Just 135 miles from Minneapolis sits a unique music venue that many have not discovered.
The Oldenburg House hosts a monthly series of jazz music called “Cookin’ at the O.” It’s part dinner, part jazz, and all kinds of sizzle. On Valentine’s Day, Twin Cities-based improvisational vocalist Sarah M. Greer added her voice to a growing stable of world-class talent that makes the trek to Carlton, Minnesota.
Not A Typical Jazz Club
We all have an idea of what a jazz club looks like. Throw away that image when walking inside the Oldenburg House. A historic staple in the community, the house runs as a B&B (bed and breakfast) and wedding destination venue through most of the year. But once a month they haul in a custom built stage, set up some lights, hang a wall of drape, and tuck a drum set in the corner of the dinning room. Then 40 people squeeze in and a stocked bar opens in the entryway.
The evening took off with Steven Holbert on piano, Joey Pettit on bass, and Glenn Swanson on drums. They swirled around a song like a first pour of wine, getting the feel of their first time playing all together.
Sarah then took the stage and warmly welcomed the room, which sits next to a kitchen that had its own show taking place. The chef slowly prepared the meal as the music marinated the audience. I’ve never experienced a show that truly engages not only your ears but all your senses. As the chicken sizzled and the aroma of the food mingled with Sarah’s delightful voice, it was easy to be a bit overwhelmed.
At one point, host Emily Swanson interrupted the set to make sure everyone witnessed the chef flambé the chicken. As the band continued on, we watched one side of the room light up with fire, and the other side carve out impressive solos and renditions of romantic standards. Steven’s piano parts melded around the bass, hugging the band like lace. The drums gave dynamics to the music, with shimmering cymbals at times and driving kicks at other moments. Joey’s bass held the foundation together with ease. This culminated in the first set ending with a mashup of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and the iconic “My Funny Valentine.”
The second half of the evening saw a heavier dose of dancing and crowd interaction with the band. It felt like there was a conversation being had onstage all night, each musician reading the feel and energy in the room. Witnessing each song develop and progress is one of the main charms of the venue. You feel like you’re at home watching live music. Each table goes from being an island to feeling like your personal neighbors.
Cookin’ at the O is an experience you won’t forget. Crowd in the room with strangers and breathe in your meal, all while being entertained with talented musicians. It’s a venue that, until recently, was undiscovered. It’s also an intimate model of how music of any type can be transformative. Plan a trip to “find your nature” and experience this Minnesota gem.
See the full list of there upcoming shows here.