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Gilly's Jazz Club Celebrates 30 Years
(Published: May 20, 2007)

Gilly's jazz club celebrates 30 years

The venue kicks off a six-week-long anniversary celebration tonight, marking its 30th year in the City of Dayton Transportation Center, on the corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets.

The festivities begin at 8 p.m., when bluesman Bernard Allison, son of the legendary Luther Allison, takes the stage. They continue through the end of June and feature many special bookings.

Gillotti said that the club's longtime location "has been a good for business. Jazz and blues people don't necessarily live in one neighborhood, so if you're centrally located, you have a better chance of getting everybody in."

And once they're there, making sure that people enjoy the experience is every bit as important as attracting big-name musicians to his stage, he added. That is why people have kept coming back.

Gillotti's passion for jazz was ignited during the time he served in the Army. While stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, he frequented jazz clubs, where he heard iconic acts such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and the Modern Jazz Quartet.

After he left the service in 1958, Gillotti had the idea that "if you presented (jazz) correctly, in a nice atmosphere, you've got to be successful; people will come out to see it because it's just so infectious and it's such good music."

He purchased the Wedgwood Inn, a neighborhood bar and restaurant on Patterson Road, in 1970. During his two-year period there, he began to feature jazz acts, including Roy Meriwether and Jack McDuff, as well as Gene Harris and the Three Sounds.

In 1972, Gillotti acquired the space that was once the Green Derby on North Main Street, and Gilly's was born. The club was open six nights a week then, Tuesday through Sunday, and featured three sets of live jazz every night.

The up-and-coming club owner maintained a steady flow of prominent musicians, including Monty Alexander, Bill Evans, Eddie Harris, Ahmad Jamal, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Steve Kuhn, Chuck Mangione, Les McCann and Charles Mingus.

It wasn't long before Gillotti was ready for a bigger space, though. In 1977, he moved into the then-new Transportation Center, and, on June 17, reopened the venue with vocalist Mark Murphy and trumpet star Maynard Ferguson.

Of course, a lot has changed since then: The performance mix evolved to include blues and rock, as well as folk and comedy; the club was remodeled in 1987; and, in 2004, Gilly's was among the very first venues in the area to go smoke-free. One thing has remained the same over time, though: Gilly's is still the area's favorite spot for live jazz.

To have been in business for 37 years and at the same location for 30 "feels good," Gillotti said. "I feel like I've accomplished something and I feel like I've contributed to the quality of life in Dayton by presenting all of these artists."

Submitted By: jazzears

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