Jazz haven Arthur's Tavern reborn in New York City

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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Jazz has often been called the only form of music that is uniquely American, and now, the famed Arthur's Tavern is reopening to celebrate the genre. Sandy Kenyon has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Jazz has often been called the only form of music that is uniquely American, and while it was invented in New Orleans, it arguably reached its pinnacle in New York City.

So it's cause for celebration when a famous club gets saved from extinction.

Like so many other clubs, Arthur's Tavern was forced to shut down during the pandemic, but now, it has re-opened and has been totally revitalized.

If the walls at Arthur's Tavern could talk, they'd tell the story of jazz in the Big Apple.

It's a story made up in the moment, and some of the greatest musicians who ever lived have improvised there since 1937.

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Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins is standing on the shoulders of giants when he plays where Charlie Parker once soared on musical flights of fancy.

"It's always great for a jazz musician to go where the greatest played," he said.

Arthur's may have been in business 85 years, but its survival in the 21st century was not assured.

Even before COVID-19 closed the venue, the temple of jazz had fallen into disrepair -- its glory days long gone.

The great music was a distant memory until the Bensusan family, which owns the Blue Note and many other clubs, decided to bring Arthur's back to life.

"New York's always been the epicenter of jazz," Tsion Bensusan said. "And it's a type of genre that's best heard live, and it's very important to preserve some of the great jazz venues of New York City."

What makes this place worth saving is the history, says the owner.

"There's just so many great establishments that are just not around anymore," he said.

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No cover charge is a tradition at the venue, and the room is small and intimate -- so you may wonder how can this venture pay off?

"Jazz is making a comeback," Bensusan said.

And that is sweet music to those who make their living playing jazz, said Ruffins.

"And jazz lovers come and witness it, witness history," he said.

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