Last weekend, I flew to Las Vegas to meet with the amazing Paul Lowden, jazz fan, casino owner and all-around great guy, to discuss producing a jazz weekend in Las Vegas. In truth, it would not be entirely “jazz,” but, like all things in Vegas, it would be top drawer and exciting.
Paul is a very successful man, having owned and run the Sahara and other hotels, but the interesting story is how he came to live in Las Vegas. Paul is a Hammond B-3 player, and a quite good one. Back longer than either of us cared to admit, Paul came to Las Vegas, because that was a place where musicians could make a good living. He tells the story of strapping his Hammond B-3 onto his car and driving cross country to audition for a job. He secured the position and eventually bought the hotel and the rest is a very “rich” history.
But, in the many years since Paul’s pilgrimage, the minions of Las Vegas musicians have disappeared. A few years ago, the musicians’ union went out on strike and that was it. Casino and hotel owners went to the soundtracks and automated forms of music for their shows. What was once a flourishing musician community went to nothing. But here is where the resiliency of jazz shines through.
The venue that Paul has selected for our show is The Smith Center, an amazing building with a 2,000 seat main auditorium and two 250 – 300 person rooms as well, one of which is a true jazz/cabaret club. It seems as if there has been a “jazz community” in Vegas for years that performed at various places and times, but had enough juice to become involved in this amazing project. The ringleader of the group is Myron Martin, a totally delightful lifetime music entrepreneur and producer. I was bowled over by his intelligence and knowledge as to the right way to produce a weekend jazz program, but even more impressed with his love of jazz and his burning desire to maintain a rich level of such music in Vegas.
The town of Sinatra, Bennett and Davis, Jr. has given way to Celine Dionne and other top stars of today. The shows are extravaganzas with hundreds of people and special effects. But, in a 250 seat venue, in the heart of downtown Vegas, sits Myrons Jazz & Cabaret, where our guys perform there throughout the year to packed houses, two shows a night. Viva Las Vegas! Viva Jazz!
Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.