All that smooth jazz

After Work Concert Series

Program director Robert Dees says his concert series is something to clap about.

Program director Robert Dees says his concert series is something to clap about.

Photo By David Robert

The Smooth Jazz 92.1 After Work Concert Series is 5:30 p.m-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at John Ascuaga’s Nugget’s Restaurante Orozko Lounge.

“We get funky right away. It’s a Chicago thing,” saxophonist Steve Cole announced to the standing-room only crowd at the Restaurante Orozko lounge at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.

The Windy City native kicked off the Smooth Jazz 92.1 After Work Concert Series debut in its new venue on Nov. 16. Over the past two years, the series developed a solid following at the Scruples Bar & Grill, despite the patio setting limiting the schedule to the summer months. The indoor venue will enable the series to continue year-round regardless of the weather.

“It’s a chance for national artists to come to Reno to build up a local base,” said Robert Dees, program director at Smooth Jazz 92.1.

In booking talent, Dees searches for “an established smooth jazz artist or an up-and-coming artist with a new CD out.” The series will continue to follow the radio station’s format of 80 percent instrumental, 20 percent vocal artists. Local talent will also be included later on in the series on a six- to seven-week rotation.

The silver-haired Dees says the series’ popularity has musicians from all over the country calling to request bookings. The format provides an opportunity for jazz fans to get up close and personal with the performer, including CD signings and a Q&A session with the audience between sets. With an established group of regulars in the audience, the musician can expect a wide range of questions.

“Actually, no, I make up for it with oral prowess.” Cole replied smoothly to a blonde woman’s provocative query as to whether he needed a stiffer reed to compensate for the high altitude.

“What a beautiful venue this is!” Dees exclaimed during the intro to the second set.

With the front tables an arm’s reach from the stage, the lounge environment provides an intimate setting ideal for the complex melodies of smooth jazz. Set back from the main gaming area, Orozko is free from the heavy smoke and slot machine noise that often permeates casino lounge venues. The audio system projects the music clearly and effectively masks the clink of glasses and silverware from the restaurant nearby. The lounge has a few non-smoking tables near the stage, but you need to get there early if you want to get a seat, non-smoking or otherwise.

Drawing from an “A List” of musicians, Dees likes to mix things up, showcasing a different instrumental jazz artist each week. If you want to check out the scheduled performer, 92.1 features a live interview with the musician the morning of the show.

Upcoming shows include saxophonist Michael Paulo on Jan. 11 and trumpeter Greg Adams on Jan. 18.