Vancouver Jazz Landmark

Posted by Daniel on Dec 12, 2012

Last night found me downtown at Pat's Pub in the Patricia Hotel sharing a seasonal glass with friends from the city's book community. The occasion was the East Vancouver Publishers' Party, hosted by Arsenal Pulp Press, Anvil Press, Talonbooks and New Star Books, four of the province's dynamic independent book makers. There is a lot of doom and gloom about the book industry these days but the mood seem pretty upbeat to me.

I was particularly interested to check out the pub, which played a pioneering role in the history of jazz in the city. Sometime after the hotel opened on East Hastings Street in 1913 it added The Patricia Cafe which became the hottest venue in town for hearing touring jazz musicians. "Word comes from Vancouver," announced one American newspaper in 1920, "that Bill Bowman's Patricia Cafe is the talk of the town," a reference to Will Bowman, the manager of the club.

Part of what made the Patricia so popular was the presence of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton on the stage. For more than a year Morton played regularly with the house band before decamping for Chicago early in 1921 where he won fame as one of the preeminent jazz pianists and composers of the era.

What's more, sharing the stage with Jelly Roll was the African-American dancer and singer Ada "Bricktop" Smith. A native of West Virginia, Ada got her nickname from the bright red hair she inherited from her Irish father. She moved on to Paris where she opened Bricktop's, a nightclub in the Rue Pigalle frequented by all the Jazz Age celebrities.

But it happened in Vancouver first!