Shortly after Robert and Dorothy Edwards started dating after high school, they would visit the many jazz bars in St. Louis. Robert can name several "joints," as he calls them, that used to exist in the city.
But somehow with time, most of the joints are now gone.
"I don't know what happened," said Robert, a retired music instructor. "There used to be a time when there was jazz everywhere."
FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Dorothy and Robert, however, did not give up their love for music, and in 2009 they opened Robbie's House of Jazz, located in the heart of Old Webster, at 20 Allen Avenue.
The bar, which replaced the former Cookies Jazz and More, is a reflection of the couple's love of jazz that they have shared over the years.
"I named this place after my mother," Dorothy said. "My mother's name was Robbie, Robbie May. Robbie enjoyed good music and dancing. We grew up listening to big band sound jazz. My father was also just crazy about jazz, so we just grew up listening to really good music."
Robert said he has lived his entire life through his music. He graduated from Webster University with a degree in music education, and also attended Washington University in St. Louis and Southern Illinois University to study music.
Robert said he has taught in many different places and even traveled to other countries, including China, to teach jazz.
"There's a lot to talk about," Robert said. "I've been around."
MAKING IT HAPPEN
The bar was a dream for Dorothy since the 1970s, but she needed training on how to run a jazz bar before the dream could be realized, she said.
Dorothy attended a business program at St. Louis Community College - Forest Park, and also received her degree in business administration from Fontbonne University. She even took bartending classes, even though the bar only serves beer and wine.
"It was still good to know," Dorothy said. "I had to prepare myself for the business world. I knew I needed experience working behind the bar, and learn how to run business."
But in spite of time she spent preparing for her business, Dorothy was not prepared for the economy's downward turn.
"Business has been up and down," Dorothy said. "Some nights are good, some aren't, but we are still going ahead."
NEW GENERATION SHOWS SUPPORT
Robert said he believes in order for jazz to exist in a place like Webster Groves, the community has to support it.
"If people want to support jazz, sometimes what you got to do is just come out and listen," Robert said.
Some of the biggest supporters of Robbie's House of Jazz are music students from Webster University, Webster High School, and others who have barely reached their twenties. They come out for Tuesday's Jam Session, where anyone with an instrument or a decent voice can participate for free.
"I like working with kids," Robert said. "When they get an understanding of it, you have to teach them to acquire a lifelong love for it. Unfortunately, we don't have enough of it being played."
For patrons, Robbie's House of Jazz is one of the few places that keeps jazz alive.
"Where else in the county can you go listen to local musicians play jazz on a regular basis?," asked Mark Muccigrosso, who participated in last Tuesday's jam session at Robbie's. "Jazz is one of our true American art forms and we need to keep it alive in St. Louis."
Robert said he hopes the community comes to his joint to support the future of jazz in St. Louis.
"Jazz is not dead, it's alive," Robert said.
Robbie's House of Jazz is open Tuesday through Friday, from 6 p.m. to close and on Saturday, from 7 p.m. to close. There is a $5 cover charge at the entrance. For more information about Robbie's House of Jazz and upcoming shows, visit its website.