Famed jazz trumpeter Chris Botti will be the first performer when Blue Note Napa, the West Coast outpost of the famous New York jazz club, opens at the Napa Valley Opera House on Oct. 25.
“We’re trying to do it right from the get-go,” said Ken Tesler, managing director and producer for the Napa venue.
The Grammy award-winning Botti, long associated with Blue Note through his annual holiday residency at the New York club, will be in Napa for a four-night engagement. He will perform six shows in the downstairs jazz club Oct. 25-27 and one concert on Friday, Oct. 28, in the upstairs Opera House Ballroom.
Those attending the club performances by Botti, who has sold more than 3 million albums worldwide, will be in a 150-seat venue in the downstairs space of the historic 1880s Opera House.
Extensive renovations on the ground floor are going well, said Tesler. “We’re really excited. I think we’re going to blow some peoples’ minds when they walk in here.”
Tesler said the Blue Note Napa plans are based on “four pillars. First is wine, of course, but food in Napa is a close second. We’ve been told we have to ‘kill it’ with food, so we’re going to. We are as serious about our food as we are about our music and will soon be announcing our culinary and management team, and are looking forward to providing a dynamic club that is worthy of our Napa Valley location.”
Music, the “third pillar, is the latest thing to take Napa by storm with events like BottleRock,” Tessler said. “The genesis of this project is to bring world-class music to Napa on a regular basis.”
The fourth pillar in the plans is art. “Gordon Huether is our unofficial artist in residence,” Tesler said, referring to the Napa native who has created art installations both in Napa and around the world. Huether, Tesler said, “is largely behind the interior,” creating a space that evokes the classic jazz club era “with a careful nod to the Napa Valley and wine country.”
“My goal is that when people walk out of here, no matter whether it’s the music, food, wine or art, they say, ‘That was wonderful. I can’t wait to go back,’” Tesler said.
Blue Note Napa is part of the Blue Note Entertainment Group network, which has venues in New York, Washington, D.C., Milan, Hawaii, Beijing and two locations in Japan. The flagship Blue Note New York, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, has presented jazz legends including Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Oscar Peterson and Sarah Vaughan.
The group decided to open its West Coast location at the Napa Valley Opera House after the failure of City Winery Napa’s year-and-a-half run. City Winery closed last December.
“We’re proud to celebrate Blue Note’s 35th anniversary with the opening of Blue Note Napa,” says Steven Bensusan, president of the group. “Our established venues in Japan and new outposts in China and Hawaii will create new routing opportunities to bring world-renowned artists to the North Bay wine country.”
Blue Note Napa will present national and international artists, along with Bay Area and regional favorites. The venue will also operate the second story Opera House Ballroom, featuring top-name national acts, spanning many musical genres, as well as a private event space available for large groups.
They’ll be opening the upstairs ballroom with “a one-two punch,” Tesler said. The first is a seated concert by Botti. The second show, presented by Napa’s Latitude 38, will be a general admission standing-room performance by The Struts, an English rock band that performed after shows at the Opera House during BottleRock 2016.
“We’ve trying hard to keep our ears open to the community,” said Tesler, who moved with his wife, son, and dog from New York to Napa in April. “We’ve been listening to everything people tell us.”
He said this inspired him to make it a priority to address a chief concern that arose after the renovations made to the Opera House by City Winery removed the theater’s red velvet chairs
“We hope Napa will be happy about this,” he said. “For the ballroom, we’ve brought in 450 heavily padded, extremely comfortable chairs. These are stadium chairs, the kind that celebrities get in boxes at special events. Hopefully, chairs good enough for $5,000 celebrity butts will work. We hope people will be comfortable.”
His family, he noted, is thrilled with the move, his wife loves Napa, his son is enrolled in Napa Valley College and “the dog loves our backyard.”
“We hope we can do Napa right,” he said. “Hopefully, we hit it on the head. We’ll keep adapting to make sure we do right by the people here. I want to be here for the rest of my life and do something significant. But it all starts with the people here.”