Jazz Clubs Map: A Look at Strykers

Almost exactly two years ago I published my Google Map of New York’s Historic Jazz Clubs here on the site. In an effort to dig a little deeper I thought I would start a monthly series featuring one of the clubs from the map. I want to start with some of the lesser known clubs that have little to no information about them on the internet. This month: Strykers. There was a nice little feature on Strykers and the UWS jazz scene in the New York Times in 1973. I’m not sure if there has been one since then. The NYT article describes Strykers as “an immaculate little bar with a working brick‐faced fireplace…tucked so unobtrusively into the bottom of brownstone at 103 West 86th Street that new customers are constantly telling Olivia Taylor, the soft‐voiced manager and part‐owner of the room, ‘We live just around the corner, but we didn’t even know you were here.'” The article also mentions that the name Strykers comes from the now forgotten name of the neighborhood around 86th and Columbus, Strykers Bay and opened in 1970. The club was gone by the end of the 1970s and currently houses a spa:

Yin Spa, Strykers
103 W 86th St.

Lee Konitz, who still lives right down the street, was a regular performer here on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the 1970s, as was Chet Baker. Guitarists Joe Puma and Chuck Wayne had a weekly duo engagement. Another listing from New York magazine shows that a Bill Mintz headlined here in 1975. I asked Billy about the club:

It was a small bar, I had a steady Thursday for 2 years with the Eddie Daniels Quartet:
Eddie, me, Rick Laird on bass and Andy Laverne on Fender Rhodes…Then that quartet made a record called Brief Encounters which Rudy Van Gelder engineered. Strykers was a great moment in late 70’s jazz in New York.

 

From Bill Crow:

I played there several times with Joe Puma, and once with Joe and Chuck Wayne. I seem to remember it being run by a tough lady with a big dog. I don’t remember when it closed.

Drummer Steve Little also remembers playing there with Joe Puma and Chuck Wayne:

These kids were staring at me while we played. It was the middle of the rock era, and and they had never seen anyone play brushes before!

Ted Brown recalls rehearsing for a gig at Strykers with Lee Konitz around 1976 and showing up only to find that the club had closed. It apparently reopened a little while later but only for a year or so.

Lee himself fondly remembers the club, saying that he “enjoyed playing there in different contexts, finally with a bigger band.”

That bigger band was the Lee Konitz Nonet, a great but short lived band that released a couple of records and in fact recorded one tribute to Strykers, “Strykers Dues.”

 

 

 

I’m getting the impression that there was no piano in Strykers!

From a 1976 NYT listing:

Stryker’s is a small jazz club whose roster of performers changes frequently during the week. Tonight, the pianist David Lahm, his trio and Janet Lawson, a vocalist, will appear. There is a $2.50 music charge, and beverage.; begin—with beer —at $2. Information: 8748754, and you may have to keep trying.

Lenny Kaye describes seeing Chet Baker there:

In the mid ’70s, I went to a small cellar jazz club on West 86th Street called Stryker’s to see him. There, with a bare minimum of notes, hardly breathing through his horn, he made every inflection count, drawing from his tortured soul the mea culpa of his many transgressions.

Here is an account from drummer Artt Frank’s site:

The following quotes were made by Chet Baker, during an interview I conducted with him at Stryker’s Pub in NYC in 1974: “Artt’s been with me since my comeback in Hollywood in 1968. I love the way he plays, man. ‘Specially the way he plays brushes. Shelly (Manne) was great too… but he didn’t have Artt’s transmission… you know… ? Artt’s the only cat I know who can play brushes at stick level, and at any tempo! Then there’s Harold (Danko), and Cameron (Brown), and those three cats are the most swingin’, sensitive and supportive players I’ve ever worked with. And for the way I play here (Stryker’s pub), in a club format, I like to stretch out and do a lot of burnin’ tempos. And it’s a great comfort to know those three cats are always there. They make it easy for me to respond. It’s real comfortable man, you know….?

I would love to hear more from anyone who remembers Strykers and might possibly even have some pictures as I can’t seem to find any from when it was open. Hopefully this article gives some insight onto what was happening on the UWS in the 1970s jazz scene.

 

 

 

21 Comments

  1. We saw the sad performance of Chet baker there with an empty house. He died not log after, I think. I did not appreciate how fortunate we were to have this place across from my building on W. 86th st.

  2. I have an extensive archive of jazz memorabilia, flyers, posters, magazines from the 70s and 80s.

    I remember going to Stryker’s maybe for Sheila Jordan or Gerry Mulligan I can’t remember, but I do remember this club and if I turn up anything I’ll be happy to share with you.

  3. Saw Lee Konitz Nonet at Stryker’s in November 1977. I think the place was still there in July 1979 if I’m not mistaken.

  4. Thanks very much Jim and all, would love to see anything you might have. Do feel free to email me at jondelucia at gmail.com. Have been busy promoting a record, finishing a book etc but will post a follow up club feature soon!

  5. I used to go and hear chet baker and drink Martells in the early 70’s with a boyfriend that really introduced me to jazz…I was in my early twenties….really special time in my life

  6. I worked as a waitress at Strykers in the mid 70’s. I had just graduated from college and lived sround corner on West 87th. Olivia was a very tough boss! I can see her now, wearing an elegant head wrap, sitting at the bar and giving orders. Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara were regulars. They were very kind to this inexperienced waitress and generous tippers. They would come to hear Chet Baker and Lee Konitz. It was a privlege to hear them play. Baker was very quiet and kept mostly to himself. misic. I remember bringing him water but I never had a comversation with him. His playing was just beautiful. The life he lived was in his music.

