When I walked into Chromatic Kitchen, a unique pop-up dinner concept that folded in the inclusion of live jazz accompanied by carefully curated, and related, food and drinks – I knew Nicole and Scott Mattson had something special going.
This was a year ago in 2014.
Since then, Nicole, Scott, and Chef Dustin Beckner (most recently of Root Down), have been tirelessly working to find a space, build out their concept, and launch what is now Nocturne.
Nicole and Scott, both Denver natives, wanted to create an homage to the jazz and supper clubs of the early 1900’s that they remember their family and grandparents enjoying so thoroughly as they grew up.
Denver’s RiNo / Five Points neighborhood, was known as the “Harlem of the West,” and subsequently provides a great stomping ground to bring back musical arts, in a burgeoning neighborhood. As a husband and wife team, they also bring many years of culinary, hospitality, and jazz experience to the table making this much more than a project, it is in sum their life.
The 105-seat venue at 1330 27th Street, is 3,500 square-feet and sits in a restored factory building with lofted ceilings, rustic wood beams and the intact original frosted window panes. Inside the is filled with hues of steel, and bronze throughout the industrial space and I love the focal point of the jazz stage front and center with all tables facing it.
The design elements evoke Atlantic coast art deco from the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the likes of opulent white marble, velour, vintage-styled cabaret wallpaper and architectural sunburst forms.
Originally, Nocturne was going to just have a few dishes with the influence being on the drinks and music but as they considered it more and more, they realized the food was going to play an important part into the ethos of what they were doing. The food is globally inspired, focusing on seasonal ingredients such as their ever-changing tasting menu series entitled Renditions.
The Renditions menu was what I experienced with Chromatic Kitchen, where iconic jazz musicians or albums (think John Coltrane’s, Giant Steps) influence the menu, through five to eight courses. A new Renditions menu will be launched roughly every eight weeks (approximately six times a year), with a release concert and dinner in which guests will enjoy music from the album, recreated by a jazz ensemble, and learn more about the menu’s inspiration from Beckner and Scott Mattson. The first Renditions menu will launch Saturday, March 28 at 5:30 p.m.
You can find small plates (sound bites as they call them) with frites, oysters, gnocchio frito, and sliders to name a few.
With Scott’s background in beverages (he was previously head wine buyer at Denver’s Mondo Vino), the wine list is adventurous and interesting, and the bar also has craft spirits, cocktails, and beer. You can find classics like Sazerac or a Corpse Reviver, but also interesting sparkling cocktails and non-alcoholic delicious drinks.
Finally, the most interesting piece in my opinion, is the music and the philanthropy. Nocturne is the first “community funded” jazz club in North America, and some of those funds came from supporters who believed in their cause (myself included).
Part of their program is to launch a music residence program. This gives the artist an opportunity to play on the same evening, for three months straight. This allows them to hone their craft, and build a following, while you can watch their work evolve (as a regular). The residencies go to musicians and groups that will focus on one of three concentrations: the study of a jazz icon, the exploration of a jazz genre, or the performance of all original material. Those selected (an artist for each night of the week they’re open), will adhere to one of the three concentrations. I love how this gives back to musicians, cultivating the jazz community, while also supporting the beautiful hospitality that they’re focusing on at Nocturne. In addition, they’ll have nationally touring jazz musicians to stop through and play.
They’re also going to provide community programs to students in music programs around the city, and giving them the stage to play on, as well which is a special give-back from locals to other locals.
“Denver is a great jazz city,” shares Scott Mattson. “It has a storied history, phenomenal musicians, a world-class jazz radio station and a lot of serious music fans. Nocturne certainly celebrates jazz as an important part of our cultural heritage, but maybe even more so, it will make this dynamic, living art form accessible to a much broader audience. We can’t think of a city more primed for this concept than Denver.”
From the unique space, to the interesting food and drinks, to the deep jazz influence, I think what Nocturne is doing is quite unique. It’s a great place to gather, or enjoy live music in a setting that’s comfortable, and sultry.
Nocturne is open Monday through Saturday, from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. They can be found at: 1330 27th Street in Denver (http://www.nocturnejazz.com/).