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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

All that jazz (and blues, too)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Donald Freeman stands in the loounge area of his new club, Jazz-Z and Blue-Z.
SIKESTON - Growing up in Chicago, Donald Freeman said he heard all types of music - rock and roll, jazz, classical, soul. "I loved it all, but I especially love rhythm and blues," he said.

Also he recalled the clubs where the music was featured and where adults could unwind and enjoy themselves.

So starting his own club, featuring jazz and blues, just seemed liked the right thing to do when he moved back to Sikeston two years ago.

"This is in my blood. I really enjoy entertaining. I love people," said Freeman, who opened Jazz-Z and Blue-Z with his wife, Marilyn, in July.

Since opening, Freeman said the club has drawn packed houses and seen some rather sparse nights. It is to be expected, he explained, because people must first learn about the club and overcome any stereotypes they have.

Freeman talks with Shamu Wims, who assists with security and sometimes serves as DJ at the club.
"Sure, the club is black-owned but it is a people's club, not just for blacks or whites. Everyone is welcomed," he said. "Music doesn't have color, it is a universal thing."

Freeman sees the club filling a need, providing a place for adults to enjoy music. Also, he believes it is part of downtown's renaissance, helping to bring nightlife back to the area.

"We are seeing growth in town but there is still a lot of catching up to do as far as bringing in more opportunities," he said. "We need to have this area develop, bring it back to life."

Freeman sees lots of potential for Sikeston, but first he had to see the potential in the 5,700-square foot building at 221 E. Malone Ave., which houses his new club. Previously a motorcycle dealership, Freeman has created separate areas including a small bar with seating, which opens up into a lounge area with comfortable chairs and couches.

While the kitchen is small, Freeman said it provides a big selection. During club hours, they offer hamburgers, polish sausages and barbecue. Also catering is available through the club for special events with a menu he described as "good down-home cooking."

Just past the kitchen is a larger area filled with tables and chairs along with corner set aside for the DJ and his music. At the back of the building is a 2,500-square-foot room containing 11 pool tables, dart boards and foosball.

Throughout the facility, Freeman has seven big-screen televisions with satellite capabilities. He estimated the club could easily provide seating for 200.

The music is primarily played by a disc jockey, including a local DJ known as Skyjammer or sometimes Freeman or another family member.

However, Freeman is also working to draw in live bands from throughout the region. The club welcomed Bobby Rush, an entertainer who was featured on the Arts and Entertainment Network, to a sold out crowd. "I think we made history bringing in someone that big," said Freeman.

Whether a live performer or recorded, the club owner insisted that the music will be varied. "Rhythm and blues and jazz are my roots. But people will hear pretty much anything. We try to play what people want to hear," he said.

While there are other local clubs which offer music, Freeman said, he sees each club as having different styles. As Jazz-Z and Blue-Z grows, he would like to see the clubs work together to offer even more to music lovers in the area.

And Freeman noted the cooperative spirit of other local businesses has already assisted him in establishing his club and added his thanks for their support. There was also praise for the Department of Public Safety and its Chief Drew Juden.

"But mostly I need to thank my wife for being part of my backbone and helping me in my struggles. Her pushing and helping me got this business off the ground."

Jazz-Z and Blue-Z opens at 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 9 p.m. Sundays. There is an $8 charge on Fridays and Saturdays and a $5 charge at the door on Sundays which covers the music and a set number of drinks (Jazz-Z and Blue-Z has a consumption on premises license).

Freeman plans to start opening the game room on a daily basis at 3 p.m. Eventually he would like to add more nights to the club as well. "We got to grow into that," he said.

While primarily a club, Freeman said the facility is available for private parties such as family reunions, wedding receptions and other special events.

"Our goal is to serve the people, providing a safe environment where they can enjoy themselves," said Freeman. "We want to bring some new opportunities to Sikeston. We hope people will come into the club and grow with us."