A tumble of snare snaps and clarinet wails escaped the second-floor windows above the restaurant 7A on a recent Saturday night. A garbage truck and police car replied with a snort and a whoop. Jazz was happening up there, in a place called the University of the Streets.
Neighborhood folks know the tagged glass door, the kitchen-bright vestibule on East Seventh Street and maybe the lighted sign mounted next to it But few know what is on the six floors above, where a karate dojo, artist studios, and until recently a pigeon coop, operate along with a small amphitheater that hosts an open jam session that has taken place every Friday and Saturday night since 1969.
It’s a remarkably consistent run by nearly any measure, but all the more impressive for taking place here in the center of the in the East Village, which has been on an express track of socioeconomic change for the past 40 years.
“This place is an institution,” said Robert Anderson, 57, a Saturday night house bassist who is built like a light heavyweight. “And we’re trying to get it back to how it used to be, back when those guys was comin’ down – C-Sharpe, Barry Harris. Monk used to come through here, Dizzy – everybody used to come through here.”