Rembrandt’s owner Bob Maile sits in front of the on-loan Yamaha baby grand piano that is the centerpiece of live performances on Thursday nights.
Rembrandt’s owner Bob Maile sits in front of the on-loan Yamaha baby grand piano that is the centerpiece of live performances on Thursday nights.
I must confess something about this column. I have an ulterior motive! I want to see more thriving music venues in Madison, and more quality live music for all of us to enjoy. It’s my hope that these columns will help build awareness and appreciation for the amazing talent we already have in our community, and the potential for more.

That’s why I’m so excited about Rembrandt’s Gallery and Wine Bar stepping up and adding live music to the mix. Now there’s a new place to enjoy a glass of wine, engage in lively conversation, and listen to classical or jazz music.

This story starts with a very special piano. Paul Dills is a longtime “weekend resident” of Madison, and a loyal patron of the Wine Bar. A few years ago he inherited his mother’s piano, a top-of-the-line, concert quality Yamaha baby grand with the Disklavier auto-play option (similar to a player piano, but much more nuanced.) I looked up the price and these run about $50,000!

Not being a player himself, Paul approached Rembrandt’s owner Bob Maile with a proposition. He offered to loan the piano to Rembrandt’s if Bob would start hosting live music. You don’t have to twist Bob’s arm when a great opportunity comes along!

“The fact is, I used to resist having music here,” Bob said. “I didn’t want it to overwhelm the conversation and the relaxed atmosphere. But this amazing piano, which of course is acoustic and unamplified, is a perfect fit for us.”

Bob built a custom stage for the piano, and is currently featuring live performances on Thursday nights. (Check out Yvonne Davis tonight. She’ll be taking requests and playing popular standards.) He also envisions special Wednesday performances in the future. Other nights the piano’s unique auto-play feature provides lovely background music.

Rembrandt’s just celebrated its fourth anniversary and has expanded seating capacity and food offerings steadily. In addition to wood-fired pizza and appetizers, steaks, salads and burgers have been added to the permanent menu. Now with the addition of live music, the atmosphere is even more social and convivial.

HOT TIP OF THE WEEK:

This topic may not seem music related at first, but I assure you it is. The Madison City Council soon will vote on whether to add five more liquor licenses in the downtown district. Rembrandt’s is currently licensed to only sell wine, and Bob Maile wants one of these new licenses so he can expand his business.

“Not everyone prefers wine with their dinner. Some people want a beer or a cocktail. A full liquor license is crucial to our future success, and it will lead to more live music at Rembrandt’s,” Bob told me.

The new liquor licenses are specifically intended to attract more full service restaurants to downtown and (this is where my interest comes in) create more potential venues for live music!

The vote on this issue is Dec. 18, so now is the time to express your support or opposition. This story on The Madison Courier website at madisoncourier.com has a link to a copy of the resolution and accompanying documents you can read. Go online to madison-in.gov/116/city-council where you’ll find the names, email links and some phone numbers for council members. I can tell you from experience they will read your email and they do want your opinion.

Charlie Rohlfing is a stalwart of the RiverRoots Festival committee, a campfire guitar strummer, and a partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening. Find him out and about or at charlie@madisoncourier.com