Spyro Gyra was the first band to perform at the Tralf in its Theater Place location, and was a mainstay at the club back in the 1970s when it was located in a basement at Main Street and Fillmore Avenue.
Tonight, the Buffalo-born jazz fusion band returns to perform for the Tralf's 30th anniversary celebration.
"It was an honor to open the club and it's cool we're back for the 30th anniversary," says Spyro Gyra saxophonist Jay Beckenstein. "Anytime I play Buffalo it's a special time. I've never let go of my love for the town and its people."
This weekend's anniversary festivities includes the show at 8 tonight by Spyro Gyra and two shows Saturday by the Whispers. Tonight's event also aims to celebrate the people who figured in the Tralf's dramatic past.
"We're going to honor all the former owners and operators," says Jeremy Hoyle of Entertainment Services International, which has been operating the Tralf for eight years, booking artists and presenting shows. (The club's current owner is Tom Barone, ESI founder and president.) "We have people coming in from all over the United States, people that have been involved here."
Those honored guests include founders of the original Tralfamadore, Edward and Robert Lawson; saxophonist Bobby Militello, who owned the Tralf for some years; Ed Smith, who bought the Tralf in 1990 and dubbed it the Marquee at the Tralf; Fred Fadal, the coordinator of the original project design and construction effort; and former operator Alan Dewart.
Hoyle promises patrons will like what they see.
"We can't wait for people to see how the Tralf is thriving once again," Hoyle says. "Our venue has undergone many remarkable improvements in the past few years. Technical, cosmetic, operational and otherwise.
"A lot of people walk in and ask, ‘What happened here?' " he says. "There used to be an atrium outside the hall. Now there are government offices. So the outside of the Tralf is definitely different. It's still undergoing renovations.
"Inside the Tralf, we put in a new bar this week. We put in a brand-new sound system this week. We have absolute top-of-the-line equipment here now. I know, everyone says that," Hoyle laughs. "But we actually do. And the place just looks different. Just last week I said to Tom [Barone], ‘This place is something we're proud of.' He has done so much inside. The way it looks. The way it's lit. There's just been so much done to it. There's been so many improvements. It's something for Buffalo to be proud of."
The Tralfamadore Cafe's old basement location is fondly remembered by many. But the 400-seat "new" venue, opened in 1982 in a renovated Theater Place building, has earned its own place in history. Bigger than most clubs, smaller than most concert halls, it allows patrons to sit at tables, cabaret style, and enjoy drinks and food. The concept may be simple, but it is a rarity in Buffalo.
The Tralf has been unpredictable over the years, as it has gone through different owners. It occasionally went dark for long periods of time, its fortunes a topic of Buffalo gossip.
For Barone, the Tralf has "been a fantastic club since the first day it opened. Every owner has brought something that has made the club a little bit better. Our hope is to return it to its original plan – to make it the best music venue in Buffalo and a great place for fans to see music up close and personal."
This weekend is a great place to start, and Beckenstein, for one, is excited to return, saying it will be "a love fest."
"I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and reconnecting with Buffalo."