Photo Courtesy of Daniel Stark
Three-quarters of a mile from downtown Durham sits Golden Belt
, a massive mixed-use compound that's home to a hair salon, a coffee shop, loft apartments and more. Three months ago, Daniel Stark added to Golden Belt's list of attractions with The Shed
, a 50-capacity club dedicated to jazz. Finding the right kind of space for jazz in Durham hasn't always been easy—Stark says he once got booted from the American Tobacco Campus for busking with his saxophone—so he’s made one that he hopes, along with Beyù Caffè, will fit his and other musicians’ needs.
Stark and his wife, Jess, moved to Durham last year so that she could earn her Ph.D. at Duke. Daniel, who has a master’s degree from Rutgers in jazz saxophone performance, worked in Raleigh with the music nonprofit Band Together NC before deciding to give The Shed a shot. The red brick and thick wooden beams of the former textile mill make the room more warm and inviting than the average rock club, and colorful fabric-covered hangings made from materials culled from The Scrap Exchange serve as sound-insulating panels.
Weekly events include Sessions at The Shed with Ernest Turner and the Rising Stars Series, which features students from North Carolina Central University’s jazz studies department. This week, The Shed will also bring in Shirlette Ammons and Harmony Holiday to read poetry for the Manic Caravan series.
Stark caught up with the INDY
about these early days of The Shed and what he hopes to accomplish with it.
INDY: What made you want to open up this space? Have you done much booking before?
I was working in nonprofit fundraising and doing arts education with AmeriCorps through public schools, so I wanted to find a project that would help me present local artists.
New York has amazing jazz clubs, and I really felt that there could be a space that brought some of the magic of the best small New York jazz clubs in Durham, because the caliber of musicians here is absolutely on par with the musicians in New York and San Francisco and New Orleans. Yet there is a gap in terms of the musicians who are playing at the smaller venues or restaurants in town and then musicians who are playing at the Carolina Theatre and huge venues like that. So what I really wanted to do was have a venue where you can focus 100 percent on the music and present the music and really be a part of the artist on a smaller, more accessible scale.
Durham has the Beyù Caffè and the Blue Note Grill, but it seems necessary to have a club, too, that's not also a restaurant and bar. There's no pressure to buy dinner and drink.
Yeah, and by the same token, I think you need those spaces in order to have a musical environment where a venue like this can succeed. When I came to Durham, the scene was really happening, and there were a lot of shows and a lot of things going on around tow. We had to say, “Lets add to that, and how do we complement the things already happening and help build momentum?"
I think there is a lot of potential and a lot of pressure, because for musicians having a venue is a great opportunity. A lot of responsibility falls on the venue to make sure that it succeeds because people’s careers and livelihood depend on it.
Have you worked with the Art of Cool? They're a local organization that focuses a lot of trying to reinvigorate jazz in the Triangle. It seems like you have similar goals.
In a broad sense, we all have the same goal, and that goal is to make Durham the center of creative, cool music in the South. We all are working together to achieve that goal. That said, we all have different approaches and different ideas in how to do that, and I think everyone’s ideas are really valid and important to different people. The crucial thing to me is, for better or for worse, The Art of Cool right now is in the public eye and the face of Durham as a jazz city. So all musicians in Durham are invested in having that succeed, and not just the people who perform there, because ultimately it becomes Durham in its own way.
When I first came here, I thought it was a practice space in how it was set up. Are you planning to use this space for artists to record?
We do have recording spaces available. Sundays are our open rehearsal days. We call it Shed at the Shed. Right now, caretakers and kids can register for a class, from 12–2 p.m., called the Boom Bap workshop, which is focused on creative approaches to beat making. Then from 2–4 p.m. is Jazz Outreach, which is a master class series on jazz education. Our hope is that we will be able to cultivate a community around jazz education and direct people to existing channels for jazz education in the long term and help play a role in building awareness and meeting a need for accessible music education in the community.
Do you hope to bring touring artists here or is your focus solely on Durham?
I plan to bring touring artists in, but the best resource that I have is the body of amazing musicians who live in Durham. The focus is always going to stay on developing local musicians and giving them a way to connect to their audience.
What kind of vision do you have for the Shed for the next year?
Just continue to expand awareness of this as a creative nightlife option in downtown, just make more people aware that this a place people can go and hang out and see something they haven’t seen before. To have a different kind of experience than they would have in a different club or bar. And just to keep investing in the continued development of our artists professionally and make it clear that, as a space, we are invested in our artists and whatever they do.
What about jazz to you is so special?
Because the boundaries of jazz are so fluid in terms of composition and improvisation and band structure. It is a perfect format for the implementation of imagination as a tool for creating new paradigms of social reality in America, because it was developed as social resistance in America.
Maybe all music is resistance in essence. But jazz exemplifies the potential for radical transformation that music can facilitate, so that is what I look for in artists like Ernest Turner
, for example. You never know what he is going to play. It is completely open-ended. I don’t even think the other guys in the band know what he is playing. Sometimes it is two songs at the same time. He just sits down and starts playing. That level of musical intensity, attention and awareness responds to and catalyzes politics, and that is incredibly important.
But, of course, it sounds great, too. You could listen to it all night and never get bored.