By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
When last we heard from Vartan Tonoian (Feedback, May 8), the Russian-born entrepreneur was exulting about the closing of his namesake venue, Vartan Jazz, formerly at 231 Milwaukee Street in Cherry Creek. In his view, the club's collapse gave him an opportunity to reopen at a bigger, less expensive space in the LoDo area--and so confident was he that he would find a good spot quickly that he had already scheduled a pair of autumn concerts: Gonzalo Rubalcaba on October 3 and 4, and Horace Silver on November 1.
As it turns out, Tonoian was a bit too optimistic: He did not secure replacement digs in time to put on the Rubalcaba and Silver gigs. But he was in the ballpark. The newly christened Vartan's Jazz Club and Restaurant, at 1800 Glenarm Place, is set to celebrate its grand opening on Friday, November 14, and Saturday, November 15, with showcases starring a slew of jazz artists with impressive credentials. According to Tonoian, "We'll have Claudio Rodite, who's a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra. We'll have Frank Colon from Manhattan Transfer. We'll have Claudio Slon, who's from Brazil--he's the drummer for Antonio Carlos Jobim. We'll have Sonny Rollins' pianist, Mark Soskin, Doug Webb, who plays tenor for Horace Silver, and the bassist Tony Dumas, who's played with Freddie Hubbard and many other greats."
Tonoian remains in hype overdrive when discussing the location of Vartan's Mark II. "It used to be a restaurant called Hudson's," he points out, "and it's got everything we wanted. It's much nicer than the other one acoustically, and because we put acoustic tiles on the ceilings, it has a very warm sound. And it's a much bigger place. There's a music room for 150 people and a banquet room for another hundred people. And the restaurant facilities are very nice. We won't have a really big menu, but we'll have some international dishes that we think reflect the nature of jazz--a couple of creole dishes, and the best seafood gumbo you'll ever have in your life."
Another improvement at Vartan's relates to the cover prices. The Cherry Creek nightspot was criticized by many jazz lovers because of what they viewed as a restrictive dress policy and the exorbitant charges asked of them at the door. Tonoian doesn't go into specifics about the former, saying only that the atmosphere will be "more relaxed." In regard to the latter, however, he boasts that his lower rent at the Glenarm address will allow him to pass along his savings to the consumer. "The prices are going to be much lower," he pledges. "When you saw the major stars at Cherry Creek, it cost twenty to thirty dollars. But here it's usually going to be between ten and twelve--fifteen maximum."
Actually, that's not quite true. For the grand-opening festivities, the tab will be $20--but Tonoian says that this will be the sole exception to the rule. Interested parties can learn more by calling 399-1111.
During his last visit to this column (in our October 23 issue), Mickey Zeppelin, longtime co-owner of City Spirit, a venue and eatery at 1434 Blake Street, did his best to undercut rumors that the joint was about to be shuttered. He acknowledged that he and his business partner, Susan Wicke, were negotiating with several unnamed parties interested in purchasing the enterprise, which has been a lower-downtown landmark since the mid-Eighties, but said that its doors would remain open until the matter was finalized. Furthermore, he hinted that any changes at the site would be modest ones. "It's not going to become a sports bar," he said. "And I don't think it's going to become a no-music thing, either."
It shouldn't be too much longer before we know if Zeppelin's predictions were accurate. At press time, a sale seemed imminent, and while Zeppelin declined to provide information about the new owners ("The final documents haven't been signed yet," he noted, "and they want to make any announcements once they are"), he did offer some insight into what's likely to happen at the space. "It's my understanding that they may take a couple of weeks off and will probably redo the kitchen or the downstairs and put in some of their own input," he says. "I hesitate to use the word 'closed,' because it's actually more of a transition. I think they're going to sit back and digest everything for a little while. But as far as I know, there's every intent to continue with City Spirit and the mix of food and music and bar and takeout and catering that people are familiar with."
This closure--sorry, I mean "transition"--is likely to begin immediately following a blowout on Friday, November 14, during which some of the performers who are most closely associated with City Spirit are scheduled to appear. "Johnny Long's going to start things off at seven o'clock and do an hour or so," Zeppelin says. "And then we're going to have a whole array of musicians come in: Elizabeth Rose and Tony Morales, the Perry Weisman 3, Jux County, the Czars. They're going to take turns and jam and play through the night." The party promises to be a sentimental affair for Zeppelin, but not a sad one. "I'm really looking forward to it," he says. "It's going to be a grand celebration."