The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Alhambra Irish House jazzes it up with special performances

Alex Hall
Jazzist Ashley Jemison puts her whole body into her music, swinging and stepping while she plays. Jemison calls playing jazz a stress reliever, playing tunes while she dances her worries away.

The burned brick walls might have seemed sad on a cloudy Sunday morning. But on Saturday, Nov. 26, the sounds of jazz music filled these hundred-year-old walls with a soul they hadn’t seen since the 1950s.

“Jazz helps people out. I think it’s as therapeutic for others as it is for me,” said Ashley Jemison, the jazz musician who played for the establishment.

A jazz player since middle school, Jemison was introduced to the genre by jazz musicians like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. But she didn’t always have such a passion for jazz.

“It wasn’t until about three years ago when I really started taking music seriously,” Jemison said.

Likewise, Alhambra has gone through several changes throughout history.

The Alhambra Irish House was originally built in 1896, serving as both a saloon and a theater in the port that was early Redwood City, California. It was first closed down due to the Prohibition Act of 1920, and in 2001, it closed down again due to a fire that broke out during a refurbishment effort. By 2009, the popular building was once again put to work as the Martins West Gastropub, a Scottish-style pub.

Listen while you read.

Erik Barry eventually took ownership of the building in 2019 to turn it into Alhambra Irish House, becoming the second Irish-style business that Barry owns.

According to Barry’s wife, Erika Barry, Alhambra Irish House made the decision to proudly continue displaying its burn marks and 127-year-old pillars from the original construction, in addition to decorating the building with posters from famous Irish writers and musicians.

“It’s really that authentic Irish food and drink people come here for that Irish hospitality,” said Danny Barry, Erik Barry’s third son.

As jazz filled the Sunday gloom, something beautiful happened in Alhambra.

The chatter grew louder. The people started smiling. The mood began to lighten. And somehow, the lonely atmosphere at the bar had transformed into a joyful ambiance, full of laughter and cheer.

“There are different connections with music. Some songs can be nostalgic, or sometimes a song can move someone to tears because of a memory it reminds them of. But I hope that in the end, my music leaves people with a sense of joy or touches their heart in some way,” Jemison said.

This can also be seen at Carlmont, where jazz connects students. In the case of Nicholas Oey, the president of the Jazz Club, jazz brought him something he lacked in his early days at Carlmont: a community.

In my transition to high school, jazz really helped me find a community. It gave me a place where I could spend my time, meet with all these new people, and play with these groups I’d never otherwise have the chance to play with.

— Nicholas Oey

Just like Jemison, Oey found his beginnings in music during middle school and managed to bring his hobby to others. Oey has helped bring communities together and raise money as part of Nathan’s Fearless Five, a student-run jazz band created in 2021 for social justice.

“I like it. Jazz is fun. I want to give other people the chance to feel that too,” said Oey.

Being a musician as long as she has, Jemison hopes to join a circuit someday, but until then, she’ll keep playing for the people to spread her name.

A genre’s exact “soul” can vary widely, depending on where you look. But these two musicians are in perfect agreement: jazz is for everyone, regardless of whether they walk through the Alhambra doors or not.


Ashley Jemison’s music can be found on YouTube and Spotify, among other places. You can check out her website here.

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About the Contributor
Alex Hall, Staff Writer
Alex Hall: The man, the myth, the legend (in progress). Alex (Class of 2026) covers news in Carlmont Journalism, enjoys programming, and is a proud Carlmont Robotics member. You'll find him complaining about Spanish or "expanding his horizons" on the internet. He loves taking pictures of local flora, although he might run away if you catch him.

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