Various Artists, Buffa’s Live from the Back Room, Volume 1 (Independent)

Buffa's Live from the Back Room Volume 1, album cover

Buffa’s Lounge lives on Esplanade Avenue, situated between boho Marigny and tourist Quarter(s), a location that perfectly mirrors its aesthetic. The sounds that emanate from the cozy/tiny back room of this institution are boozy but cerebral, accessible yet agreeably quirky, and this new comp of live performances captures that headspace. The jazz is seductive, the rock is ragged, the pop is twee, the jokes are pretty funny. Even the lone spoken-word offering here is short and actually poetic. (Thaddeus Conti is the cream of a scene most tourists aren’t even aware exists.)

More remarkable yet, the room itself is the real star of the show, and not just because it has such excellent taste. The sound of this disc, promised to be the first in a series, is absolutely perfect, an ambiance so small you can hear the walls, yet clear and direct and based around the room’s signature upright piano. Brooklyn hipster expats the Mumbles put classic boogie to great effect on “Old Laces,” Davis “McAlary” Rogan makes it funky with “By the Time,” and Tom McDermott brilliantly uses it to essay his ”Chopin Stomp,” which is exactly what you hope it is. Gardenia Moon’s “At the Bar” may be a little flaky and Ruby Moon’s “Smoke a Little Reefer with Me” a little precious but that’s sort of par for the course for a place like Buffa’s. The characters are a little outsized sometimes but they’re all unique. And a drunken sad sing-a-long like Gina Forsyth’s “Saint Anthony Lost & Found” says all you need to know about neighborhood-bar culture and how it keeps some folks alive. A NOLA Knitting Factory? Maybe.