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Blue Note Hawai‘i is Making Waikīkī a Jazz Destination for Locals

As Blue Note Hawai‘i turns one, it’s hitting its groove.


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Kenny G
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BLUE NOTE HAWAI‘I

When Grammy-award-winning trumpeter Chris Botti emerges from the side room by the stage, he’s wearing a smart blue suit that complements the room. He’s holding a 1939 Martin Committee large-bore Handcraft trumpet and is accompanied by a half-dozen other artists on piano, drums, guitar and bass. Tonight is a celebration. Not just for Botti and the band (“We’re ready to let loose,” he warns the crowd, to cheers and applause), but also for this venue. At Blue Note Hawai‘i, tonight is its one-year anniversary.

 

Last year, Blue Note Hawai‘i opened in the main showroom of the Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort, which hosted four decades of performances by the Society of Seven. The 9,000-square-foot space needed a big makeover, but a $3.5 million renovation turned the aging club into a sleek and elegant venue. Today, Blue Note Hawai‘i seats more than 300 guests for two performances, at 6:30 and 9 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year.

 

Blue Note Entertainment Group president Steve Bensusan says, “What everybody told me before we went in is that Waikīkī isn’t a locals destination; people don’t really like to go into Waikīkī. But they’ve really embraced [Blue Note Hawai‘i]. It’s great to see.”

 

Sure, there’s a $10 food or drink minimum per set, but with stars that include Chaka Khan, Kenny G and Herb Alpert, it’s a reasonable price for a concert with front-row seats.

 

Blue Note Hawai‘i keeps up the tradition of the famed New York club by showcasing incredible talent. Last year alone, performers included Chick Corea, Kamasi Washington and the Roy Hargrove Quintet, as well as local artists Henry Kapono, Jake Shimabukuro, Amy Hānaiali‘i and Willie K.

 

Expect more great jazz and some new twists in 2017. “We’re starting a comedy series (Roseanne Barr, April 9); we want to have more expanded genres, like reggae, that people want to see,” Bensusan says.

 

Tonight it’s Chris Botti, who, over the course of this packed, 90-minute show, will bring on stage a classic violinist, an R&B singer-songwriter and an opera singer. The crowd is right there with Botti; nodding, smiling, drumming their fingers on tables, applauding. This is Blue Note at its best.

 

2335 Kalākaua Ave., at the Outrigger Waikīkī Beach Resort, bluenotehawaii.com, 777-4890.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA

 

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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