When a patron ventures into the jazz bistro Snug Harbor, it is easy to see how apt the name is. The ceilings are low. The bar is intimate. The burgers are great. The staff is pleasant and familiar. The music is consistent and good. A lot of this can be attributed to Snug Harbor's owner, George Brumat, who died on Saturday, July 7, of an apparent heart attack. "Snug Harbor acted as George's living room," says club general manager Wesley Schmidt, "The looseness, the easiness, the largesse of Snug Harbor, that was George."
Brumat originally owned the restaurant Port of Call in the early 1980s, and then sold it and opened up the jazz club in the Marigny before renaming it Snug Harbor. Snug became known over the years not only as the place to hear "modern" jazz in New Orleans, but as a place where students in the many jazz studies programs in the city could come to hear the professionals and even get a gig. "He was compassionate toward the music and the musicians," recalls Ellis Marsalis who has a regular Friday gig at the club and to whom Brumat would occasionally refer to as "The Big E." "I remember when my son Jason had a little group in high school," continues Marsalis, "and George gave them a night to play and paid them. You can guess how many people they had, you know what I'm saying? George gave some support to a bunch of kids who were just getting to the point where they all stop at the same time. He also let all the university jazz students come in for free."
Susie Matheson, longtime door woman for the club agrees. "He was like a father to some of the young people there. He was amazingly generous, and yet he was many people's favorite curmudgeon. He could be a grumbly bear, but no one fell for it."
Schmidt also saw how the generosity benefited the club. "Lots of cats got their first gig here. These kids, instead of having to be waiters while they went to UNO or Delgado, got to play onstage and were incredibly thrilled by that. After they made it big, many of them like Nicholas Payton, Peter Martin, and Mark Whitfield, for instance, would come back and work for George," he says. Marsalis adds, "Snug Harbor had a fairly lengthy track record of who came through the club. Snug became a lynchpin of the main stream of modern jazz in America."
Pat Jolly, long time music photographer and friend of Brumat's, says, "George had impeccable taste and an excellent ear. He knew when someone was playing something special, even when he was in the office. He'd go 'Wow, did you hear that?' He revered the musicians and their talent. He ran the club from his heart to support the musicians."