BLU Jazz+ opens Oct. 24
– Fresh off a drive from Chicago, trumpeter Josh Rzepka walks into the brand new jazz club in downtown Akron, just a few days before playing the first notes on stage.
With its sandstone and brick walls, adorned with portraits of jazz legends, and lights emitting deep blue and purple hues, BLU Jazz+ could very well be a club from the Northeast Ohio native’s recent home in the Windy City.
“I’m in a unique position,” says Rzepka, who presents the inaugural show this Friday. “I’ve never been able to open up a club. It’s a big honor.
“This place is outstanding,” he adds, taking a look around. “It’s got a beautiful stage and a beautiful piano. The ambience is just right to invite the Akron jazz community in.”
Located in the basement of the historic Hermes Building at the corner of West Market and Main streets, BLU Jazz+’s opening coincides with a new movement of talented Akron jazz musicians, while harkening back to this city’s deep jazz roots.
As the rounded stage looks out to the small tables throughout the room, one quickly realizes there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Tony Troppe, the club’s owner and self-proclaimed curator, refers to BLU as an historic art gallery/performance center. “It’s really about a collaboration with our friends from Oberlin — we’re featuring jazz history,” he says, referring to the rare jazz photos provided by the college. The portraits occupy the brick walls, from Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong to Lester Young.
“I’m surrounded by a bunch of jazz lovers and talented musicians, and it’s something that really needed rediscovered — our jazz roots in this community,” Troppe adds. “Many of the musicians are digging right back into those solid roots.”
Rzepka will play two 90-minute sets on Friday, starting at 7 and 9 p.m., featuring a mix of standards and originals. And his band is a lineup of “Akron All Stars”: Pianist Theron Brown, Guitarist Dan Wilson, Bassist Dan Pappalardo and Drummer Jonathan Suntken.
“We’ll be swinging the joint all night,” says Rzepka.
Along with live music, BLU also features a full bar, tapas and specialty drinks.
On Saturday, the club will feature a tribute to Frank Sinatra, with Ernie Krivda & the Jazz All Stars, featuring Joe Hunter, Peter Dominguez, Val Kent, Tom Lehman, Vince Mastro and Ki Allen.
BLU Jazz+, located at 47 E. Market St., will be open weekly Wednesday through Saturday. The club will focus on regional and national acts. To get tickets for Friday’s show and more information, visit blujazzakron.com or call (330) 252-1190.