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The Pausa That Refreshes
by Jeff Czum
Pausa Art House
Pausa Art House, which might be more fittingly called Pausa Music House, is located on Wadsworth St., just around the bend from another music venue, the legendary Nietzsche’s on Allen. Pausa is a quiet, intimate space that’s perfect for the wide variety of jazz, offbeat forms of music, and artwork that’s featured within. It’s a vision that was brought to life three years ago when husband/wife team Jon and Lázara Nelson bought the building to create a show venue that would deliver to audiences a true artistic experience.
You’ll hear music as varied as John Radice on ukulele, NYC brass band the Meridian Arts Ensemble, to local chamber-folk collective Tiny Rhymes, sax great Don Menza or the always entertaining Skiffle Minstrels.
The Nelsons care as much about the experience the musicians have at Pausa as they do about the experience of their audience/customers. Loud talking is politely discouraged. Jon recently whispered to a patron talking loudly at the bar “do you hear the band?” “Yes, they’re very good,” said the patron. Jon smiled and whispered, “Well they hear you, too.” The patron immediately quieted down.
This is one of the things that sets Pausa apart from other music venues, people at Pausa shows listen attentively to the music. The performers appreciate that immensely and so does the audience.
“We’re both musicians,” Jon says. “We both gave a lot of performances and know how important the atmosphere is for the performers and audience members. We wanted to create a place where the musicians and artists can come present creative work and feel appreciated.”
The couple met while on tour in Costa Rica. Jon, a trumpeter, was performing at the same music festival as the Cuban-born Lázara, who was a violinist playing in a chamber orchestra group.
With many years of combined experience, they dreamed of opening up a place that could support the arts and offer guests music they couldn’t find anywhere else.
“Back when we used to have our date nights, I remember how hard it was to find a spot where we could hear great classical, contemporary, jazz, and ethnic music,” Jon says.
“Some places were too loud while other didn’t have the right atmosphere,” says Lázara. “When we couldn’t find that place, we decided to open our own.”
In 2012, the couple went ahead and decided to put their plan into action.
“I remember getting out of yoga one day with Lázara and telling her that I wanted to look at this building I had heard of that was located on Wadsworth.”
At first sight, Lázara knew right away that the old Allentown house was perfect.
“This is the place,” Lázara says as she reflects on the moment. “If we couldn’t do it here, we wouldn’t have been able to do it anywhere. Everything about it was perfect.”
“The aesthetics of the building is directly related to what we do with the music and artwork at Pausa,” said Jon. “It’s like going to an art show or concert in someone’s home. We want to create a ‘boutique’ entertainment element to the neighborhood with pre-concert and post-concert receptions that encourage intermingling among performance and audience members.”
You could say it’s an intimate setting, but even that would be an understatement.
“We want everyone in the audience to be a participant in the performance,” says Jon. “Musicians can play great in rehearsal, but they play very differently when there are people in the room. The dynamic between the two is a very strong force.”
Watching a musician perform is one thing, but when you’re so close that you can read the notes off the sheet music, it’s an entirely different concert experience.
“Many of the acts who perform at Pausa are solo artists,” Lázara says. “We have groups play, but I like the solo performances. They are more appealing to artists and really fit with our setting.”
The Nelsons are trying to break down the formality of the concert experience.
“We make every night special. We need to make the musicians feel appreciated and we want people to walk out of here every single night saying ‘Wow, that was fantastic.’ I really like that we can build relationships between unlikely pairs of artists and musicians. It creates a unique/diverse vibe,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of groups start here that still continue to play regularly,” said Jon.
“The Miles Davis Project is an ongoing concert series we host that has been going very well,” he says.
“A lot of times in the past, jazz acts I’ve seen would only play one or two songs by Miles. I wanted to make it into an entire night, where the musicians would perform full albums.”
After presenting the idea to pianist George Caldwell and drummer John Bacon Jr., the Miles Davis Project was put into action, comprised of some heavy hitter local jazz artists.
“The first time they played, the house was packed,” Jon said. “We had Bobby Millitello on alto sax and Tim Clarke on trumpet. It’s a great event worth going to.”
Since 2012, Pausa has quickly become a hometown favorite for music and art lovers.
“We’ll have people come in all the time and not even be aware of who’s playing that night,” said Jon. “They just know that we’ll have live music that’s original, creative and special. We have people of all ages from many different backgrounds coming in all the time.”
“The mix of people is wonderful,” Lázara says. “This experience has turned out better than we dreamed.”
It’s not just a concert venue or an art space. Pausa is an interactive gathering place for musicians, artists and creative individuals. A place where you can relax over glass of wine while admiring artwork and taking in the sounds of talented musicians.
“This is our second home and we encourage people to come see what it’s all about,” Lázara says. “Everybody seems to know everybody and it’s a great setting.”
“Jon and I are always there,” she says. “He’ll greet you at the door and I’ll be behind the bar.”
Whether you want to stop by for one of their wine tastings, or are just looking for a place to go to listen to live music in an intimate space, Pausa Art House has it all.
“Pausa is the Italian word for pause,” Jon says. “That’s what we encourage you to do when you come by. Take a pause and appreciate what’s around you.”
Pausa is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6pm-12am. This weekend the Jazz pianist Noche Latina is set to perform on Friday night (5/22 at 6pm) and bassist/composer, Joe Goehle performs with the Cerebral People Project on Saturday (5/23 at 6pm).
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