When restaurateur Rick Yoder opened the Triple Door in September, 2003, in the basement of his renowned downtown eatery, Wild Ginger, he had a hunch Seattle was ready for an upscale cabaret on the order of Manhattan’s Joe’s Pub.
Though the place had a rocky start, at first going head to head with Jazz Alley (and losing that battle), then taking a variety approach from comedy and burlesque to singer-songwriters and indie rock, Yoder’s gamble has paid off.
The club celebrates its 10th anniversary this month with a royal roster, a gallery of tailor-made anniversary cocktails and a drawing that will net one lucky customer a monthly pair of free tickets for a year.
One of the secrets to the Triple Door’s success is that it caters to an adult crowd that wants to listen. Combine that with a precision sound system, comfy seating and a rather magnificent light board, and you’ve got a winning formula in this 263-seat boîte.
“When people sit down, for some reason, I don’t know why, they’re more apt to pay attention,” says Scott Giampino, who’s been booking acts at the Triple Door almost since it opened.
Two artists meriting rapt attention this month are New Orleanians Aaron Neville, who plays Friday and Saturday, and Allen Toussaint, Monday.
Neville and Toussaint fit the Triple Door perfectly, in that they are roots rock ’n’ rollers whose elder status warrants quiet theatrical celebration.
Neville, 72, part of the venerable Neville Brothers family band, is probably best known for “Tell It Like It Is” and “Everybody Plays the Fool,” but the gossamer quaver of his falsetto has also graced TV commercials for the Red Cross and the cotton industry (“The Fabric of Our Lives”).
On his excellent new album, “My Story,” Neville applies that seductive voice to a smartly selected batch of early rock and R&B hits, including a generous helping of the Drifters: “Money Honey,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “This Magic Moment” and “Ruby Baby” (widely popularized by Dion).
But lest you think Neville’s show is an oldies-station countdown, be advised that it’s all about one distinctive artist highlighting the craft and subtlety behind these early classics.
Ditto for Toussaint, except he also wrote a bunch of them. Toussaint comes from a long New Orleans tradition of rollicking but elegant piano “professors” that goes back to Jelly Roll Morton and includes Professor Longhair, James Booker and, more recently, Harry Connick Jr.
At 75, Toussaint is in fine fettle on his new album, “Songbook,” which happens to have been recorded live at Joe’s Pub. Live, expect to hear such classics as “It’s Raining,” written for Irma Thomas; “Lipstick Traces,” with its piano rhythms rolling right out of Longhair; and the gorgeous “Southern Nights,” a hit for Glen Campbell. Hopefully, Toussaint will include with that song the sweet, spoken reminiscence about growing up in the South he offers on the album.
But even if he doesn’t, you’ll be able to hear every word at the Triple Door, as it moves into its second decade.
The Triple Door 10th Anniversary Shows
Aaron Neville, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday ($70-$90), Allen Toussaint, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Monday ($25-$45) at The Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle (206-838-4333 or www.thetripledoor.net).