Howling Monk JazzCoffeeBar opened in October, 2001. By day, it was a struggling, but friendly Inglewood California forced to compete with you know who - it begins with a "s" and ends with a "s." Coffee lovers in the neighborhood, however, wereslowly 0 discovering that the Howling Monk Coffee tag line: "No other coffee like it anywhere!" was true. They'd drop by in the morning for a cup of Mood Ndigo, or KOKO 11/26/45, or for a cup of the house favorite, Mysteriously Dark; each one a unique blend made from owner, Ken Moore's secret recipes. To say that daytime business was slow was a generous assessment of the situation.
However, when night fell, especially on the weekends, Howling Monk JazzCoffBar came to life. Music, mostly jazz, filled the air and people came from near and far to hear it. The transition from day to night was magical and what occurred on Market Street in Inglewood from late 2001 to mid-2003 still lingers in the mind of many.
July 23, 2002 Los Angeles Times
After Police Incident, Some Fear Inglewood Will Take a Beating by Richard Fausset
As a throng of protesters demonstrated last week outside the gas station where police had beaten 16-year-old Donovan Jackson, businessman Ken Moore was on the other side of Inglewood, keeping the latte flowing at his 17-month-old jazz and coffee bar, the Howling Monk.
Moore said he hoped for a just outcome to the beating investigation. But he was also worried that the hubbub will tarnish outsiders' opinions of Inglewood--and harm the prospects for businesses such as his cafe, which has been drawing strong local crowds in the evenings. The media are "showing people there was another Rodney King-type beating in Inglewood, so now they think that if things go [according] to pattern, the city will burn," said Moore, 53. "That's not the case. We have a rogue cop who went overboard. It's nothing we did here in our community...Read more at the L.A. Times
August 8, 2002 LA Weekly
Our Town-Inglewood, once more with feeling by Erin Aubry Kaplan
All right, this is getting personal. I thought I was done mixing it up with those who would suggest that Inglewood is the second coming of Florence and Normandie, and further suggest that its recent hard luck newswise isn‘t luck at all but merely the natural order of universes populated by blacks and Latinos and run largely by blacks (Compton, anyone?). Initially I was calm. Had heard all this before. Made all my historical and practical arguments against pigeonholing, as always. Returned to writing about other useful topics, like disco and baseball. But last week I got rude, resounding proof that nobody is listening to me about pigeonholing, and I saw red. I was taking too many punches and I wanted to hit back, though in truth I feel less like a fighter and more like a harried Lieutenant Columbo of the color wars, complete with the false exits in which I appear to sign off on the Donovan Jackson controversy and then, with a hand on the doorknob, mutter to a long-suffering audience, ”Oh ma’am, I‘m sorry, just one more thing.“ But after reading and -- more importantly -- seeing the Los Angeles Times’ latest lengthy Inglewood story, I‘m convinced that a third column is, at the very least, my civic duty.
The first thing anybody would notice about the cover story that ran July 24 in the Times’ second section was the photography: the one of a black child frolicking beneath a chainlink fence encircling a graffiti-scarred apartment building, with trash strewn about on concrete for good measure. Another that ran inside the section was entirely similar, except it showed a black child dangling by his knees from the frame of an iron gate, his ersatz jungle gym. There is a third photo, a nicely atmospheric shot of the owner of a local jazz coffee bar called Howling Monk -- my coffee bar -- a photo clearly meant to illustrate the contrast of Inglewood‘s fortunes, the curious effects of its long-standing socioeconomic yin and yang. But the shot is smaller and less prominently placed than the other two, and the reality is that the scenes of ghetto life thoroughly trump not only the Howling Monk, but the stated intent of the story: to draw a more subtle picture of Inglewood than has hitherto been drawn...
Inglewood's Java Jive: A Strong House Blend by Dean Kuipers
The Howling Monk Jazz Coffee Bar is out to prove that booze and bebop don't always have to be drinking companions
It's just 'round midnight at the Howling Monk, and the old refurbished Inglewood storefront has taken on the fervor of a revival meeting. Drummer Winard Harper's jazz sextet has a crowd of about 60 people--mostly African American, mostly over 30--clapping time to a version of Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," shouting out from their rows of chairs, steaming up the plate glass windows, dancing in the doorways thrown open to Market Street.
