Lucid, a University District jazz club, presents the Inside/Out Awards honoring members of Seattle's jazz community on May 31 at Benaroya Hall.
Born in New York and raised in Miami, the son of Haitian immigrants, David Pierre-Louis had done all the right things by the time he was 27. He had earned a business degree at Bethune-Cookman University, gotten a respectable job as a sales manager for Frito-Lay and then Odwalla, supervising a sales team that serviced grocery stores and restaurants in the Seattle area.
But it wasn’t until 2008, when Odwalla laid him off, that he finally took a shot at his dream of opening a jazz club.
“When I got laid off, I figured it was now or never,” said Pierre-Louis, now 31. “It made more sense to be surrounded by what you love, instead of trying to get back into the workforce with the economy the way it was.
“The struggle the musicians feel — being an artist, trying to get gigs — that’s the same struggle I feel. I do it because I love it, but at the end of the day to be surrounded by something you love is more beneficial than a paycheck.”
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Pierre-Louis’ dream became Lucid, the University-District jazz club on University Way that he opened in November 2008. In a relatively short time, Lucid has given birth to a new jazz scene that features mostly young, emerging musicians, many with current and past connections to the University of Washington jazz studies program.
Some of those musicians will perform at Benaroya Hall at 8 p.m. on Monday night as part of the first Inside/Out Jazz Awards, presented by Lucid.
“David has always had a much larger vision than just being a club owner,” said trumpeter Jason Parker, who will perform at the show and is also nominated for an award. “He’s a big thinker, and he’s accomplished everything he set out to accomplish. He’s done two jazz walks, started a record label [Lucidlive] and a nonprofit group (Strength Through Unity) to help out with what’s going on in Haiti.
“When he first came to us and said he wanted to do this awards show in Benaroya, I thought it was crazy, and then I remembered whom I was talking to.”
Performing in the Taper auditorium Monday night will be Evan Flory-Barnes, Clarence Acox, Tom Baker and Andy Clausen, among others. Barnes will perform his opus, “Acknowledgment of a Celebration,” which he debuted at last fall’s Earshot Jazz Festival. All of the proceeds from the Inside/Out awards will be given to Strength Through Unity and used to help rebuild earthquake-damaged Haiti.
An open, online nomination process in April produced three to five finalists in each of the 13 categories. Online voting for the winners began the first week of May. So far, visitors have voted about 700 times a day on the website, said Pierre-Louis, who fell in love with jazz as a listener after he moved to Seattle in 2004.
Preceding the Inside/Out awards by about 20 years are the Golden Ear awards, presented by Earshot to local jazz musicians. Many of the 2009 Golden Ear winners (Mark Taylor, Chris Icasiano, Clausen, Barnes) are nominees for Inside/Out awards. Pierre-Louis himself was given a special Golden Ear Award in 2009 for his efforts to support jazz in Seattle.
“We don’t charge a cover,” he said of Lucid, “because we want people to walk in and walk out as they please. That creates a community and exposes more people to jazz. You don’t have to have a trained ear to like jazz, you just have to accept it. It’s how the music makes you feel personally.”
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