In the News
Tula's: A Haven for Seattle
Earshot Jazz Magazine
Jason West, February 1999
On the east side of Second Avenue, between Blanchard
and Bell St., there's something for everyone. For the rockers there's
The Crocodile; for the mods there's The Lava Lounge; for margaritas there's
Mama's Mexican Kitchen; and for the best local jazz, six nights a week,
With blinds drawn and only a modest blue neon sign over
the entrance, Tula's can be easily missed, yet once you open her tinted
glass doors and step insideaway from the noisy, mingling crowds
on the stripyou'll feel as if you've entered a hipper, classier
world. Newcomers receive the pleasurable shock of intimate light illuminating
a warm, wooden interior. Seated close to the bandstand, well-dressed patrons
speak in hushed tones, respectful of the musicians on stage.
A few moments later and you're encouraged by Raymond,
Tula's always ebullient host, to relax and make yourself comfortable.
If you're hungry the entrees are tasty and reasonably priced (averaging
around $10 a plate). If you're thirsty you have your choice of 12 beers
on tap, fine wines, and liquors. And if it's great jazz you're after,
then just listen.
It should be immediately noted that the austere rock-of-a-man
behind the sprawling, green bar is one Elliot "Mack" Waldron,
Tula's owner and chief bartender. A native Texan, Mack is a veteran jazzman
with 26 years experience in Navy bands as a player and bandleader. In
the service he was considered a players' bandleader. Today he's considered
a players' club owner, so much so that he was, in January, awarded a special
Golden Ear Award from Earshot Jazz in recognition of providing a key showcase
for Seattle jazz musicians during the last four years.
The announcement of that honor was enthusiastically
greeted by the many musicians gathered for the Golden Ear ceremony.
How do you become a millionaire running a jazz club?
Start with two.
That humor isn't lost on Mack, who could have retired
to "planting flowers or things of that nature" rather than take
the gamble of opening Tula's.
Actually, there was little hesitation. After serving
in the Navy, Mack resolved to continue his affair with jazz. "I love
the music," he says.
"It's very exciting to participate and I feel like
I'm contributing something to further young musicians in the Seattle area."
Unlike most club owners, who aren't music savvy, Mack knows his jazz.
He books the bands, treats musicians well, and thereby ensures that Seattle's
fine crop of jazz talent keeps coming back to play.
The club's honor role of local jazz luminaries includes
guitarist Milo Petersen, pianist John Hansen, reedman Don Lanphere, trumpeter
and bandleader Jim Knapp, trumpeter/saxophonist Jay Thomas (whose most
recent CD is entitled Live at Tula's), and vocalists Greta Matassa and
Quite often, up-and-coming jazz heaviesnot quite
big-name enough to play Jazz Alleywill gig a few nights at Tula's,
accompanied by local players.
Last July, Bobby Porcelli and Ray Vega, both members
of Tito Puente's band, performed with the New Stories Trio. In August,
New York's Bob Moses and Charles Pillow shared the stage with Jim Knapp
and Pax Wallace.
>One of the club's biggest advocates is bassist Chuck
Bergeron, for years a New York musician, who now makes his home here.
This year Chuck has made a point of bringing top talent to Seattle, with
Mack providing the ideal venue. Tula's playlist so far includes Bergeron
compatriots Dave Pietro, Charles Pillow, John Fedchock, and John Hart.
Rick Margitza will he here in February, Bobby Shew visits in April.
Certainly, it is rare that a club owner is so well respected
by the musicians he hires. In response Mack says: "We have a mutual
admiration. I admire them for their musicianship, and I think they do
appreciate me for providing a venue for them to perform."
Admiration's warm glow is contagious and can be easily
found among Tula's clientele: ladies and gentlemen who enjoy being part
of something special, refined and classy. From snuggling, romantic couples,
to large-partied celebrants, to high-school musicians intent on listening
to Seattle's best-jazz, Tula's attracts all kinds of discriminating, intelligent
ears. And the word is starting to spread. Like Mack says: "Good people
tend to invite other good people, and good players tend to invite other
great jazz players."