By Drew Ailes
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Before its current incarnation as the Omni Majestic, the small, elegant hotel at 1019 Pine was simply called the Majestic. But to area music fans, it was better known as the home of Just Jazz, the intimate club/restaurant that featured top-quality jazz acts from October 1990-July 1995, when the hotel changed ownership and decided to do away with Just Jazz, and the late Barbara Rose moved the concept (minus the name) to the Backstage Bistro in Grand Center. Over the past four years, the Omni Majestic has tried a variety of entertainment approaches that just haven't clicked including the unusual concept of waitstaff singing Broadway show tunes.
For the past year or so, the Omni Majestic has featured at least some jazz. The CDB Trio has been holding down a regular Tuesday-evening slot, and now the hotel, in conjunction with radio station KZJZ (1380 AM) and the Juneteenth Festival organization, is working to give the Mahogany Room (as the old Just Jazz space is now known) a higher musical profile.
"We featured a couple of Juneteenth events earlier this year," says Dave Jurcak, general manager of the hotel. "Dave Ellis was here in February, and Ivan Paduart played at the Mahogany Room a few weeks ago. We decided we wanted to do shows like that more often. Although we can't lose sight of our main focus of presenting fine dining at the Mahogany Room, we also want to create an upscale jazz atmosphere as well."
Curtis Faulkner of Juneteenth will begin booking local acts at the Mahogany Room on Thursdays and will also bring in regional and up-and-coming national acts about once a month. This Thursday, pianist John Thomas and his group will kick off the series. KZJZ will be involved in promoting the concerts. "It's a great location for jazz," says station manager Maria Keena, "and we're happy to be involved, helping people regain that connection between the hotel and jazz. I'll be doing a live remote of my Maria's Menu show from noon to one on Aug. 17, and we'll hopefully have more details in place at that time."