Hill Bistro finds shows to be all that jazz

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Don’t ask Rale Micic if he’s free Wednesday nights. He already has plans.

A jazz guitarist and Riverdale resident, Micic hosts The Hill Bistro’s weekly jazz series. There he not only performs, Micic invites local and world-renowned musicians to share the stage with him.

The jazz series began at The Hill in January when the Riverdale Avenue restaurant’s owner, Iggy Khoury, was looking for something to complete his eatery’s atmosphere. 

“It was part of my whole theme of the place having a Manhattan feel,” he said, “giving Riverdale the taste of Manhattan.”

Khoury originally imagined The Hill as a piano bar with performances all week. Logistically, however, a piano just won’t fit into the confines of the restaurant.

“The next best thing that I thought was a live jazz band,” Khoury said. 

He reached out to Micic and his wife Alma to see if they were interested in putting together a series. Over the last six months, Micic helped do just that, alternating between Wednesday nights at 8 that feature a duo of jazz guitarists, and others that have a trio of performers. Notable acts so far have included jazz guitarists Ed Cherry and Peter Bernstein.

Since then, Micic said, the series has garnered a positive response from the community.

“I think people love it because it’s great,” he said. “It’s here in the neighborhood, they get to hear renowned musicians come to the neighborhood and play.”

Micic also acknowledged other jazz series, like Linda’s Jazz Nights monthly show at nearby An Beal Bocht Café — where he’s performed in the past — just goes to show that bringing live music to the community is “something Riverdale needs.”

Khoury has similar thoughts on the benefits of having jazz music available to customers. And it saves that rather long trip into Manhattan in order to find that experience.

“It keeps people in the neighborhood,” Khoury said. “They don’t have to travel into the city. I think that’s definitely a plus for our neighborhood.”

The Hill has been around for about nine months at 3541 Riverdale Ave., and Wednesdays are becoming one of the more “solid” days of the week in terms of business, Khoury said. That’s important because he’s always mindful of the struggles it takes to create a successful restaurant while working on making improvements one step at a time. 

He’s even expanded music offerings to Friday nights when The Hill hosts soul and funk music.

“I just want it to be more solid,” Khoury said. “I want to give people the experience that they deserve. I think it’ll all come together with the jazz on Wednesdays. It’ll be very helpful.”

For Micic, the last six months has been a chance to expose people to jazz, and he’s even picked up a few things about himself along the way.

“I learn as a musician every time I perform,” he said. “Just having the ability to play with such great musicians is definitely a learning experience.”

Micic hopes the weekly music series “takes off and just keeps going,” and that restaurants like The Hill take note and either start — or continue — bringing live music to its customers.

“It’s good for people to come out and enjoy the art and have more culture,” Micic said. “There’s no reason not to have it in Riverdale.”

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