Rochester was a great place for someone hip to jazz in the mid-twentieth century. The city had six jazz clubs simultaneously in operation in the 1950s —the Cotton Club, Otmen’s, the Ridge Crest Inn, the Hi-Land Inn, Squeezer’s, and the Pythodd— each of which had its own distinct vibe. By the late 1960s, however, the city’s urban renewal projects had decimated Rochester’s jazz scene. The legendary Ridge Crest had hosted Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday, but that did not save it from demolition. By the 1970s, most of the city’s major jazz clubs were gone.
In the half-century since, Rochesterians have proudly revived the spirit of its jazz history. Corn Hill’s Clarissa Street Reunion commemorates the Pythodd Club’s jazz scene annually and the Rochester International Jazz Festival brings in acts from around the world. Local players-turned-jazz greats like Steve Gadd, the Mangione Brothers, and Ron Carter are all pillars of Rochester’s jazz community and help keep its history alive.
Return to Rochester’s Golden Age of Jazz in the 1950s, when the swingin’ city’s population surpassed 330,000, Kodak and other industries were booming, and downtown Rochester was a mecca for jazz musicians and their fans.