  7. Ray Mosca told me that he played Stryker’s with Chet and Pepper Adams. He said that the rest of the rhythm section varied. Anybody know what year? I presume no earlier than 1974?

  8. I worked as a waitress there in 1975 or 1976. The woman who ran that place was not a nice human being, in terms of how she treated the staff. I only lasted a few months, but I do remember Chet Baker playing there, although I didn’t actually realize who he was until after I left and saw a photograph of him in a newspaper article. If memory serves me well, I think I was fired from that place. It was convenient to my apartment, as I lived on 81st Street and Columbus back then. It was a cozy little joint and the music was always good.

  9. Dear Mr. De Lucia:
    Re Stryker’s I have a vivid memory of a night at the club, November 26,1974, I think. I was working in Manhattan and going to jazz concerts and clubs in my free time. I had gone to the concert at Carnegie Hall Jerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and Chet Baker gave a few days before. The master of ceremonies was Les David of radio station WRVR. (The station gave up the ghost by the end of the decade.) At any rate, at some point in the concert, Les David informed the sell-out crowd that Chet Baker would be playing at Stryker’s the following night or the night after (again, I cannot remember). I went there and found myself largely alone, but Chet Baker played, and that was all that mattered. –I always loved his version of “Someday My Prince Will Come”, which I think he played that night. As another contributor noted, he kept mainly to himself.

  10. This comment is not about Stryker’s, but as long as I remember it, I want to pass it on:

    Another fine venue for jazz –although not strictly speaking a “jazz club”– was Abyssinian Baptist Church when Rev. Calvin Butts was Pastor. I heard Celia Cruz sing there on what was actually her birthday. She was accompanied by Max Roach and the concert was so outrageously good, you would have thought the church would levitate. For the first part of the show Celia Cruz wore a floor-length, pale pastel green ruffled dress with a train she controlled with a wrist loop. She had her hair done up in ringlets (or it was a wig) like Scarlett O’Hara. For the second part of the show she came out in a rainbow-colored full-length caftan with a matching turban. I went with the nephew of Vicentico Valdes, the great Cuban salsero.

    I also wanted to mention a jazz club on 125th Street, which you may have mentioned in an earlier post: I think it was called “The Eighty-Eights” and had a neon sign that looked like a piano keyboard. There was also a jazz club on 125th Street where Billy Strayhorn would hang out, but I do not remember the name –I’m sure it is in his biography.

    Finally, let us not forget the beloved “West End” on the west side of Broadway between 115th Street and 116th Streets. I heard Duke Ellington’s drummer, Smokin’ Joe Jones there one night, back in the day.

  11. Correction: the drummer’s name was “Philly Joe Jones”, not “Smokin’ Joe Jones”.

  12. This article about strikers means more to me than I can ever say. I thank you whole heartedly for this wonderful account.

  13. My wife and I were just talking about the “West End” and how we went there a long, long time ago. We were in our early twenties and were just discovering jazz together. We recalled that the place was almost unbearably smoky. The intense cigarette smoke would combine with the steam from the food steam tables to create a pretty noxious atmosphere. But we were young, and braved it a number of times to hear Paul Quinichette and others blow.

  14. Thank you so much for this post about Strykers! I found this page after writing about my experiences there to a childhood friend, which I am appending below.

    Do you remember Stryker’s? A small jazz club at 103 West 86th Street, just off Columbus Avenue. You walked a few steps down from street level and you were in a long, dark, narrow, low-ceilinged room with small candlelit tables, what I imagine would have been the typical layout of the 52nd Street jazz clubs that had been converted from 1920s speakeasies.

    Around 1972, a couple of years after my parents’ divorce, my mom moved us (along with her live-in boyfriend) to 140 W. 86th St. I was fourteen, in the thrall of The Beatles, The Band and Chuck Berry. Two years later, I had discovered jazz, and lo and behold, there was Stryker’s, practically across the street from me. (This was back when discovering a jazz club on your block was not the most unheard-of thing ever.)

    Regular performers at Stryker’s at that time included Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, and the guitar duo of Chuck Wayne and Joe Puma. Despite the nominal $2.50 entrance fee, as a cash-poor teenager I was able to afford to go to Stryker’s on only a few occasions. But those times were some of my first experiences of live jazz, and therefore my most formative ones.

    I wish I’d had a greater appreciation of Chet Baker back then, because I did see him there. At the time he made no impression on me. He wasn’t in good health, at the end of his life then. If I’d known more about him at the time, I probably would have had a different takeaway. But as a novice, I wasn’t able to appreciate the distillation of emotion and expression in his performance. A bit more memorably, I saw Chuck Wayne and Joe Puma there a few times. As a teenage rock guitarist just starting to grok jazz, this must have made quite an impression on me. But it’s hard to remember details. I was such a child then. I really regret never having gone to see Lee Konitz at Stryker’s. I discovered many years later that he lived in my building at 140 W 86! — how about that!

  15. Sure did see chet play there twice must of been 77 or 78 i lived at 31 west 87 st which was owned by joe ferrells x..chet sang at least one song sat in a chair..

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