NYACK, N.Y. -- Maureen’s Jazz Cellar may have opened in Nyack in early September, but the seed for the entertainment outlet was planted more than five decades ago behind the piano of Maureen Budway’s family home in Pittsburgh.
David Budway and his wife, Brianne Higgins, sought to create a venue to honor the legacy of Maureen, David’s sister and extraordinary jazz vocalist and musician. Maureen, 51, died on Jan. 12, 2015 in Pittsburgh after a courageous two-decade fight with breast cancer.
“We wanted to create a space under her name where we would honor all of the music and things Maureen was famous for,’’ David said. “Jazz, classical, rock and roll. She did amazing impersonations. She was great at comedy. Maureen’s Jazz Cellar will have all of that entertainment.”
Maureen’s Jazz Cellar, located at 2 North Broadway in Nyack, captures the spirit of Budway’s remarkable talent. She performed songs in Portuguese, Brazilian, Italian and several other languages. She taught at Duquesne University until shortly before her death. First and foremost, however, Maureen held perfect pitch on every note she sang.
“We did so many musical styles,’’ David said. “In all of them, she knew how to bring the lyrics to life. Many of the great jazz singers today marveled about the way Maureen could sing. She was a freak, a genius.”
The musical talent of Maureen and David started at their Pittsburgh home, where they grew up listening to classical music and improvised Lebanese music. Their interests expanded from there to many other musical genres.
David said he enjoyed working with his sister musically, and they fed off of each other. “We had a telepathic music intimacy connection,’’ he said. “Playing for so many years together, I could play songs in keys that I never dreamed of. She learned how to improvise. No matter what the song was, she could sing perfect all the time.”
When Maureen died, David, his sister Kathy and wife Brianne -- a comedian who lost her parents within the past three years -- wanted to find a way to demonstrate their family’s commitment to the arts. They found space in Nyack, and Higgins set about designing it. David said the community lacked a venue where adults could hear terrific music.
“There’s no place for a person of my age to go on a Friday night, have a great glass of wine and not hear loud music,’’ David said. “We believe that people will now feel like there’s a place in my neighborhood where they can do that.”
The Nyack location also affords Maureen’s Jazz Cellar the opportunity to bring in visitors from Westchester County and Connecticut. The location is much more convenient than New York City, and the range of performers offers something for everyone. Click here for upcoming events.
“We’re a venue where we can help artists come find a place to play,’’ David said. “We’re finding out we’ve became an amazing place for people who just don’t want to drive to the city. They can cross the bridge and come down to the Cellar and experience an atmosphere of a speakeasy. It’s going to feel like you’re in Greenwich Village, but you’ll know that you’re in Nyack.”
David and Maureen performed together in New York City for several years before she returned to western Pennsylvania. Even while she fought breast cancer, she continued to teach and sing. “It just kept coming back,’’ David said. “She fought it with everything she had.”
David said his sister did not know of his plans to start an artistic community named after her. “This is something she’d be very proud of,’’ he said. “She was my best friend, my confidante. This is my way of grieving the loss of my sister. I didn’t want her to die and not be remembered. It’s a deeply rooted personal feeling of her amazing talent. I want people to hear her, to know her, and it’s my way of honoring her and all the styles of music that she loved.”
For more information on Maureen’s Jazz Cellar, click here to visit its website.