Getting a great
fix of live jazz at Hangar 18
By Douglas Habecker
If I had NT$10 for every time someone told me about a hot new
jazz bar, only to find a saxophone-and-keyboard duo playing Kenny
G tunes, I’d be able to, well, afford one of the overpriced cocktails
there. Therefore, I have to admit that I was more than a little
skeptical when I heard about yet another newly-opened jazz bar.
However, the name of the place, Hangar 18 Music House, was intriguing.
Better yet, I had the favorable reference of a friend who had
been there a couple nights before.
I got there fairly late, around 11 o’clock, but the place
was hopping. Hangar 18 was a spacious establishment with tables
surrounding a large central performance area. These were full
of patrons, including a foreigner or two, nodding and tapping
to the rhythms coming from the five-person band. Further in
the back, other customers sat at dimly-lit tables, against
the red walls lined with photographs of famous musicans and
bands. It had the dark, slightly smoky atmosphere that good
jazz and music bars around the world seem to generate.
Another mark of a good jazz bar is the focus of attention. Here,
every eye and ear was concentrated on the band, and it soon became
obvious why. Within 10 minutes, I was totally into the performance.
A couple of covers led into a 15-minute jam session, with the
guitarist, bass player, keyboard player and drummer taking their
turns at some very impressive “improv? the best I’d ever heard
in Taichung. The female lead vocalist was great, too, belting
out songs with depth and soul. It went on and on, and I didn’t
want it to stop.
My respect for Hangar 18 went up even further when I found
it was owned by the musicians I had just enjoyed. Most of
them are respected local music instructors and they’re clearly
there to provide local music lovers with a venue for quality
modern jazz, Latin and fusion. They perform every night from
9 p.m. on, except for Sundays, when the weekly Open Mic night
when any musician can play.
Most beers are around NT$160, cocktails are NT$180 and there is
Fosters and Carlsberg on tap--only NT$398 for 2000cc Monday through
Thursday and NT$500 on weekends, easily enough to cover the minimum
NT$300 bill per person on Friday and Saturday. Chinese-style snacks
and simple meals cost about NT$100 per dish.
This a place for anyone who has ever complained that Taichung
lacked decent live jazz. As it turned out, I was back again a
couple nights later for another live-music fix and, once again,
I left with a smile on my face.