Field Notes: Get Funky With Live Jazz Music at Medici’s
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: Medici’s at Mānoa Marketplace.
Rocky Brown singing with DeShannon Higa and Quadpod.
Photos: Aaron Yoshino
Ever since Ward’s Rafters closed, finger-popping members of Honolulu’s homegrown jazz scene have been looking for a place that approximates its noncommercial atmosphere, elegant surroundings and warm, communal embrace. Since 2012, many think they’ve found it at Medici’s, an eyrie atop the Mānoa School of Art & Music, where school founders Carolyn Espina Stanton and Tim Stanton host Friday and Saturday performances. Cool jazz, hot jazz, blues, funky fusion, torch singers, piano-bass-drums trios—Medici’s welcomes them all. London native and art teacher Tim, 69, designed and built the split-level space, while Farrington and University of Hawai‘i piano product Carolyn, 60, the school’s lead teacher, orchestrates the acts.
First-time visitors usually can’t believe their luck: The big room has excellent acoustics (which musicians appreciate); comfortable seating, including a lounge area where you can take five from the action; a reasonable cover ($20, except for special acts); affordable drinks and a $5 corkage fee if you bring your own; a celebrated spread (an elegant and health-conscious array of salads, antipasti and dessert for $15); and plenty of free parking—the last spurring hosannas from music lovers, especially those who remember circling Ward’s for a space and, sometimes, getting towed.
Every seat was taken the night DeShannon Higa and Quadpod played with Rocky Brown, and the crowd of just over 100 ranged from a family with children to students at the school. But the core audience fit the profile of the arts-supporting class of Honolulu, nicely dressed (no shorts or baseball caps). Notably, and unlike clubs in Waikīkī, they kept their voices low and didn’t speak at all during performances, except for the occasional whispered aside.
Tim and Carolyn Stanton, Medici’s masterminds.
“Tommy James, a world-class pianist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, retired to Hawai‘i and now appears regularly,” says Carolyn Stanton. “We get groups like Gypsy 808, Von Baron and Honolulu Jazz Quartet; Sandi Tsukiyama brings a band and sings the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.” Touring musicians drop by to listen and join in; luminaries of Honolulu’s music world, like Jimmy Borges and Betty Lou Taylor, make themselves at home. “It’s like a New York club, where the audience is really listening,” says Quadpod bassist John Kolivas, 54, also bandleader of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet. “The musicians end up playing at a higher level and the audiences feel a part of it.”
“It’s a supper club,” says Anton Krucky, “only there’s none of the distractions of clinking glasses and people talking.” Led by Higa on brass, the coolly syncopated trio of Rod Esteban (drums), Ethan Capone (piano) and Kolivas backed a swaying Rocky Brown as she bit off notes with diamond-bright authority. In the elevated loft space, guests helped themselves to the gorgeous array of salads and mingled at the bar. Regulars uncorked their BYOB white and red Burgundies and offered each other tastes.
DeShannon Higa, 45, bandleader and Rocky Brown, 50, Singer
“We met when I was playing in a swing band,” says Higa. “She came down to dance. We’ve been married 15 years.”
Anton Krucky, 62, president and CEO, Tissue Genesis
“We came to see Rocky Brown and DeShannon. We’ve seen Rocky at various events, at Diamond Head Theatre. She’ll never tell you herself, but she’s been on Broadway, in shows, did Miss Saigon.”
“We all met because of jazz.”–Yolanda Kerr (right).
“And wine.” –Rebecca Woodland (left).
With John Knorek (far left) and Chuck Crumpton: “Jazz and wine.”
Did you know? Besides performances, the Mānoa School of Art & Music offers classes in art, theater, tango, milonga (a dance similar to the tango) and culinary arts.
Medici’s, Mānoa Marketplace 2754 Woodlawn Drive, Unit 7-103, 351-0901, honolulumusicatmedicis.com
READ MORE STORIES BY DON WALLACE