The classical guitarist Esteban and the percussion band Überschall might not seem to have much in common. Actually, they have nothing in common, aside from playing at Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz.
After a year of steady performances anchored by Clint Holmes’ regular showcases the first weekend of each month, Cab Jazz has achieved “the kind of vibe that we were after, and the kind of groove of the room we had hoped for,” Smith Center President Myron Martin says. “It’s the best live-music venue in town, for intimate places. This is a room designed for live music and filled with people who appreciate live music.”
But has Cabaret Jazz really established itself as a cool place to find consistently fulfilling live music?
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“To really, flat-out, answer the question, no,” Martin says. “All the bones are there, the pieces are in place, and all the signs are pointing to success for that room, but it isn’t there yet.”
Martin has some ideas for how to bridge that gap. He wants to expand the duration of shows from weekends to Thursdays through Sundays, to guarantee artists four shows per visit and make the venue more attractive to top names. “I’m convinced the audience is here.”
He’s also still seeking a regular weekly spot for a top band in the city, naming Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns, the highly regarded and immensely popular show band that has been playing the Lounge at the Palms on Monday nights for the past three years, as a possibility. Bandleader Jerry Lopez has said the acoustics in Cab Jazz are not conducive to his 15-piece, horn-driven outfit (he feels the sound would boomerang around), but Martin still wants to book Santa Fe for a test drive. He also likes the Lon Bronson All-Star Band and would even entertain weeknight slots for David Perrico’s Pop Evolution, an 18-piece band that has played the Palms and the 3rd Street Stage at the Fremont Street Experience.
Martin says he’s “thrilled” with the monthly Composers Showcase arranged by Jersey Boys Music Director Keith Thompson, performances that have drawn artists from on and off the Strip and have nearly filled the 258-seat venue each night. And he remains convinced that there is no other live-music experience like Cabaret Jazz. But one year in, not enough Las Vegans have been exposed to its vibe.
“We’re still telling the story about what Cabaret Jazz is,” Martin says. “We’re still kind of introducing the room to people.”