Music : Jazz at Offshore is a year-round speciality
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Offshore Ale, on Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs, touts itself as the place where "the Island of Martha's Vineyard relaxes," and generally on any night of the week, especially in the off-season, you can find familiar faces. However, there is something besides the peanuts, brick-oven pizza, and cozy rustic atmosphere that make this brew house a regular spot for many.
The Offshore Ale Company is a great promoter of good music. On Tuesdays in particular, the restaurant is home to live jazz by Jeremy Berlin on piano and Eric Johnson on upright bass. They do a two-set evening from roughly 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm with a break in the middle.
"We began the Tuesday Jazz as an off-season feature, four years ago, and over this time it has been embraced," Phil McAndrews, co-owner of Offshore, says. "It gives diners and music lovers a chance to relax over a meal while listening to some truly great musicians. I am honored to have the relationship with these musicians and Offshore, and this Tuesday night tradition that has been created."
So, if you live here and frequent Offshore, you may know the warm, Tuesday night atmosphere at Offshore Ale.
"We feel free to play what we want and God bless Offshore for being the place that people can come year-round and hear good jazz," Jeremy Berlin says, who has been with the Johnny Hoy rock band for 15 years and on-Island since the 80s.
"Phil and Colleen [McAndrews] really believe in music and in consistency," Mr. Berlin continues. "It works for them to move tables for the music. They have the ability to think beyond the bottom line and how music expands the atmosphere here. They feed us, and wine and dine us, and treat us as any musician wants to be treated." And thus these two versatile musicians, who have been playing together in total for 10 years, have a dedicated following that comes every week to hear them.
Eric Johnson's first instrument is the guitar. He went to Tufts University and the New England Conservatory and studied jazz performance and classical guitar. This training has served him well. He has since taught at Berklee College Of Music for seven years and has five CDs out in his own name. Nine years ago he picked up the upright bass. He played a gig at Park Corner Bistro, across the street from Offshore, where he learned the instrument "on the job." The two have also played at Atria.
"This gig has been a great vehicle for the bass and Eric," Mr. Berlin explains. They have expanded, grown and have really learned to play off of each other," he explained. "We hear each other very well," Mr. Johnson says.
"Especially in jazz, you need to play often. Gigging is like communicating, it is all about listening," Mr. Johnson says. "That is the great thing about jazz: You can play with a stranger and if you speak the same language, you can communicate. We have an equal relationship, but it takes time to build that."
The two sets are early in the evening before the hubbub gets too much for the musicians to hear each other and concentrate.
"Their playing is really tight," says Porter Eidam of Pennsylvania, one listener last Tuesday, also a jazz musician himself.
"In short, the space in Offshore is just great for live music and we always want music to be a part of what we offer. The Tuesday night jazz is world-class musicianship and at a time of night that all can enjoy," Mr. McAndrews says. "It just really is an enjoyable evening."
Offshore Ale Company is located on Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Jazz nights are every Tuesday. For more information call 508-693-2626 or visit offshoreale.com.
Tamar Russell, once a production assistant at The Times, is a frequent contributor.