Blue Note brings jazz alive in Waikiki

The Blue Note, a new music venue at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, has visitors to the island as well as locals swaying to jazz seven nights a week as performed by everyone from local talent to nationally recognized celebrities.

The 9,000 square foot club, in the former Society of Seven showroom inside the resort, opened in mid-January and featured saxophonist Kenny G on opening night. Since then, it has hosted a range of performers from local favorites like Mike Lewis and Willie K to celebrities including Chaka Khan.

The Blue Note in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort

I had the opportunity to have dinner and catch a performance at The Blue Note during a stopover in Honolulu on my way back from a trip to New Zealand and, although the act was not one I'd heard of prior to my visit, I was enchanted by the music as well as the service and the food.

The club was created in conjunction with Blue Note Entertainment Group and, according to many, changes the entertainment landscape in Honolulu.

Blue Note Entertainment owns and operates 10 music clubs worldwide, including venues in New York, Washington D.C., Milan and two locations in Japan. It has hosted many notable artists since its founding in 1981 including Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Chris Botti and others.

Blue Note Hawaii joins Outrigger Resorts’ roster of musical venues, which includes Kani Ka Pila Grille, Duke’s Waikiki, Waikiki Beach attending the show Walk®, and a host of sponsored music events such as Mele Mei; the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards; the annual Waikiki Steel Guitar Festival, Slack Key Guitar Festival; and the Ukulele Festival.

Stanley Jordan Trio

“Music is a universal language," Barbara Campbell, Outrigger Enterprises Group vice president, said. "Outrigger looks forward to sharing this form of art at our brand-new Blue Note Hawaii venue with music lovers from around the world and here in Hawaii.”

The trio performing the night I attended was the Stanley Jordan Trio. Jordan plays his guitar using a technique that more closely mirrors the playing of a piano keyboard than a traditional guitar method. Both hands are constantly over over the strings and frets, hammering out tones that are nothing short of amazing. And the man multi-tasks like no one I've ever seen. At one point in the performance, he sat at the piano and tickled the ivories with his right hand while pulling notes from his guitar strings with his left.

And that's the local talent.

Internationally known talent includes Ravi Coltrane, son of the late John Coltrane, who will be appearing May 16 - 21.  Christopher Cross ("Never Be the Same," "Arthur's Theme," "Sailing," and other hits) will be performing two shows nightly from May 31 through June 5, and Acoustic Alchemy will be playing from June 14 through 19. In addition, The Blue Note also offers a Gospel Brunch every Sunday. Doors open at 11 a.m. and church (that is, the performance) starts at 1 p.m.

Outrigger officials tell me the club has indeed proved to be a popular addition to the local music scene, with the audience approximately evenly split between visitors and locals. With local talent like the Stanley Jordan Trio, I can see why.

Service was very attentive and the food amazingly good, especially considering that the Chef de Cuisine has a small kitchen that would be appropriate for a restaurant about one-third the size of the 325-person club ... and that it is an all-electric kitchen at that. If you are a foodie -- heck, if you cook at all -- you will appreciate just how big a disadvantage it is to cook without gas. But the chef and his staff pull it off.

We started out with kahlua pig sliders, a Caesar salad and French onion soup followed by main courses of teriyaki salmon, seared scallop and shrimp over rice (rather like a jambalaya) and a half a roast chicken. For dessert, we shared a creme brulee, which was more than enough after our appetizers and main courses.

But the real star was the performance. As one who has loved jazz since my young adult years when I spent a healthy portion of my income seeing jazz greats including Cannonball Adderly, Big Joe Williams, Ahmad Jamal and others, I was quite moved by Jordan and his group.The video above is a bit long, at about seven minutes, but provides a glimpse into this group's abilities.  

The opening of The Blue Note coincides with other recent Blue Note Entertainment Group initiatives, including an expansion to China where it will open the Blue Note Beijing followed by two additional locations in Shanghai and Taipei within the next three years.

“The addition of two new clubs in Hawaii and China will bridge new music opportunities for artists and fans alike in the greater Asia Pacific/Oceania region,” Danny Bensusan, founder and CEO of Blue Note Entertainment Group, said. “We are deeply committed to Blue Note’s success in both of these territories.”

If the early months of The Blue Note in Waikiki is any indication, they will be.

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My accommodations were provided by Outrigger.