The venue here is new, open only nine months, but the ritual is old, older than Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, even Louis Armstrong, whose photographs hang framed above the makeshift bandstand. The mix of Saturday night party and Sunday morning congregational assembly is familiar to Inglewood, but this is neither a bar nor a church. In fact, it's something that almost doesn't exist in Inglewood: a coffeehouse...Read more at the L.A. Times
May 30, 2003 Los Angles Times
Club is closing, but the dream will live onby Don Heckman, Special to The Times
Ken Moore seemed to have everything working when he opened his Inglewood jazz coffee bar, Howling Monk, in December 2001: a love of jazz, fine coffee, a seemingly good location and a great name incorporating two of his favorite musicians, Howlin' Wolf and Thelonious Monk. But on Saturday night he will close shop.
What happened? Was it the economy, stupid? Was the location not as good as he thought? Is jazz too tough to market?
"Not actually any of those things, specifically," he said this week. "And a good part of the problem was connected to my own planning…” Read more at the L.A. Times
June 19, 2003 LA Weekly
Closing Time The Howling Monk’s last wail by Erin Aubry Kaplan
For a year and a half, the Howling Monk Jazz CoffeeBar was a wonderful little respite at the edge of Inglewood’s Market Street, a small-town commercial drag that is, unfortunately, exactly that. Like the main streets of many other small L.A. County towns forged out of free-radical civic particles that never belonged to L.A. proper, Market once claimed a modest glory that included movie houses, boutiques, pharmacies and even department stores, all within rock-throwing distance from one other.
All that fell away with deindustrialization of the urban core, suburban flight, the rise of the indoor-mall economy and the more recent rise of superstore chains like Target and Home Depot (Inglewood is angling these days for a Wal-Mart, too, though that feels curiously unprogressive). For a while, the Monk raised a possibility that the neighborhood’s old character might return in force...
Nate Morgan Luminous in Leimert Park by Rex Butters
LA’s own Nate Morgan and his quartet lit up the Howling Monk’s Jazz at 10 series in Leimert Park. The pianist dazzled with a program of streamlined soul jazz adorned with aural lightning. Morgan shuffles the keys and deals an obscene number of aces. He can bury you in technique, break your heart, and have you dancing. Everything he plays is suffused with blues. Onaje Murray held down the vibes chair. Murray makes a good match for Morgan. He has high-speed precision playing and an imagination that flows like a firehose. Local favorite bassist Nedra Wheeler kept swing time for the erupting front line, while drummer Sonship Theus played a clean solid beat.
The band played unamplified in the intimate Village Theatre. Morgan commenced the proceedings with a tumultuous solo that resembled early McCoy Tyner, without the latter’s strenuous angularity. The others entered at Theus’ bells. Wheeler kept the train on the tracks with her solid bottom, and Murray wasted no time playing himself into a blur. Morgan answered in kind with a fast talking right hand and a band leading left. “Retribution Reparation” featured a sly riff and a thorny theme smoothed out by Morgan’s bluesy variations, with Wheeler walking him through. Murray’s solo found him deftly hammering sparks out of the vibraphone.
Morgan took the ballad, “Blame it on My Youth,” solo. Using a richly chorded orchestral arrangement, he created a movingly romantic performance. Next, Morgan and Wheeler played Monk in duet. Nate teased all the blues out of the tune, while Wheeler defined the momentum. Theus snapped a crisp rhythm, then doubled the time launching Morgan across the sound barrier.
On a soulful medium tempo number, Morgan smokes the vibes while Morgan takes an easy rolling solo. Wheeler held the center of the swing. When she closes her eyes, smiles and sways her head, you know the groove is on. Finishing with a hard swinging piece, Morgan relentlessly tore into his keys to find immediate inspiration. For his part, Murray came down on the vibes like human hailstorm, Wheeler and Theus providing stability.
The Nate Morgan Quartet’s pyrotechnics celebrated the musicians’ virtuosity and the Howling Monk’s return to producing stellar engagements like this one.
July 21, 2005 LA Weekly
Welcome to Inglewood - Leave Your Aspirations Behind by Erin Aubry Kaplan
"...I used to meet John sometimes for coffee and our many heated chats at a place called the Howling Monk Jazz and Coffee Bar. It was on a big corner at the north end of Market Street, the still-alive part of downtown that I would frequent because of the Big 5, a decent photo place run by Koreans, and the Monk. The Monk was big and airy, accented with bamboo blinds and filled to its high ceiling with jazz music and the wonderfully pressing, perpetual smell of gourmet coffee brewing somewhere behind the counter. A water fountain burbled outside on a small plaza, where people would lounge or read on wooden park benches. The Monk’s owner, Kenneth Moore, would often join us, at least in conversation. Moore is the aging hippie of the Black Panther set — 50-ish, bushy beard, partial to wearing cotton button-down shirts and suede loafers that look infinitely more hip than the endless reinterpretations put out by the Gap and Banana Republic. He is thoughtful and reflective, but with a robust sense of humor that he’s needed to get him through the ordeal of losing his business.
