4003 Market Street
Sat, 5 p.m.-12 p.m., No Cover
When I walk into Natalie's Lounge, all the way down on Market, I do so timidly at first. The band is playing "All Blues," and a man in a Fire Department t-shirt accosts me. We shake hands. "Hi," he says. "I'm Lucky Thompson, the musical director." I tell him I'm from Street, and then I ask him about the bill of fare. "Oh that," he says. "They don't serve food here. But you're welcome to bring in whatever you want."
I look around: Natalie's Lounge is mostly plain brown walls, bedecked with photographs and posters of eminent jazz figures. And, of course, there is the bar -- the alcohol. The whole room is poorly lit.
The focal point of Natalie's Lounge is its live band. Tonight, Saturday, is the Jazz Jam, and a collection of players are assembled, diverse in their age and musical influences. Since it is an "open jam," there is also a divide in talent itself.
A great deal of energy and jazz authenticity emanates from the stage. The house organ player, the older, mature-sounding horn players -- these musicians make Natalie's a more culturally rich jazz experience than, say, Chris' Jazz Cafe in Center City, where the crowds (and the musicians, too) are often 20-somethings, there for the carte du jour and the fancy mixed drinks, not the music.
Perhaps most importantly, Lucky Thompson, the drummer and musical director at Natalie's, is famous. "You write for The Daily Pennsylvanian?" he asks. "They already know about me over there, at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm all over that newspaper"