Tucked in a desolate corner on the edge of Philadelphia's hipsterish Northern Liberties neighborhood, Ortlieb's is an easy joint to miss. A dozen blocks from Independence Hall, it is centuries removed from the city's tidy Colonial core. Once the lunchroom for the now-shuttered Ortlieb's brewery, with dark wood walls and latticed wooden beam ceiling, it still has the cozy feel of a Bavarian hunting lodge, complete with a mounted buffalo head peering over the drummer's shoulder.
But once you pass through the nondescript door, the club makes up for its lederhosen legacy with a bona fide jazz cool that attracts, Boone says, "some pretty heavy cats."
On Tuesday nights, they come to play and listen. Between sets, musicians mix easily with the crowd, and the club boasts several big-name regulars, including drummer Mickey Roker, who played for years with Dizzy Gillespie. Tenor Sax Bootsie Barnes is a frequent visitor, and the legendary organ player Shirley Scott was a constant at the club until falling ill last year. Tonight, listening to the band romp through a spirited cover of Lee Morgan's Morgan the Pirate, is accomplished Philadelphia jazz pianist Sid Simmons.
"This is definitely the most happening jazz club in the city," Simmons offers quietly from his corner table, the candlelight flickering across his face. He played a brief set earlier, but mostly he is here to listen to friends' music, encourage younger players, and enjoy the increasingly brighter nights of Philly jazz.
"It has definitely been revived," says Ortlieb's owner, Pete Souders, of the local jazz scene. "One of the reasons I opened this club 13 years ago is that musicians have gotta play, and they've gotta play a lot. The reason Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie got to be so good was they had a place to play all the time."