Cookie's Jazz and More in Webster Groves Closing Saturday Night

T.S Eliot once wrote that April is cruelest month, but here in St. Louis, December is turning out to be cruel for local music venues. On the heels of the recent announcement that Lucas School House will close at the year's end, the Webster Groves club Cookie's Jazz and More also is ending its run this Saturday night.

Opened in March 2004 by Harold and Cookie Whitfield in a Allen Avenue storefront in the Old Webster business district, the room offered straight-ahead Latin and smooth jazz from a variety of local performers, ranging from Gaslight Square veterans Jeanne Trevor and Trio Tres Bien to musicians associated with nearby Webster University such as trumpeter Randy Holmes, pianist Carolbeth True and singer Debby Lennon. In addition, Cookie's provided a stage for occasional homecoming gigs by St. Louis expats like pianist Linda Presgrave and saxophonist Andre Delano, and also presented blues singers such as Kim Massie and Uvee Hayes, gospel music, open mic nights and spoken-word performances.

For the final week, Cookie's hosted a jam session on Thursday anchored by the band Sound Unlimited, who performed the same task on Wednesdays for much of the club's lifespan. Tonight, Trio Tres Bien and singer Danita Mumphard will perform, and the last night will be "Smooth Groove Saturday" with no cover charge and music from Three Central.

Contrary to what some may be speculating, the club's end was not prompted by the slumping economy or other external factors, says Harold Whitfield. "Cookie and I like to do things in increments of years, and five years was our plan (for the club) all along," he said. Until their lease expires in March, the Whitfields will continue to rent the facility for private parties and meetings; those interested in rentals may contact them at 314-821-7233.

After that, though the Whitfields will have moved on, there's a possibility that the club may be reborn. Harold Whitfield said that negotiations are underway with two people who have "expressed a strong interest in continuing the same thing, beginning in March 2009." He declined to name the potential buyers beyond calling them "high-profile individuals," and said that while any deal would include the venue's equipment, fixtures and other assets, the buyers would have to negotiate their own lease with landlords Novus Properties.

All in all, the Whitfields say they've achieved what they set out to do. "We had fun doing it," said Harold Whitfield. "We enjoyed the club, enjoyed the musicians, and had a good time with it."

-- Dean C. Minderman
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