By Kaitlyn Kelley
The Youngstown community is encouraged to sit down and listen to local jazz musicians and enjoy a cocktail at Frieda’s, Youngstown’s oldest jazz club that recently reopened after undergoing renovations.
Frieda’s opened for the first time in 1980, according to previous club owner Alfreda “Frieda” Anderson Martin. But due to her declining health, the jazz club closed for six months in 2016 so she could try to sell the building.
“I love people. I really enjoy what I do and try to give the people in the community something they can enjoy and like,” she said about her passion for Frieda’s.
Martin said it was difficult for her to find a buyer previously, but that changed when local musician Howard Howell decided to buy the building in 2019.
Blues, jazz and R&B are all genres that have been played on the club’s small stage.
Howard Howell & The Point 5 Band, in which Howell was the keyboardist, was a group that frequented the location.
Howell said his love for playing at the club, his longtime friendship with Martin and his passion for jazz music pushed him to buy the club from Martin when she no longer had the means to run it herself.
Giving people a reason to love Youngstown was one of Martin’s goals, and Howell plans to stay as true to that goal as possible.
“A lot of people will drive to Cleveland [to] places like Nighttown and the House of Blues to hear quality music, and I want to bring some of those bands here,” Howell said.
Despite wanting to bring in bands outside of Youngstown, local bands will still be a focus for Frieda’s, according to Howell.
Nadya Stratton, a Youngstown State University alumna, played on Freida’s stage in the past, and she believes it shaped her as a musician.
“I started playing with [Howell] and his band at Frieda’s during my last semester at YSU, December 2018,” she said. “I loved the vibe at Frieda’s and the people there.”
Howell said he spent six months renovating the club by himself since he has experience in construction.
When Howell finally revealed the results, Martin said she was speechless and that the new look was in line with the vision she had for the club from the beginning.
Now that the inside is renovated, Howell said his next project will be making the exterior more inviting with a mural on the side of the building.
He said he wants to ensure the 40-year-old club gives the community some flare and brings more people who love jazz together.
“It’s important to have more places to play jazz anywhere because it gives people a chance to share their interests and have a wonderful conversation either through music or catching up with friends,” Stratton said.
Frieda’s is located at 381 W Rayen Ave., and it is open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. The club hosts live music three nights a week.