The Monk closed more than two years ago, after Inglewood convinced Moore that he was just what they needed to help bring Market Street back to life as part of the revitalization program launched in 2000. After some thinking, Moore took them up on it; like others, he harbored a dream of doing well for himself and doing some good in the community he’s lived in for the past 30 years. He had quit his cozy accounting job at Paramount Studios to start a line of specialty coffee, and now he had a chance to go for broke with a restaurant where he could wed coffee to his other great passion, live jazz.
Moore says he was sold on the whole package — coffee, jazz, community enrichment, black culture, music, revitalization and empowerment. And Inglewood had actually shown him plans for what was officially called the Market Street Renaissance, the first time Moore had ever seen any kind of vision of Inglewood committed to paper. “They painted such a beautiful picture,” he says, slightly incredulously. “They had this brochure of Market that really looked like the Third Street Promenade — theaters, restaurants. And they said it would be a priority for the city.”
But it wasn’t. Part of it was timing — the Howling Monk opened barely three months after 9/11, when small businesses in big cities that relied on tourism started to seriously feel the pinch. Part of it was simply that Moore, by his own admission, was a novice restaurateur who realized too late in the game that he was woefully undercapitalized. But Inglewood also failed him, bigtime. The shrubs and streetlamps came, but no more businesses; it was like setting a table for dinner guests who never arrived. The big boxes on Century Boulevard started going up in earnest, entirely overshadowing Market Street as a development priority and a sales-tax base. Moore got behind on his city-sponsored business loan and couldn’t get his phone calls to City Hall returned. At the Monk’s farewell concert, where the walls shivered with deliriously improvisational jazz and throngs of supporters who lived well beyond Inglewood, nobody from City Hall showed up. That haunts Moore the most.
“When I opened, they were all there for the photo ops,” he says. “In the end, with very few exceptions, they all stayed away...”
LA Weekly Comments Best-Laid Plans I have owned property in downtown Inglewood for nearly 20 years. In fact, I am the owner of the property where Kenneth Moore set up his great, late Howling Monk Coffee and Jazz Bar. I agree with the writer, and her friend John [“Welcome to Inglewood,” July 22–28]. Inglewood just doesn’t know what to do with the opportunities it has; instead, it invests in the big-box Wal-Mart-type businesses that its own constituents don’t want. It’s a tragedy that the mom-and-pop businesses that made Inglewood, especially downtown Market Street, the charming place it is, or was, are ignored. Let’s hope that there are other Inglewood residents and property owners who are as outraged as I am. But if the past is any indicator of the future, it doesn’t look good for Inglewood. - Morgan McBain Inglewood
Taumbu International Ensemble at Howling Monk’s Jazz@Ten by LeRoy Downs
After the Diane Reeves, George Duke and Billy Childs' gig at the Disney Complex on Saturday night, I took a stroll to the park: Lemeirt Park! More jazz music is what I was in search of. When I got there, it was not like it used to be. I remember when the Vision Theater was happening, Richard always had something happening at 5th Street Dicks and people were in the streets talking about jazz music.
I drove around a couple of times and almost left. Ken Moore of the former coffeehouse
“Howling Monk” had told me to come on down and check out his venue called Jazz@Ten. The Taumbu International Ensemble was playing at the Villiage theater and if you have seen Taumbu, you know the night was going to be full of history and jazz music.
I did not see a theater or any people. I knew I was late but, I didn't think everyone would just leave after the gig. I asked the twins at the coffeehouse on the corner and they pointed me toward the back of the complex, Suite 101. I didn't hear anything until I got right up on the door but, when I opened it, BAM!
Taumbu was in one of his thick latin grooves and every seat in house was filled with jazz lovers, couples and those who love, appreciate and understand the music! Before each piece of music, Taumbu would tell a story of what the song was all about. He told one story of a great black warrior called El Tarik, who was sent to go and conquer. When he did, he got all the accolades. Those who had sent him felt that El Tarik was stealing their thunder so they arrested the great one and imprisoned him. Damn, you go and to a great job to serve your people and look what happens!
