For a quarter of a century, Patrick Arena sang into the night in clubs and cabarets of New York City. Places like Don't Tell Mama, The 88s and the Jazz Center of New York.
But in 2000, Mr. Arena, 61, returned to his roots in Washington, Pa., to take care of his ailing father.
"I decided to stay," he said. "New York got to be old after all that time."
The music, however, doesn't age. In the hands -- and the voice -- of someone who loves it, jazz is as vibrant and vital as it was decades ago.
Tonight, it comes to life again, as Mr. Arena sings songs from what he calls "the great American standard songbook -- the '40s, '50s and '60s" at The Fairmont, Downtown.
Mr. Arena grew up in Washington listening to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton and others. As he told Post-Gazette writer Nate Guidry in an interview a few years ago, "I heard all these great people early on, and that's what I love."
As a kid, he was a tap dancer in a troupe that regularly performed in Atlantic City. But it was the singing that Mr. Arena truly loved.
After completing high school, he studied classical voice for three years at Duquesne University. He then moved to New York to pursue a career in musical theater, but he soon realized that culture wasn't for him.
"I just didn't like the theater and the theater people," he said. "I also didn't like being at auditions where there were 300 people in line. I made the choice to just sing and study more."
The years in New York were good ones. But he has found a comfortable place for himself -- and his jazz -- back in Western Pennsylvania.
Each Friday night, for example, he hosts a radio show from Washington & Jefferson College, where he is director of the campus station.
"It's Big Daddy Jazz Radio, from 7 to 10 p.m.," he said. "It's at 91.7 FM. It doesn't come in real good in Pittsburgh, but it can be heard online at www.wnjr.org."
And a couple of times a month, he puts himself behind a microphone in front of a live audience. He's performed in the lobby of The Fairmont -- right outside Andys, the hotel's lounge -- several times.
"The Fairmont is a wonderful listening place," he said. "They have those big couches and chairs there. It's a beautiful space. It's actually the best jazz gig in town right now. A lot of people come to listen."
Seating more than 40 people comfortably, the lobby flows into the lounge, where people and drinks amiably mix. You'll find the travelers chatting with the regulars, all while Mr. Arena shares a little Sinatra.
"I try to balance familiar songs with some things that are kind of a surprise," he said. "I also do an original tune once in a while."
Tonight he will be joined by Daniel May on piano and Jeff Grubbs on bass.
The Fairmont is at 510 Market Square, and the trio will be performing from 7:30 to 10:30. There is no cover.
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/