Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, February 19, 1999

Studio 6 & all that jazz -- By John Berger, special to the Star-Bulletin

The gathering
place for serious jazz fans
celebrates two years


When jazz pianist Rich Crandall's gig at Hot Lava evaporated, he assessed the opportunities for jazz artists in Honolulu and concluded the scene wasn't exactly thriving. Crandall could have sat back and moaned about the "death of live music" but decided to do something about it instead.

"I sent a letter to (Musicians' Union President) Milton Carter, and suggested that we get a club going. Growing up in Chicago, I've always been sort of a union guy, especially when it came to musicians. Being in the union in Chicago was a sign of your commitment to your work as a professional, even to lay people.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Rich Crandall has the spotlight on the piano. He along
with others are celebrating the second year of Studio 6.

"It seemed to me that if musicians had to play -- and I mean, play for cheap -- let's do it in the halls of our own building and take the risk ourselves."

Carter agreed and "Studio 6" was born as a weekly event. That was two years ago. Crandall celebrates the second anniversary of "Studio 6" this month.

"You start doing it, and just like jazz you elaborate on it and it'll either get better or it won't."

Crandall undertook the adventure as a solo pianist. His daughter, Angela, was there to sing one song a week. She sang "S'Wonderful" for an audience of seven, maybe eight, plus her parents, on opening night.

"It gave her a chance to learn repertoire with a friendly group of people, and it gave me a chance to keep my chops in shape, and the rest was sort of an adventure," Crandall said.

Crandall compiled a mailing list and sent out advance copies of the scheduled program each week. Before long, he was featuring guest artists. The Studio 6 program became a who's who of local jazz talent. Guests last year included Noel Okimoto, Steve Jones, Bonnie Gearheart, David Choy, Rory Flores, Jess Gopen, Allen Won, Lyle Ritz, Gabe Baltazar and John Norris. The weekly audience grew steadily as well.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Noel Okimoto jams on drums.

"What developed was an audience that was extremely attentive and extremely knowledgeable about music. They would ask very good questions and make appropriately critical comments about the music. That was a special treat for guys like Byron Yasui -- an educated audience!"

Studio 6 became a hang-out for serious jazz fans. Crandall says some began bringing food. Others would loan each other favorite CDs. Eventually, Studio 6 outgrew the room, moved into a larger studio, and continued to grow. Okimoto is now experimenting with an additional jazz event every other Wednesday.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The crowd lets the music move them and applauds the
jazz. From left, Dale Mullins, Lumiel Kim and Barbara Ritchie.

"My dream would be to have a night with string quartets or small classical ensembles, a night of Hawaiian music. Who knows? I never committed myself to a long-term program here so it has sort of an existential flavor to it, but what started very much as an underground club with 'the light in the window' seems to be bringing a nice cross section of people from high school and college age right through the middle ages to old age. To me, that's always what a jazz club was. It crossed the whole spectrum of ages."

He adds the musicians are all paid, some earning their union work dues in the process. Studio 6 also is generating funds for a separate nonprofit Live Music Awareness program that will sponsor concerts in local public high schools.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Rich Crandall of Studio 6 introduces his daughter
Angela who later sings a tune with the band.

Crandall has been a player in the local jazz scene for more than 20 years. He came to Hawaii in 1975 to work with Teddy and Nanci Tanaka at Opus One. He opened Bagwell's 2424 with vocalist Anna Lea at the Hyatt Regency in 1976. Lea later went off to help launch the original Fabulous Krush at the Garden Bar; Crandall became a popular attraction in his own right at the Hyatt and the Hawaiian Regent. He's played other spots here and in Japan, and recorded two albums in recent years.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Loyal patrons enjoy camaraderie and bring snacks to
eat during the breaks and before and after the performances.

Crandall is not generally known as a vocalist but he sings on occasion; his tribute to Flip Nunez was one of those special occasions. "He was always encouraging me to sing more and even gave me some lessons," Crandall said. Crandall's daughter, Angela, is the singer in the family, and he's proud to be working with her at Studio 6.

"She's learned a whole bunch of songs and gained some poise, and the Studio 6 thing seems to just keep on going. For $5 bucks (cover charge) the people feel that they're getting a pretty good deal."


On Stage

Bullet Who: Rich Crandall
Bullet When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Bullet Where: Studio 6, Musicians' Union, 949 Kapiolani Blvd.; entrance on Waimanu Street
Bullet Cost: $5
Bullet Call: 596-2121, 24 hours Saturday through Tuesday.

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