Jazz Dispatch #1
The original Muse Lounge was opened in downtown Auckland in 1968 by a young couple from Antwerp, Cedric and Gretchen Hooves. Cedric Hooves was a qualified architect; Gretchen trained as a flautist and worked briefly as a photographic model before settling on a career in interior design. The newlyweds emigrated to New Zealand in 1967 to set up a business importing the latest European furniture, leasing commercial premises on Fanshawe Street to display their wares.
This new underground showroom, however, soon became better known as a place where writers, artists and musicians would gather to socialise with other members of Auckland's bohemian community. Together these loud and sometimes overly colourful crowds would smoke weed and listen to jazz into the small hours as they discussed the outre concepts of the day.
It was Gretchen who named these gatherings the Muse Lounge after the experimental fusion combo led by legendary drummer and vibes man Trip Checker. A jazz buff since childhood, Gretchen had followed the Muse Lounge since their first performances in Paris and Montreal. When the Muse Lounge proper opened a few blocks away on the corner of Wolfe and Albert Streets in 1970, Checker himself joined the house players for a fifteen minute improv set that included versions of 'Blue Skies / de Gier' and 'Gretchen's Hat', a fierce 7/4 workout dedicated to the young Mrs Hooves.
The property boom in Auckland's central business district saw the Muse Lounge move up to split-level premises in the Whyte Tower and a limited licence in 1976, but the ambience and the decor, famously, remain. For over thirty years the sculpted oval lobby of the Muse Lounge has been the first stop for young people, tourists and those in the know. Drop in any time after sunset and you'll find interesting people of all ages scattered across the bubble chairs and curving white couches. Cedric, grey haired in his kimono, still likes to drop into the sound booth and personally tweak the levels. Gretchen likes to take a seat by the bar where she can smoke and watch the crowd. All sorts of bands play there now but the place still has that twilight vibe. The girls smile and the boys tap their feet. Talk in the Muse Lounge makes music you hear nowhere else.
-- Janwillem Dorin, Jazz Dispatch / June 1999