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Pausa Art House

Jon and Lazara Nelson have made a home for music and art like no other in the city

A couple weeks back, Jon Nelson—a trumpeter on the music faculty at UB who, with his wife Lazara, runs Pausa Art House on Wadsworth, just around the bend from the west end of Allen—saw a guy wandering up the street, a CD in his hand, looking lost. Jon stepped outside and said to the guy, “I think you’re looking for us,” ushered him into Pausa’s tiny, beautiful bar, and set him up with a drink.

Turned out the guy was a pianist, an out-of-towner sent to Pausa by the jazz musician whose CD he’d just bought at a dinnertime gig at a restaurant a few blocks away. You’ll find what you’re looking for at Pausa, the local musician told him. The visitor caught the tail end of the night’s musical performance, then struck up a conversation with another local piano player, and soon the two of them moved to the piano.

“There were people in the back who came in for the show earlier, and they were thinking of wrapping it up,” Nelson says. “But I said, ‘Hey, stick around—I think we’re going to get another show.’”

They did: For 45 minutes, the two musicians who—who might never have met, talked, and played together if Pausa didn’t exist—traded songs while those who’d hung around listened, rapt. It was, Nelson says, exactly the sort of moment he and Lazara had hoped Pausa would occasion.

And for over a year now, Pausa has been creating losts of those moments, as it hosts everything from free jazz to chamber music to folk. This small venue, open Thursday through Saturday nights, is making a big impression on the local music scene—and quickly making a name with musicians from far afield, too.

• • •

Artvoice: When you two set out to make a music and arts venue, what did you imagine it would be?

Lazara: We were mssing a space like this. We wanted to go out, we wanted to enjoy live music in a relaxed setting. We started saying, “Whay if there was a place where you could just relax and hear live music, have a glass of wine…”

Jon: And invite our friends over to play. There are lots of places doing interesting things around town, but we felt that there wasn’t one place that was capturing the aesthetic we were looking for on an ongoing basis.

AV: This Thursday you’ve got Americana musician Gurf Morlix playing. The jazz ensemble Grüvology are regulars, as are innovative local and out-of-town jazz and classical musicians. You’ve hosted the Canal Street String Band. What is that aesthetic exactly?

Jon: I was thinking of this today….it’s basically like a house concert, but we are set up to accommodate a larger group than you would want to accommodate in your house. We’re basically throwing a party three nights a week, and we can accommodate 80 people.

Lazara: I liten to all kinds of music: classical music, Brazilian music, Cuban music, world music, African music, gypsy…and I assume other people are like that, too. So it’s ideal that you can come if you’re real Pausa geek all three nights and listen to three different genres of music. It’s all happening in one place.

AV: Are there Pausa geeks?

Lazara: Oh yes. And that’s the goal—that people will want to come no matter what, knowing that whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be good.

AV: How has reality diverged from the dream?

Jon: I don’t think it has much. There are some realities: Lazara does all the books. She does the payroll. And it’s a nightmare. Running a small business is difficult.

Lazara: And I don’t think it gets smaller than us! It the two of us and one guy who helps.

Jon: We just manage it. Why not? We’re here for the long haul. We have two kids and they really love this area. We’ve made a lot of friends here. I think what’s fun about this place is we’ve met so many people from so many different backgrounds. We get to meet all kinds of people. Now we’ve been at it for a year, so we’ve got a regular crowd that’s starting to come in. A lot of them are musicians. We’ve got a crowd that comes in 10, 10:30, after their gigs are over. So if you come in 11, 11:30, 12 on Friday or Saturday nights, it’s a whole crew of musicians—and a writer, or the artist whose work is on the wall.

We just sort of set up the conditions. The right kind of music and the right kind of art brings in the right kind of people, and great connections happen.

Lazara: It’s really turned out better than what we dreamed. It really has.

Pausa is currently hosting a show of paintings by watercolorit Monica Angle. In addition to Gurf Morlix today (Thursday, May 1), notbale upcoming shows include Rey Scott’s Sound Trio (May 3) and Swiss jazz combo Journeys, with locals Grüvology opening the show (May 10). Visit for more information and happenings.

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