FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jose Amaya, left, and Indra Robinson celebrated their New Year's Eve by salsa dancing to the sounds of Rolando Sanchez and Salsa Hawaii Latin Jazz.
Kapiolani has its jazzy scene up and running
LAST MONTH'S review of a newly-opened Waikiki jazz club caused a few readers to respond via e-mail and telephone, asking basically the same question: What about Jazz Minds Art & Cafe?
JAZZ MINDS ART & CAFE
Location: 1661 Kapiolani Blvd.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Ratings: 4 mugs -- excellent, I'll be back soon; 3 mugs -- very good, worth another visit; 2 mugs -- average, go for happy hour; 1 mug -- stay home with a six-pack!
How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly paid $5 for a bottle of Bud Light. Draft beer is also available, but what's up with the hostess bar prices?
Get things to do?
Live entertainment is what's it's all about, to the point that you'll appear rude by trying to carry on a conversation while the bands are playing.
What about the grinds?
Get ready to spend some money at Jazz Minds if you show up with an appetite. The steak ($15) we ordered was tasty, as was the fried mandoo ($8) and french fries ($6). And even though it was served last, the ahi poke ($12) was made from quality ahi and even had some Hawaiian salt added to it. But having to spend more than $40 for pupus? Come on.
And the help?
Maybe it was just our server, but the staff at Jazz Minds seemed a bit lost at times. Trips to the kitchen to check on drink prices and availability was a little tacky, as was a belated request to cough up a $5 cover charge. Hopefully all the kinks will get worked out over the next few weeks.
Well, what about it? I finally got a chance to stop by the Kapiolani Blvd. watering hole last week, and other than the fact that the two spots are both newly-opened and feature jazz music, there are very few similarities between the two.
THE EASIEST way to tell the difference between Jazz Minds and its Waikiki counterpart is where the bar is located.
Want to get dressed up for a night on the town? Waikiki is the destination for you. Looking for someplace comfortable without the pretentiousness? Kapiolani Blvd. is probably more your speed.
Kapiolani has long been known as the miracle mile for those looking for 21-and-over fun. Bookended by Club Rock-Za at Kalakaua Ave. and the hostess bar mini-mall across the street from Venus Nightclub and The O Lounge, there are lots of different choices along this short stretch of pavement.
Jazz Minds flips the script on its neighbors, which include an adult video store and the infamous Femme Nu. With all the debauchery going on around them, its a wonder that some of Honolulu's more straight-laced residents are even willing to venture into the area.
But if you just suck it up and find a place to park, you'll find the interior of this spot is nothing like the businesses that surround it. In fact, the bar along the Ewa wall is the only aspect that gives away Jazz Minds' underlying purpose.
Otherwise, it feels like you've entered somebody's living room. One jazz aficionado friend of mine even compared it to the legendary Ward's Rafters.
IF YOU don't want to sit on the numerous couches spread out around the room, opt for one of the barstools that line its perimeter.
The performance area is the focal point here, so don't be surprised to see patrons looking at you funny if you walk in during the middle of a set. But with so many customers coming and going throughout the night, it can be difficult to observe the proper etiquette of waiting for a lull in entertainment before making your move.
I'm also a big fan of the attention to detail that went into creating the bar's relaxing atmosphere. Besides the couches, jazz-inspired artwork line the walls. A variety of knick-knacks occupy almost every other nook and cranny that provide space for something to be displayed.
Even the men's bathroom has a homely feel to it, with fake flowers near the sink and what appears to be a nightstand (complete with a copy of the Bible sitting on top of it) next to the lone toilet. Just ignore the pile of unused furniture and toilet paper lining one side of the stall.
JAZZ MINDS' owner Young Yi has also done a great job with the entertainment lineup, hosting a variety of performers six nights a week.
The biggest coup might have been getting DeShannon Higa to move his "Groove Improv Artists" ensemble here on Thursday nights. Joined by saxophone player Randy Wheeler, drummer Jerome James and vocalist Maria Remos, the trumpeter husband of singer Rocky Brown is known to get extraordinarily funky on a regular basis.
Latin fans will recognize Rolando Sanchez and Salsa Hawaii, who bring a "Latin Jazz" vibe to the venue on Saturdays. Sherry Shaoling (whatever happened to the Chock-Wong in her name?) and the Noly Pa'a Connection keep it swanky on Friday evenings.
We're not done yet -- if you need help getting through your work week, spend some time on Wednesdays with Justin James and the Newjass Quartet. And if your creative juices are flowing strong enough, Mondays and Tuesdays are the time to visit for a shot at performing in front of an actual audience.
Gene DeFrancis hosts a weekly monologue contest from 7 to 9 p.m. every Monday, while Tuesdays feature an open mic from 8 p.m. to midnight. Jazz improv is the focus for the first two hours, with hip-hop singers/MCs getting a chance to shine at 10 p.m.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend. E-mail Jason Genegabus at firstname.lastname@example.org
with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.