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Heritage: A New Home for Jazz.

January 14, 2016

HeritageOnline01Text by Hannah Kubik. Images by Mina Lee.

Sitting on a black leather chair surrounded by red cedar walls, Terrance Leach, part owner of the restaurant and live jazz bar Heritage, begins to tell his story – one that starts 13 years ago after Leach moved from Newport, Rhode Island to South Philadelphia.

Leach met business partner Jason Evenchik while working as a waiter and bartender. Evenchik asked him to be the general manager of Time, a whiskey bar, restaurant and live music venue he was opening in Center City. That was more than seven years ago, before Time had lines out the door on weekends and Center City was in its nascent stages of the booming nightlife scene. The struggle to find talent was daunting.

“I really had to go out looking for dudes,” Leach says. “There weren’t a lot of places to hear live music like there is now.”

However, as Center City evolved, Time went from having bands play three to four times a week to seven days a week. Currently they have two bands per day, every day.

“Now I can build a band if I want to,” says Leach.

HeritageOnline02Having pieced together the right blend of music, food and drinks at Time, Leach (above) and Evenchik applied this model to Heritage, located in Northern Liberties, which they opened this past April.

“People are drawn to the diversity,” says Maddy La Voe, who has been going to both Time and Heritage since their openings. “Because they combine many ideas in one building, there is something for everyone. Plus, there aren’t many places to hear live jazz anymore.”

For Evenchik, offering live music as opposed to using an iPod or records was never in question.

“There’s no comparison,” he says. “I listen to music constantly but nothing is as moving as a live performance. There are shows that bring people to tears and that is something you cannot get, typically, from a recording.”

For alcohol enthusiasts, Heritage offers nearly 100 types of whiskey and 36 draft beers. For foodies, the dishes utilize local, fresh, seasonal ingredients with a menu that changes weekly. For those seeking a venue with sound quality, the Heritage owners built a wooden clamshell shaped stage surrounded by cedar walls and sprayed the ceiling with K-13 sound-proofing, allowing each note to travel the entire length of the room.

“We don’t want people to come just for the music,” Leach says. “That would defeat the purpose of having a huge dining room. We want people to come for dinner and drinks, have a conversation, turn their chairs around if they want to and enjoy the music.”

What Leach and Evenchik create are not just music venues, but atmospheres. To fulfill their vision, they needed music that was neither loud and bustling nor sleep inducing.  They found their answer in jazz, funk and soul.

“Jazz allows for the opportunity to turn it up and really get moving with organs, horns and vocals,” says Evenchik. “It’s a music that approaches funk and what we call the Philly sound.”

The “Philly sound” Evenchik refers to continuously echoes within the walls of Heritage and Time. It is produced by the local bands Leach booked years ago that still perform at the clubs today.

“I get calls from people all around the world asking to play because they heard the words ‘music venue,’” says Leach. “But if I were to bring in a bunch of new people in one month, all the people who have been loyal to me for years, all the local musicians, it’s like I’d be firing them. They wouldn’t get their gigs.”

This loyalty paired with family-style treatment is what Leach says separates their restaurants from other music joints in Philadelphia. He admits that while he may not pay the bands as much as other places, he covers their bar tabs and everyone is viewed as a family member. In addition to family treatment, the bands are given stylistic freedom.

“I don’t micromanage the musicians because I’m not a musician,” Leach says. “I understand music and I love it, but I hire them because they know what they’re doing. They’re the talent – you have to let them do their thing.”

Another significant factor that keeps bands returning is an appreciation for sound quality.

“We’re always getting compliments on the way our rooms sound,” says Leach. One saxophone musician, Tom Moon, who plays for them at both places but got his start at Time, continuously says how he loves the room.

“So eventually we named his band Tom Moon’s Love Room,” says Leach.

Looking back seven years, Leach never thought he would be recognized for his live music offerings. His goal at the time was to work with Evenchik to create an establishment filling a void.

“Years ago you couldn’t find a whiskey bar, restaurant and live music venue all wrapped up in one,” Leach says.

Today, Leach has a phone full of contact information for local jazz musicians like Luke O’ Reilly, Ernest Stuart, Tom Moon and Lucas Brown. Though there was no master plan or personal ties to jazz, this music genre has become an important pillar in the pair’s success. Symbolizing this is the chandelier that hangs in Heritage. It is constructed of old brass instruments Leach and Evenchik collected from various pawnshops and bids off eBay.

“I want to continue expanding it by ceremonially adding things to it, like on our one year anniversary, add a trombone, kind of like a Christmas tree,” says Leach with a laugh. “Who knows how big it will get.”

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