Harold Kaufman dies; first love was jazz music

Harold Kaufman owned Harold's Rogue & Jar Club in the District, a hot spot for jazz lovers in the 1970s.
Harold Kaufman owned Harold's Rogue & Jar Club in the District, a hot spot for jazz lovers in the 1970s. (Susan Irwin)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010

Harold Kaufman, who was trained as a lawyer, then became a psychiatrist and college professor while moonlighting as a jazz musician and nightclub owner, died March 10 of heart disease at his home in Washington. He was 77.

As he followed his restless mind from one field to another, the enduring constant in Dr. Kaufman's life was always his love of music. He was an accomplished jazz pianist who, during the 1970s, owned Harold's Rogue & Jar Club, which became an intimate gathering spot for the city's jazz lovers in the 1970s.

Throughout the week, such internationally prominent musicians as Tommy Flanagan, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz and Zoot Sims appeared at the Dupont Circle club, which also featured top local talent, including saxophonists Andrew White, Buck Hill and Marshall Keys. On Sunday nights, Dr. Kaufman took over the bandstand, leading his own group.

"He was a real force on the jazz scene in the '70s," said Tommy Cecil, who sometimes played bass with Dr. Kaufman. "It was a real haven for jazz musicians."

After hours, Dr. Kaufman sometimes brought musicians back to his Georgetown home for jam sessions that lasted until dawn.

Dr. Kaufman was born June 28, 1932, in Elizabeth, N.J., and began studying the piano at age 4. He became enamored of jazz when he heard his brother fooling around with a rollicking boogie-woogie beat. At Harvard, from which he graduated in 1954, "the main thing I learned ... was playing jazz piano," he told The Washington Post in 1976.

He went on to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1957, and briefly practiced law before moving to Brussels to study medicine. But jazz quickly took precedence over his medical studies. After becoming music director of the U.S. pavilion at the 1958 Brussels world's fair, Dr. Kaufman moved on to Paris to play piano in jazz clubs.

"I lived in a little hotel for $2 a night with bath, ate at the Deux Magots, did the whole Paris thing," he told The Post in 1976. "They didn't call it dropping out yet. What I was, was a beat. I had the beard and everything."

Returning to the United States, he toured with trumpeter Chet Baker in 1963 while attending medical school at the University of California at San Francisco. He graduated in 1964, did a residency in psychiatry in New York and came to Washington in 1968 to work for the U.S. Public Health Service.

Dr. Kaufman had a private practice for many years and had two stints as a staff psychiatrist at St. Elizabeths Hospital before retiring in 2003. From 1969 to 1980, he taught law and psychiatry at Georgetown University's law school, consulted with the Justice Department and U.S. attorney's office and traveled throughout Eastern Europe evaluating mental health needs.

In 1972, he bought the Rogue & Jar -- the name was inherited from previous owners -- and made the 55-seat basement club on N Street a favorite jazz hangout. It had a fireplace and offered spaghetti dinners for $2.75.

"Bars like this serve a need for lonely people who don't have living rooms of their own," Dr. Kaufman told The Post.

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