Arts and Culture

Hanah Jon Taylor is a champion for Madison jazz

Café CODA hopes to reopen on Williamson St.

Hanah Jon Taylor—a legendary jazz saxophone, flute and wind synthesizer player known throughout the United States, Europe, Scandinavia and the West Indies—says, “as an artist, I work earnestly at my craft as if each day is my last day to play jazz.”

For the past 25 years in Madison, Taylor has shared jazz in a variety of ways—as a practitioner, artist, educator and producer—while still searching for a venue in Madison that could consistently showcase fellow jazz artists. 

Taylor has a vision for a jazz venue he won’t compromise even if it has put him on an ongoing search for a place that can offer patrons excellent music, comfortable seating, a full bar and tasty food.

He considers Café CODA—his jazz club in the former home of The Fountain at 113 W. Dayton St.—a success despite its being open only from February through mid-August of this year. The grand opening of the club on March 4 featured two sold-out shows by Chicago’s Dee Alexander Quartet. Taylor showcased national and international artists on Friday and Saturday nights, but otherwise made room for high school drummers, University of Wisconsin–Madison jazz students, Latin jazz jam sessions, salsa dancing and spoken-word nights for the likes of hip-hop artist Rob “Dz” Franklin and this writer, who is also a poet.

As the latest jazz venue to lose its lease, Café CODA closed to make way for a hotel development project. Taylor says he hopes to reopen the club in February at 1222 Williamson St. 

Taylor says previous jazz venues have failed, not because of unsound business plans or personal issues, but because landlords decided to use their properties in other ways. 

Taylor says Café CODA is named after a passage at the end of a musical composition, when musicians come together to play the final passage. A coda is not only significant in connecting and unifying a piece of music, it is what Taylor dreams will happen one day in Madison—musicians and audiences partnering together to keep jazz alive. 

Taylor says he’s undaunted. “Madison is ready for good jazz in a dedicated space,” he insists.

Fabu Phillis Carter—Fabu, as she is professionally known—is a writer and educator who served as Madison’s poet laureate from 2008 to 2012.

Taylor’s Timeline

1993: Hanah Jon Taylor moves from Chicago to Madison to be close to his child. He still travels to play jazz in Europe.

1994: Taylor is hired at Ward-Brodt music store in Fitchburg, beginning his dual career of playing and promoting jazz.

1995: Taylor creates Surreal Serenade, a weekly avant-garde jam session at Slammers, now closed.

1995-1998: He runs House of Soundz on Williamson Street to put on concerts and programs benefiting the Wil-Mar and Goodman community centers. The landlord refuses to renew the lease for House of Soundz after two break-ins in which musical instruments owned by Taylor are stolen.

2003-2007: With Susan Fox, Taylor operates the Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts on Dayton Street, a space for jazz, poetry, dance and other performing arts.

2007-2014: Taylor teaches music history at the Madison Media Institute. 

2017: Taylor’s jazz club Café CODA opens in February and closes in August to make way for development of a boutique hotel.


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