Jazz is back in Honolulu! Statements like this, though seemingly exciting, are not popular with singer Azure McCall.
“I hear people say that. Where did it go?” asks McCall. “The venues are back. We never left. We struggled through everything.”
Afficionados of live music have suffered along with musicians over the years as live venues have dried up for what many believe is America’s greatest form of music. It hasn’t always been like that. For years Waikiki was filled with musical hot spots, but changing tastes and the high cost of business have caused most of the places to close - and left musicians scrambling for work.
“I don’t think there are a lot of venues that really support live music,” says Hawaii’s preeminent jazz singer. “They want to pay cheaply, or work one day a week. When you’re taking from the bottom of the barrel and paying bottom-of-the-barrel prices, that’s what you get.”
Hopefully, all that has changed with the opening of Deep Blue at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. The restaurant/jazz showroom is hoping to be the place for hot live music on Oahu. And to do that they have signed up McCall as their featured performer. She was even brought in early to make sure the music was done right.
“They just asked my opinion on musical equipment, stage size, sound acoustics,” she says. “They brought me in on the blueprints, asked my opinion on a lot of things. It was nice. Very nice for a change. Kind of like having my own club.”
McCall’s goal for the club is to have a place that will allow musicians to do more than just the same old thing.
“I want to establish a house band. Something consistent that can do shows and, you know, make it exciting. Most of the time when you’re in the jazz vein you just go to the club and everybody knows the same songs. When you have a club with something steady you can work on arrangements.”
Joining McCall, who’s on stage 7-10 p.m. every night but Tuesday and Saturday, will be standouts such as Tennyson Stephens, Steve Jones, Dean Taba, Rich Crandall, DeShannon Higa and anyone else who likes to play it hot and free, whether they’re local or brought in for special occasions. Melveen Leed will do an all-jazz set Dec. 17. But no matter who is playing, McCall’s message is the same: Just get out there and support the music.
“My focus is on spreading the music. People say, well, I don’t drink. But you don’t have to drink to go out to a club, do you? Just because you have a car don’t mean you can’t ride the bus.”
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