WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A new music venue is open in West Haven, bringing up-and-coming jazz and R&B artists to the stage.

Music Back Then has the feel of an intimate jazz club of “Years Gone By.” But, just as compelling as the club itself is the backstory of the two men who made it all possible.

Tucked away in the back of a small shopping plaza is the sound of some of the best jazz — this side of Bourban Street.

This space hasn’t always looked classy — over the years, it’s been everything from a gym to even a church. Now, however, things are stepped-up to a new level.

“I wanted to have a shock and awe, in other words, when you look outside, it’s like, ‘What’s that place?'” Craig Hargrove of Music Back Then said. “It takes you to a whole different place, you forget where you’re at.”

Music Back Then was really decades in the making.

Co-founders Hargrove and Anthony Willoughby started out as bandmates in the ’70s. But, even in those early days, the pair had dreams of making a bigger footprint in the music business.

“We had always played in a band, but you always want to take it to the next level,” Willoughby said.

The club is intimate — holding about 150 people — which means no one is very far away from the stage.

“When they come here, especially for a jazz and R&B concert, they’re going to come into a classy, relaxing atmosphere, they’re going to have a good time,” co-owner Gladys Cummings said.

The performers who play here are not household names — yet. However, there’s no mistaking they are major talents, like saxophonist Brian Lenair and singer Lori Williams.

So, you might just be able to catch a rising star before they make that big breakthrough.

“More importantly, it’s more quality talent, than quantity,” Hargrove said.\

“They just perfect their craft so they can go to the next level, and we want to be a part of it,” Willoughby said.

They’re honing in on bringing the feel of an old-style club to crowds that really appreciate the way music was “back then.”

Music Back Then can also be rented out for private events, with the idea of making the space available as a resource for the community.

Hear about upcoming shows here.