The end of jazz at the Seelbach

After approximately two decades, the Seelbach Hotel has decided to end their weekend evenings of live jazz music, as led by vibraphonist Dick Sisto. The weekend was often chosen by LEO Weekly readers as “the best place to hear live jazz” in our readers’ choice poll.

Sisto, long accompanied by bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Jason Tiemann, was notified about this decision by hotel management. Sisto said, “Their rational, illogical as it may sound, is to cut expenses and show greater profits.”

During his years as music director, Sisto welcomed many special guest performers. A partial list includes names like Pat Labarbera, David Liebman, Joe Morello, Joe Labarbera, Kevin Mahagony, Bobby Shew, Kenny Werner, Dave Samuels, Rich Perry, Andy Laverne, Don Braden, David Hazeltine, Walt Weiskoff, Scott Wendholt, Lynne Arrialle, Steve Davis and many others.

Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28 will be the last weekend for the free performances. Sisto, who also hosts Sunday jazz radio programs on
WFPK, 91.9 FM, notes, “There may be an occasional appearance in the future.”

Sisto also notes that 2011 was “one of the best years for business at the Seelbach.”

Drummer Tiemann said, “I believe that it is a heartbreaking tragedy to the arts scene in Louisville, as there are very few places to hear real live jazz in the entire region.”

Tiemann can still be seen Wednesday nights with Jacob Duncan and others at the Nachbar, free at 10 p.m.

photo by John Nation, c. Louisville Magazine 2011


  1. Freedom
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Those who hav cast this decision at the Seelbach are essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater!!! Long range insite on the vibrational harmony continually created through hosting Jazz there very well may rock the*** whole balance*** of business, for this grand & well known hotel, once it ceases to exist. The discovery of this shall be felt vibrationally after the fact, unless the decision is overturned. Blessing to the Jazz musicians for all the great vibes given in beat to date… and best of luck Seelbach management to fill that empty space…

  2. Jamison Pickerill
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh my Lord! Reverse the decision, its not too late! Twenty years of some of the baddest jazz musicians in this region getting shut down for what? profits?! At a time when 4th St. Live is flourishing and sending most of the money out of state, The Seelbach should be locally reaping the benefits and sharing it with these fellows who have been continually improving the class and clout of the hotel, especially when its surrounded by flashing lights and booty shorts and gimmicky bars. Jason, Tyrone, Dick, you guys are irreplaceable! Sealbach, stand behind these LOCAL HEROES! What are you crazy? Don’t do it.

  3. yewell "Sonny" King
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Places where you can sit and have a rum and coke (or whatever you like) and not worry about a pistol going off because of an edgy environment, and a place where the kings queens and well dressed vagabonds may come to relax and listen to music is what the Seelback Hotel is about to destroy. The musicians who play there are the best in their field. I know this because I personally have been in some of the best environments where this type of smooth is demonstrated. One of the best known in America is “Blues Alley” in Washington D. C. The Seelbach was almost a spitting image of that kind of culture… What else can money destroy in our city. It would be better, if the need is absolutely there, to have a five dollar cover charge so whoever made this decision, can get their shoes shined or whatever…. This set should stay in place. I’d personally lead a walk-in, or a walk-out or a picket to protect this off of the hook jazz ensemble… “What a damn shame…….from the desk of yewell

  4. Emily
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Of course loosing this event is sad. What I think is even more tragic, is that this is the very first time I have ever heard of the Seelbach Jazz nights. (Perhaps my fault, perhaps a failure on the part of local advertising companies, perhaps the host’s or organizer’s fault-I’m not writting to place blame). I should state that I am a community leader for two non-profit and social clubs (here in Louisville) that focus on vintage jazz dancing and jazz arts forms. Perhaps you didn’t know about us?- in which case I blame myself for not reaching out to the community enough (one can only do so much in a year)-But I wonder why, when the event wasn’t drawing in people wasn’t the leader of the group reaching out to other groups to bolster attendance an moral? We are easy to contact on the web-as I imagine other similarly minded organizations that could help are as well.
    As a recent transplant to Louisville I am surprised by how many people want to get out of their own vacuum or social bubble and support live entertainment and arts but lack the ability to connect with each other or a good source to find events of interest-particularly when attendance is low at community and arts building events that are being organized- I am not sure what the solution is here. I am also surprised to see this jazz night was specific to only one group to the exclusion of other amazing groups in town including the Black Cats, Hot Onion Jazz Band, West Market Street Stompers, Bill Goat Strut, Louisville Gypsy Jazz, and many other talented groups that would be too numerous to name. Perhaps such an event would do better as a jam session or a mixed night. I wonder if anyone has asked the Seelbach about interest in that? And what is a for profit hotel being blamed for pulling funding? Why did this event depend on only one group to fund it? You can hardly blame the hotel when there is funding availble elsewhere that could have been used as a back up. Lastly, I feel bad for Drummer Tiemann who said, “I believe that it is a heartbreaking tragedy to the arts scene in Louisville, as there are very few places to hear real live jazz in the entire region.” Perhaps he and I have a different vision for what we might say deserves the title of ‘real live jazz’ but I can go out sometimes even twice weekly in Louisville and be delighted by the jazz I hear. If you are interested, I suggest googling the bands I have listed above, checking out Clifton’s pizza’s music schedule to find free jazz concerts, and also frequently checking local dance and jazz arts’ groups like the Louisville Swing Dance Society. I think you might find that musicians even play a bit better when they are giving inspiration to and taking inspiration from dancers. These groups and others like them such as cinci-swing, redhotlindyhop, and naptownstomp also frequently bring in good jazz groups to our region from out of town (think Boiler Maker Jazz Band, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, Jayna Morgan, etc etc) and listening to the music live can range from free-$10 depending on the events funding. PS- we could probably all get a bit more funding and offer more events for free if we worked together a bit more.

  5. toosad
    Posted January 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I called the Seelbach to let management know that I am so damn sad to hear about this decision. Told them that, as a Louisville resident, jazz night with Sisto & co. was the only reason for me to visit the Seelbach. Told them that I always took visitors from out of town to hear the jazz and drink the bourbon. Told them that it is one of the precious few jazz nights left in Louisville.
    I just don’t understand why people don’t get how unique and special jazz at the Seelbach really is….or should I say was? Sad.

  6. adale o'brien
    Posted January 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink


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