He also told of the power of the drum. How it came from Africa and it was the one thing that the powers-that-be could not tolerate because it was a symbol of African power. He says this is why you don’t hear the bongo drums in much music.
When he played with the other cats in the band, you certainly could hear the power of the drum. Taumbu with Micheal Sessions on the alto, Steve Smith on trumpet, Phil Ranelin on Trombone, Jeff Littleton on bass and two other cats I have not heard before. David on piano and I did not get the other name.
June 14, 2008 LA Jazz.com
Bobby West at Lucy Florence Theater by Dee Dee McNeil
Speaking of dynamic talent, this past Saturday I witnessed a concert by the amazing Bobby West in Leimert Park at the Lucy Florence Theater. Thanks to Ken Moore and his Howling Monk Productions, this extraordinary Jazz pianist made a dynamic return to Southern California and thoroughly entertained a small, but appreciative audience, Saturday, June 14th. His mastery and dexterity at the keys recalled the beauty of Bud Powell, the power of Nina Simone, embraced the history of Joplin's stride music, and wrapped it all up with the innovation of his Louisiana roots. Bobby West showed the spellbound audience that he could play it all. I went to his concert to relax and not to review it. However, I was so completely captivated by his provocative style and talent, I had to mention that if you haven't heard of him, please go to CD Baby and pick up his recording titled, "Hip Prophecy". You'll find one of Tadd Dameron's tunes on this CD.
Bobby West was amply supported by Fritz Wise on drums and James Leary on bass. The always avant garde and mesmerizing Dwight Tribble made a guest vocalist appearance. A surprise addition to the ensemble came in the form of the ever-innovative Michael Sessions on saxophone. Sessions had the crowd on the edge of their theater seats. West received a standing ovation after an energized two and a half hour performance. Bravo!
February 18, 2012 Howling Monk Email to Jazz and Coffee Friends
The Last Howling Monk Concert - The Bobby West Trio by Kenneth Moore
Dear Jazz Friends,
Please be with us this coming Saturday night as we proudly present Bobby West on piano, Trevor Ware on bass and Fritz Wise on drums in the last Howling Monk Concert production.
It is coincidental, yet certainly fitting that Bobby headlines our final concert. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this cat play. Before that night, I’d never heard of him. Called upon to sit in at the piano, he strolled over to an old un-tunable upright piano. Looking back, I think everyone present at the newly opened Howling Monk JazzCoffeeBar but me knew Bobby and of all the things he was capable of doing with a piano.
The exact date of that performance escapes me, but it was in late spring or early summer of 2001. As this rather unassuming looking cat strolled briskly over to my monster of a musical instrument, someone explained that he was back home, this time from playing somewhere in the Middle East. It may have been Dubai. I can’t recall. However, I do recall asking myself, “Who’s this cat?”
He sat down to a hush. I soon realized that this Bobby West fellow was a master and that monster of a piano was to be another of his servants. In a few notes we lifted off and were soon soaring. Those notes were like the threads of a musical magical carpet. It was a trip! Mr. West eventually brought us back down to earth and as the applause grew, I became conscious of the true Howling Monk JazzCoffeeBar mission. The struggling little joint on Market Street in Inglewood could be meaningful. It could be as inspiring and uplifting as any venue anywhere. I had no doubt. Howling Monk JazzCoffeeBar would be about the music, jazz, the artists and their fans!
All I needed was a piano.
It materialized in a matter of weeks; just in time for our big Charlie Parker night celebration and the late night jam session. It must’ve been around midnight (seriously, it was) when Bobby walked in out of the blue. After the piano was sworn into service, all of us in attendance witnessed another mesmerizing Bobby West performance. Since then, many great artists, including Nate Morgan, Patrice Rushen, Billy Childs, and other great pianists have led me and many Howling Monk audiences on unforgettable spiritual journeys.
So Mr. West is in from the East, this time for a few days from Shanghai. Ye it is coincidental and indeed most fitting that the BOBBY WEST & FRIENDS CONCERT this coming Saturday night at Eso Won Books will be the last Howling Monk concert. Please join us. The music will be great. I’d love to see you and l know Bobby, Trevor and Fritz will too!
The Bobby West promo video is below:
Thanks for supporting Howling Monk Concerts over the years.