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On any given night at Blue Note Hawaii, clients might find themselves just a few steps away from big talents such as Chick Corea, Chaka Khan and Kenny G. On another evening, they might be applauding local stars like ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, guitar wizard Willie K and singer-songwriter Anuhea.
Diversity in the lineup is a key selling point for Blue Note Hawaii, which recently celebrated its first anniversary at Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. The club puts a decidedly tropical spin on the successful Blue Note formula found in its locations around the world, where it features top-tier jazz and blues artists.
At present, 30 percent of the acts at the Oahu nightclub hail from Hawaii, said Steven Bensusan, president of Blue Note Entertainment Group.
“Our partner, Outrigger Enterprises, has a strong commitment to local culture and music, and we see the value in that,” Bensusan said. “There is a lot of great talent to showcase right here in the islands. Some are jazz artists; others play traditional Hawaiian music. We’re happy that Blue Note can make this type of investment in the Hawaiian music industry.”
Hawaii visitors can see island-based musicians in other settings like bars and luaus, but Blue Note Hawaii provides a professional, upscale environment for their shows.
“The oversize stage enables us to create the intimate atmosphere of a smaller venue,” Bensusan said. “Performers love the location, right on the beach in Waikiki.”
Most of Blue Note Hawaii’s world-famous headliners from other places have never performed in Hawaii before, so they don’t know what to expect, he added.
“When they get here, they are very excited to take in everything Hawaii has to offer,” Bensusan said. “Many of the performers sign up for surfing lessons, go hiking or just relax on the beach during the day.”
Musicians are starting to tell other musicians that Hawaii is a great vacation at the end of a long tour or a perfect pit stop coming back from Japan or Australia, he said.
Blue Note Hawaii is located in the resort’s former Society of Seven showroom, but a multimillion-dollar renovation completely reimagined the space. The 9,000-square-foot venue can hold up to 326 guests, who can choose to sit at large booths, tables or in the bar area.
While there is a $10 per person minimum along with the cost of a show ticket, the full dinner menu is worth a look. Highlights include crab cake sliders, caprese salad with local mozzarella and tomatoes and a burger with caramelized Maui onions on a Hawaiian sweetbread bun.
With two shows nightly, seven days per week, Blue Note Hawaii gives clients a new reason to extend their vacation days into lively evenings.
“There really isn't much to do in Hawaii after dark,” Bensusan noted, adding that many visitors focus their vacations on daytime activities. “Our show times are at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., so if visitors want to get to bed early, they can attend the first set.”