Smooth operator


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

Michael Paulo remembers the way his parents took care of business at their nightclub, Opus One, at the Ilikai in the 1970s. Akemi and Rene Paulo were the headline attraction onstage, but they were also the owners of the night spot.

“;It was always about serving the public,”; he said. “;The customer came first, and I carry the same principle in anything I do—promoting, playing (or) doing concerts.

“;That's the core principle: You're there to make the audience happy.”;

That principle has served Paulo well in developing his “;Smooth Jazz Nights”; concerts. Honolulu had no large-scale annual jazz festival or jazz concert series when Paulo and his business partner, Ed Nishioka, presented the first one earlier this year. With Paulo hosting and his friends rounding out the bill, the series clicked with Hawaii's smooth-jazz aficionados.

“;We're always thinking about the concertgoer,”; Paulo said recently, calling from his home in California. “;How can we make it a better experience? How can we improve on it?

“;We take surveys: 'Who do you like? Who do you want to see?' We've been taking that to heart in bringing over the artists, (and) the biggest joy for me is when you do that and the audience comes out and says, 'This is so cool.'”;





        » Where: The Waterfront at Aloha Tower, Aloha Tower Marketplace

» When: 8 p.m. today


» Cost: $45 to $125 ($125 tickets include reserved seating, signed poster and access to VIP lounge and post-show party with artists; $85 tickets include access to post-show party)


» Info: 550-8457 or www.honoluluboxoffice.com




And so, in response to fan requests, Paulo will be joined by guitarist Paul Brown and saxophonist Euge Groove tonight at Aloha Tower.

Producing concerts isn't a new undertaking for Paulo, who has been “;putting things together for different people”; for “;15 or 16 years at least.”; He had been a festival promoter about half that long.

The big difference between being a musician and being a musician/ concert promoter is that “;I become their employer instead of an employee.”;

“;It's kind of a cool thing to be on the other side of the fence and be able to call them and say, 'Hey, you want a gig?' What helps me a lot is that being an artist, and having experience being on that side of the fence, is that I have more of an insight on what their needs are and how to treat them,”; said Paulo. “;Basically, I'm one of them, but I'm also on the business side helping them promote their careers and sell their music.”;

SMOOTH JAZZ NIGHTS began when Paulo's brother-in-law, Roy Tokujo, asked if he would be interested in producing concerts at the Royal Hawaiian Theater.

“;(For) the first couple of shows, it was a learning curve experience, but we learned and we adapted, and the last show we did there—Hiroshima—was a big smashing success for us,”; Paulo said. “;Not only critically and audience-wise, but also financially, so it helped us continue on with the series.”;


        Smooth Jazz Nights

The growing success allowed Paulo and Nishioka to move the concerts to Aloha Tower Marketplace; Paulo is also considering expanding even more to include food and wine tastings.

“;Being in the mainland, I've worked all these different festivals, and a lot of hotels in California and around the country partner with restaurants and wineries and offer a really nice upscale experience,”; said Paulo. “;It's been very successful up here, and I'd like to try it in Hawaii.”;

Although his jazz career keeps him busy, Paulo returns to Hawaii from time to time for concerts with Kalapana. He joined Kalapana in the mid-'70s before the group recorded its second album, and was one of last early members to leave before the group broke up. He appears with the reunited group whenever his schedule permits.

Looking back, Paulo said his parents didn't intend for him to make music his career.

“;When I decided I wanted to do music full time, they were very disappointed because they wanted me to go to college, get a degree (and) get a regular job,”; he said. “;They sent me to St. Louis ... and I had scholarships to go to college, and all of a sudden I went on the road with Kalapana.

“;But after I made my decision, they supported me full force.”;

He said, half-jokingly, that his parents could have “;saved their money and sent me to public school,”; but added that his years at St. Louis School helped prepare him for the business side of the music business, running his own record label and promoting concerts. Now he enjoys playing music and taking care of the business.

“;It's a blast getting to come back to Hawaii so often and getting my family involved,”; he said. “;On the last (Jazz Nights) show, I had my dad and (my brother-in-law) George (performing with me). It's really fun.”;