Friday night means jazz at the Empty Glass
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every Friday evening at 6 p.m., saxophonist Dugan Carter leads a group of local jazz musicians entertaining patrons at the Empty Glass Café on Elizabeth Street in Charleston's East End.
It might just be the best deal in town.
Carter's diverse band includes a core of regular members, called Dugan Carter and Full Flavor. Other jazz musicians and singers often join them on any given Friday.
"I was born on the West Side in 1954, the son of India White, a singer, and Dugan Carter Sr., a sax player. I left Charleston to go to Philadelphia in 1979, then came back in 1994," Carter said.
In Philadelphia, Carter played with several jazz and doo-wop groups.
"I was 15 when I started playing. I got a car and a horn the same year. Since I was five years old, I had always wanted a sax. But they said my hands were too small back then."
At Stonewall Jackson High School, Carter played saxophone. After taking lessons from a private tutor, he also played cello in the school orchestra and won a seat in the All-State Orchestra.
Darrell Edgerton, the group's bass player, graduated from Charleston High School in 1985, then served four years in the Navy and another four years in the Army.
"I auditioned with Bob Thompson [a prominent local jazz musician and singer] to go over to Switzerland. I ended up playing with him for five years. I also play in church."
Keyboard player David B. Loyd, who left Detroit in 1975, and drummer Warren Pope Jr., whose father played with Carter's father in Chaleston, are the band's two other core members.
"I have been playing for 35 years," Pope said.
Other players regularly join Friday night sessions at the Empty Glass, including: Michael "Stoney" Burks on trumpet, who came down from Detroit; Robin Godfrey, a lawyer who plays keyboard; Billy Hambleton, a state worker who plays trombone; and Ko Fujimoto, who plays harmonica.
Fujimoto, who calls himself "Skinny Boy," left Tokyo, where he grew up, to come to the United States in 2004.
Fujimoto spent time in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky before moving to Eleanor in 2005 to work for Toyota-Tsusho, a Toyota subsidiary. During the day, he sells vehicle parts and coordinates work between Japanese and American engineers at the local Toyota plant.
"I began playing harmonica when I was 20 years old. I am 38 now," Fujimoto said. "I met Dugan at Taylor Books in 2006. Dugan told me he played at the Empty Glass, so I began coming there at Happy Hour.
"Dugan and Dave Loyd made me start playing jazz."
Godfrey, who has played with Dugan for three years, said, "The Empty Glass is a venue for people in Charleston to hear real jazz. And the more they drink, the better we sound.
"It is exciting. I plan to continue playing with them every week that I can. I have learned a tremendous amount about jazz from Dugan and Dave," Godfrey said. "But I am not going to quit being a bankruptcy lawyer."
Loyd, who has played keyboard in Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Morgantown -- first came to Charleston in 1989.
"I decided to stay here in 2006 and have been playing with Dugan since then," Loyd said. "I love jazz and gospel. Whatever I play, it is a spiritual vibration."
Young people tend to patronize the Empty Glass late in the evening. But customers are diverse for Dugan's jazz combo.
"We usually have three generations here and people from all socioeconomic groups," said bartender Heather Schultz.
"Dugan brings people from work to the Empty Glass. He knows how to please people," she said. "No one is going to beat this."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.