Choice Evenings at Cafe 4212

There's a jazz renaissance in the Third Ward.

A member of the Sam Houston High School stage band, Stoot grew up in a musical family. His father, John Stoot, had a hot band called the Jumpin' Jivers that worked all the joints on Dowling in the '50s and '60s before he began working with Rockin' Sidney of "Don't Mess with My Toot Toot" fame.

"Dad told me not to limit myself," says Stoot, who approached Strickland about having a regular jazz gig at Cafe 4212 when it opened. "I think a lot of players in Houston are like me. I work church gigs. I've got my own little group. I play with zydeco bands. And then I make sure I get out of town a lot. As a musician, saturation in one place can just kill you, I think.

"When I was first starting out, I used to sit in with people at Cody's in Montrose," Stoot recalls. "And I realized that in some ways, there was more jazz happening in Montrose than in Third Ward. That just seemed weird."

Like Strickland, Stoot sees the main problem as demographic.

"It's sad, but the youngsters are just not hipping themselves to jazz," he sighs. "And the jazz audience, like the blues audience, is aging. Yet at the same time, TSU and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts are still training some incredible jazz players. These are serious people, so hopefully some audience is going to eventually come to it."

Meanwhile, Walter Strickland is honing his menu, his drink selection and his entertainment lineup, hoping to keep hard jazz alive in the Third Ward.

Cafe 4212 is located at 4212 Almeda, 713-522-4212, www.cafe4212.com.

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