s: A legacy of Ashland tunes
It was 5 p.m. on a Friday in 1979 as scores of us met at Jazmin&
s, there to wind down from the week with hors d&
oeuvres, cocktails and the wide-ranging conversations as cliques and groupings dissolved into convivial residents of the then-social experiment called Ashland. We table-hopped, swapped stories, gossiped, flirted, laughed, hugged and generally felt warm and welcome. We were young, we liked music, food and drink. Jazmin&
s had the goods, in abundance.
Later that night we walked down to Brooklyn, a blues club located in the current location of the Ashland Creek Bar and Grill (a.k.a. Creekside Pizza Bistro). Beasy&
s Back Porch operated there for years serving Texas slow-smoked barbecue.
Robert Cray was the draw that night, but he was late, a normal occurrence for him. When he finally started driving his guitar we all started hovering over and orbiting the dance floor. We danced, drank, laughed then walked to the Mark Antony Hotel, where In Flight was laying it down. Later we walked back to Jazmin&
s, where Queen Ida reigned royal, her Zydeco Band driving us all to our feet and beyond.
Between each stop we passed hundreds of fellow music hounds, exchanging greetings and getting quick updates on who was hot and who was not. It was a swirl of street partying, where merriment was paramount and zest for life led us around the circuit. The available talent was nationally known. Ashland is midpoint between San Francisco and Portland, making it attractive for bands to pull off the freeway mid-week, play for a night or two, then proceed to their destination. Jazmin&
s had a reputation of treating the talent well: Fine meals, overnight accommodations and an easy thousand or so to help with gas and overhead.
— — —
L-R: Steve Sacks, Herb Ellis and David Zaslow hang — at Jazmin&
s in the 1980s.
— — —
We were on a roll and we all knew it.
One afternoon in the late &
70s Steve Sacks and David Zaslow ran into each other for the first time at the Twin Plunges, on top of which now sits the Ashland Community Food Store. They put their heads together and dreamed up Jazmin&
s, which took over the former location of The Boar&
s Head. Before that Hanby&
s Market served the community from this location for many years.
Steve had a family background in the hotel/hospitality business in the Catskills, so booking entertainment, serving large crowds and working long hours was normal. He had worked the previous winter managing the lodge at Mt. Ashland, a year when it didn&
t begin to snow until February. It was clear that a more dependable job was in order.
Zaslow was a poet, writer, singer and played the guitar. He came from a family that ran restaurants in New York City. He wrote and edited more than a dozen books of poetry as well as two albums of children&
s music for publishers such as Good Apple, Harcourt Brace Javanovich and Scott Foresman.
Their personalities dovetailed and Jazmin&
s rocketed into fame.
s began first, as you might guess, featuring Jazz in November of 1977. This was too specialized a market for Ashland, so it morphed into a music club, featuring a dizzying array of acts. Looking over the booking calendar for June of 1982 I found the following: David and Lisa Koch, Mimi Farina (Joan Baez&
s sister), Taj Mahal, Dalmon Row and the Bluegrass Boys, Les McCann, Paul Horn, Dave Marsten, The Fabulous Savoys, Irene Ferrara, In Flight, and Night Shift &
to name a few.
— — — Above are ticket stubs from typical big-name acts of the — period.
Some of the other groups that stayed and played over the years were Earl Hines, Doc Watson, Cal Tjader, Herb Ellis, Bill Monroe, Charlie Byrd, Sonny Terry Brownie McGhee, Barney Kessel, Mose Allison and John Lee Hooker. If I were to list all the groups, this whole article would be one long paragraph of talent.
The music was geared for the locals, though many theater patrons dropped by for dinner. Pickings were thin then for fine dining, and Jazmin&
s was one of only a few top choices of the time. When the festival filled up for the evening the locals surged into the downtown core.
David and Steve&
s corporation, called Blue Note Enterprises Inc., was the first to provide non-classical music entertainment for the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville. They brought the Dave Brubeck Quartet to the outdoor venue on Aug. 25, 1979, and Count Basie and his orchestra the following year. The sell-out audiences of 2,000 went wild and the Rogue Valley was put on notice that non-classical talent was much appreciated. Patti McCoy and Mark Murphy were the opening acts as more than 1,000 people who couldn&
t get tickets roamed outside the fences, hoping to catch a glimpse of the stage.
Dizzie Gillespie and Woodie Herman were not far behind, bearing testimony that Sacks and Zaslow had the touch on a grand scale.
David Zaslow sums it up well: &
s was one piece in a sacred puzzle for many of us who moved here in the &
70s. We knew that Ashland was making us better people, and we wanted to give something back &
and we each did it in our own way: Pyramid Juice, Brooklyn, Chateaulin, Lithia Grocery, Brother&
s, Gepettos, Nimbus and Rare Earth were all part of that puzzle. It was really an honor for Steve and I to be able to bring great jazz to Britt for two years in a row, something that really was the start of today&
s non-classical Britt Festivals. And it was an honor to upgrade the nightlife in Ashland and Southern Oregon through Jazmin&
s. Good music has the potential to make people feel a little better, and I think Jazmin&
s was like good medicine.&
For 10 years, Jazmin&
s was the foundation of a year-round music scene that made Ashland a focal point of clubbing on the West Coast. In the early &
80s, Steve and David hung up their impresario suits. As we know, Steve opened up the Ashland Racquet Club. In 1988 David was awarded, along with poet Lawson Inada, an American Book Award for educational materials for a project he co-produced featuring Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows to music composed by Patti McCoy. David is currently the rabbi at the Havurah Shir Hadash Synagogue on North Mountain Avenue in Ashland.
Steve Shapiro became a partner and was responsible for buying drinks for as many people as possible.
Recently the building that housed Jazmin&
s was torn down and replaced by a new, three story building aptly named &
The Jasmine Building&
to honor the location&
s musical past. Steve Sacks turned to David Zaslow after the new building opened and humorously stated, &
Well, I guess that&
s our legacy &
we get an office building named after our old business.&
Future columns will focus on many downtown businesses and linchpin people that have helped make Ashland unique. Brooklyn, The Webster&
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