Jake Adams remembers when a 15-year-old Jill Scott tried to sing in his North Philly jazz bar, ballroom, and restaurant, New Barber’s Hall. It was 1987, and the venue was riding high with intimate performances by such jazz and R&B stars as Dottie Smith, Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, Billy Paul, and Grover Washington Jr.
Scott walked through the hall’s glass doors with a cadre of musicians. Noticing that she appeared to be younger than 21, Adams inquired about her age. It was revealed that she was a minor, and Adams told the band that Scott couldn’t sing in his establishment until she was of age.
Turning away a singer was pretty unusual, but having owned Barber’s Hall since 1978, Adams was more in the business of presenting the likes of Isaac Hayes, Patti LaBelle, and the Temptations, while Joe Frazier was a regular patron. To Adams, the bar is his life’s work. This is why the 77-year-old has resisted tempting bids from developers of up to $3.2 million for his building near Temple University’s campus.