The New Jazz Age: A Night at Bungalow Jazz

Michelle Sullivan

It's Sunday night, and Becky Ogden's place is rocking. Music lovers sit shoulder to shoulder in rows of mismatched chairs, tapping their toes and rhythmically bobbing their heads to the spunky melody that fills the big, old East Columbus house. A five-piece jazz band entertains the animated audience for two hours with a loosely planned set and rousing improvisation. Their stage? Odgen's living room floor.

This is Bungalow Jazz. Ogden, a semi-retired elementary school teacher, has been hosting sporadic concerts in her home since Columbus Music Hall, the concert and events venue she opened in 1988, closed in 2008. A ragtime pianist who played an annual show at her venue didn't want to cancel after she shuttered the business, so he held the next one at Ogden's house.

About 70 people showed up for that inaugural concert. Friends brought food to share, and those who wanted to imbibe brought alcohol. Everyone left a donation for the musicians at the door. That's how the informal event has run ever since.

"I have no plan, no organization," says Ogden, 74. "I just sort of throw it out there, and hopefully people come. You never know who will show up." She says she meets someone new every time.

"It's monkey business," Ogden says. "It's just house music." She emphasizes the word "just"-as if Bungalow Jazz weren't something special.