Sandaga House Band was bringing Andrea Wilson on stage for a song or two. The crowd was scattered with musicians who kept their flute or horn at the ready to fill out the four-piece onstage, but once Wilson tore into a take on "Misty" that fell somewhere between Fitzgerald and Monheit, they all put their instruments down to simply listen. The house band slipped right into a solo-heavy version of "Take the 'A' Train." The melody may have gotten lost, but the skill level at Sandaga 813 was evident.
While every Tuesday will play host to that scene, Austin and Thomas also have plans for a Thursday night jazz series that will alternate combos led by Brad Leali, director of UNT's Three O'Clock Lab Band, and big band authority Shelley Carrol. In February they also plan on hosting a monthly featuring an all-female combo made up of ladies moving and shaking in the North Texas jazz scene. Exciting stuff, I say.
If jazz isn't quite your thing, no worries, Fridays will continue to alternate house, hip-hop and R&B nights from local and touring DJs. In fact, they recently hosted the Wu-Tang Clan afterparty and boasted some 300 people were in attendance. Indeed, I heard tell of that party. On February 3, Berlin DJ Lucy, founder of electronic music label Stroboscopic Artefacts, will post up at Sandaga for a spin in the new DJ booth.
Saturdays may turn out to be the big draw though. In the coming months, Sandaga looks forward to hosting an additional Saturday evening weekly with R.C. Williams, of Wednesday night Prophet Bar and Erykah Badu fame. If you think two nights with Williams is too many, you're wrong. Those of you unwilling to play on school nights will finally get to see what all that Wednesday night Prophet Bar buzz has been about. Austin and Thomas were visibly excited to announce such an exciting collection of events as they bring their formerly underground jazz night out in the open.
For now, Sandaga 813 is operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Keep an ear out as they expand their schedule and complete the renovation, including an overhaul of that fantastic patio in time for the spring.
Austin, speaking wistfully of his plans for the space, says he hopes it will be, "Cheers ... meets the Cotton Club." They certainly knew my name before the evening was over -- I was even offered a walk to my car at the end of the night. I think we are off to a good start, Sandaga. Soon, everyone will know your name.
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