String-Sessions at Club Continental

by Rick Grant
In a rare excursion, I visited the Club Continental in Orange Park to check out String-Sessions, a jazz trio that was performing for the members in the dining room for last Saturday night. Clearly, when one thinks of the Club Continental, one conjures up a high class restaurant and club with old Florida charm and fine cuisine. As it turned out, both the restaurant and trio were top notch. It was a fantastic Valentine treat for my wife Elaine and me.
The taut trio of String-Session showcases schooled musicians, with acclaimed jazz guitarist Dennis Kiszka, Kerry Rifkin on trumpet and euphonium, and Julio De La Manana on Latin Percussion. The band performs up tempo jazz avoiding the cliches and overplayed standards. The group fuses blues and bossa nova from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Latin jazz of Emuir Deodato, Cal Tjader, Sergio Mendes, Santana, and many others. I especially enjoyed the group’s arrangements of their bossa nova repertoire.
The trio setup allows the players to improvise featuring Dennis and Kerry trading off solos. Julio is an accomplished percussion player who keeps his trusty snare drum on the side for certain songs. On most songs, Kerry plays the melody on trumpet while Dennis comps. Then each artist gets a chance to improvise. I like this scaled down trio concept because everyone has to work hard and play at a high degree of skill.
Of course, the musicians know that they are hired to provide background music for the diners. However, there are people listening who appreciate the musicianship and the band’s lively sound. String-Sessions also features soul and urban jazz and many selections for dancing and listening. They play jazz made popular in the 1960s by such popular artists as Ramsey Lewis. It’s a classy sound for the Club Continental members and anyone who likes quality music.
Since it was Valentine’s Day, the theme was a romantic evening of fine food and dancing. The band was perfect for that special event. I didn’t see anyone dancing, but we left before people had finished their dinners and martinis. I dare say there were couples slow dancing later in the evening. The complete skinny on String-Sessions is at
The special Valentine’s Day menu was a four course gourmet meal. We chose the duck soup, steamed oysters Rockefeller, (someone might get lucky) salad, and we ordered the Sliced Filet of Beef Roulade filled with Wild mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese with Creamed Potatoes and Sauteed Broccclini. It was delicious. The meat was smothered in a subtle sauce that perfectly complimented the tender beef. Obviously, the chef knows how to combine spices in a nuanced sauce that brings out the flavors of the beef but doesn’t overwhelm the taste buds.
The Club Continental is a First Coast landmark built in 1923. It’s for members only, but guests are encouraged to come out and see its old Florida charm and sample the fine cuisine. The monthly dues are $35.00 after an initiation fee of $400.00. The monthly food and beverage minimum is $25.00. Amenities include three swimming pools with the original cabana atmosphere of early Florida before the developers swooped in and raped the land.
There are 22 overnight guest rooms, seven tennis courts, and the Riverhouse Pub. The club serves lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday and Sunday Brunch These menus change monthly so the master chef can create his award winning dishes. A monthly newsletter keeps members informed of upcoming events such as musical evenings, special holiday functions, and various member parties.
In these times of economic woes, it’s nice to know that if one wants class, there is a place to go in the region. Log onto for all things Continental!