They are more than a jazz band. They are a local institution. In the glow of signature red lights, as unloaded herds of hungry patrons shuttle in, the Grayton Beach mainstay makes every occasion feel like a special one.
Fans of all ages, from hypnotized toddlers to hypnotized wine aficionados, claimed the limited seating directly in front of the band—sometimes managing to fit two in a chair. Over the murmur of the dinner crowd, the band played a mix of artistic jazz and upbeat soul.
Featuring Robert Orr (guitar and vocals), Larry Payne (bass and vocals), Wayne Burkholder (guitar and vocals), and Jabo Starks (drums and vocals), the Red Bar Jazz Band makes intricate, flawless runs look easy. They are a well-loved and well-oiled machine, trading solos while knowing how to keep the audience dialed in. A song full of funky runs and nimble-fingered guitar work might be followed by “The Thrill is Gone” or “Blackbird.” It’s an artful mix that gets progressively funkier as the night unfolds.
The two ladies seated to my right seemed to be disappointed when their table was ready, not really wanting to move away from the band. The common request at the hostess booth was to be seated within earshot of the music, and the Red Bar obliged as best they could.
While the waiters shuffled the signature chalkboard menus between tables, everything about the night felt like a well-orchestrated dance. On this particular night, the dance included Jabo and Beachcomber Music Award winning drummer John Reinlie alternating sets.
Perhaps the scene stealer of the night was Reinlie’s daughter Rudy, who lit up every time she caught a glimpse of her dad behind the drum kit.
The Red Bar Jazz Band plays Tuesday through Saturday nights at the Red Bar in Grayton Beach.
The legendary Jabo Starks.
Beachcomber Music Award winner John Reinlie.