Cafe Central

Many of you are aware that Robert and I love jazz.  One of our enduring habits over the last 25 years has been to try and see as much live jazz as possible.  As with most things in life, we have been more successful some times than others at fulfilling this resolution.

One of the first things we did when we got here was to check out the local music scene.  About a ten-minute walk from our flat is Cafe Central, an internationally renowned venue (Nosotros — there is a translation tab in the upper-right corner).  

Contrary to some schedules in Spain, the nightly shows always start at 21:00 sharp and finish right around 23:00 (the bar/restaurant remains open until 2:30 the next morning, though, unless it’s the weekend in which case it’s open until 3:30).

We have enjoyed scat, electronica/rap, flamenco flute, modern jazz flute, afro/cuban funk, and straight-ahead jazz trios.  The cover charge ranges from $15 to $25, and a bottle of wine is less than $20. Tapas and small plates are $6 – $10, so we normally spend less than $80 for wine, dinner, AND a first-rate show.

It’s a snap to make on-line reservations, but no tickets are issued.  Like in days gone by, you show up at the door and your name is on a list.  The charming host (Juanxo) invariably greets guests with a warm smile and instructs one of the waiters to escort you to your designated table.

Juanxo and Robert

There are tables right in front of the stage, as well as in the surrounding dining area.  On our first visit we sat up front, with Robert positioned barely a yard from the grand piano’s keyboard.  However, that space tends to be packed pretty tightly, so the next time we opted for the much less congested seating off to the side, which is still no more than 20 feet from the performers.

One of the most interesting things we noticed was the relatively large number of young people in the audience.  Gatos (as we have come to learn is the colloquial term for Madrileños) love their jazz!

On our second visit we were shown to a table immediately to the left of the entry vestibule, but shielded from the hubbub by a large picture window.  With both of us seated on the wall side of the table (it’s a club, so the four-tops may be shared depending on the size of the crowd), we were comfortably tucked away into a cozy little corner that was completely undisturbed on two sides.  From there we still had a commanding view of the stage, but with much less commotion. We loved it.

On our third visit, Juanxo’s eyes lit up with recognition when he saw us as he welcomed us back.  This time we tried another table in the side space, but it was in a more exposed area and we felt a bit jostled.  

When we arrived for our fourth visit, Juanxo remembered our names.  We were given a table with our backs to the large picture window facing Plaza del Angel — pleasant, but there was a constant awareness of people on the street peering over our shoulders into the club.  We occasionally glanced over with mild envy at the couple enjoying the show from our favorite table just next to us.

Reflection of passersby catching a bit of the show — and in the lower right, a reflection of a reflection of trio leader Joshua Edelman at the piano

For show number five, we purposely arrived about 10 minutes early and “our spot” was open.  As Juanxo shook our hands, we mentioned how much we appreciate that particular table. He immediately led us there and offered us glasses of wine on the house.

We have had that table for every show since, and Juanxo assured us, “When you are here, that is your table.”  Oh yeah, and we always get the first glass of wine free.  

One of our goals after moving was to find interesting activities and make an honest effort to be viewed by the locals more like residents than tourists.  We have had mixed success with this (google “guiri” if you are interested). That said, we are known at a number of neighborhood restaurants as “regulars”, and we truly hit the mark at Cafe Central.

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