Don’t let the Juneau Five’s name fool you.
The jazz quintet that can be found every other Thursday at the Narrows Bar is more of a loose network of Juneau musicians than a proper quintet. There are about five core members, but sometimes four people play, and other times a guest vocalist, flautist or drummer might drop in — generally without advance notice.
“You show up, and kind of the jazz standard is that you play two songs,” Greg Kalbaugh, who plays trumpet for the Juneau Five, said ahead of a Thursday night show that coincided with his 65th birthday. “We even had a conga player up here with us.”
Other staples include Juneau music mainstays John Haywood on saxophone, Dave Hurley on drums, Luke Weld who uses a keyboard to fill in on piano and bass, and Myra Kalbaugh who sings, runs back drinks for the musicians and passes around the tip jar at the end of shows.
The Juneau Five became the sort of house band for the Narrows when Hurley heard owner Jared Curé wanted a band that could play regular jazz shows.
So about a year ago, the band’s members and welcome guest musicians began playing a 7:30 p.m. show every other Thursday.
“When I was building this place out, I envisioned something like what you see,” Curé said. “I thought jazz was something that would fit this intimate space quite well.”
Thanks to some creative furniture movement, during Thursday Night Jazz there’s a small nook just large enough for a handful of musicians just past the far end of the bar.
“When it’s really packed, the audience is right on top of you,” Greg Kalbaugh said. “It’s really intimate.”
But, band members and Curé said the sound isn’t overpowering even though the Narrows’ dimensions live up to its name.
“You can be sitting at that end of the bar and have a very nice conversation,” Haywood said gesturing toward the entrance side of the room. “We don’t get complaints.”
Even 6 feet away from the band, the walking bass and harmonizing horns aren’t loud enough to require shouted drink orders.
Curé said that’s because he remodeled the bar, which opened in 2017, with live music in mind.
The ceiling’s tin material has small perforations that allow sound to pass through where it then meets a layer of muffling material.
Curé said he’s enjoyed the regular shows because he’s a fan of the music.
Plus, the events draw out a Thursday night crowd that otherwise might spend then night at home.
“I’ve got people that come back every week because of it,” Curé said. “It’s something a little bit different. It’s been a great reaction. I’m trying to find something for the opposing Thursdays.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.