Smitty: It has been said that a measurable part of a great jazz experience is the atmosphere, the ambience, the venue, and how true that is when you visit one of the premiere jazz clubs on the planet. Here to talk about this incredible venue is a true and passionate person of the music. Along with her great partners and staff, they have created a great tradition of class, great music, with legendary stellar performers, and a jazz club of class and elegance. Representing everyone at the legendary, Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, please welcome the incredible Ms. Dayla Arabella Santurri.
Dayla Arabella Santurri (DAS): Wow, that sounds good! (Both laugh.) Hey, thanks for having me
Smitty: It’s a pleasure to have you here at JazzMonthly.com. When I think about great jazz clubs, there’s so much involved in that, I love to visit great clubs and take in the atmosphere and just examine what you’ve done with the music, the stage and all of that, and you have passed with flying colors. You have a great staff, a wonderful mix of music, your stage is just fantastic, and you are the rave of musicians around the country and the world, for that matter.
DAS: Ahh, yeah. We’re lucky like that. We have a good road reputation, as they say.
Smitty: Indeed you do. When I talk to musicians and the name Scullers comes up, everyone lights up in the room and they talk about the times that they’ve had there and can’t wait to go back, and they always mention the staff, so it’s like you have open arms for the musicians that come in and your clientele as well.
DAS: You know, it’s one of those rooms. It’s warm, it’s intimate, it’s inviting, and I think the first thing that people, whether they’re a sponsor, whether they’re coming to perform, an agent, a manager, you’re coming to work there, or you’re coming to see a show, you really get the sense that everyone in the room really wants to be there. We are all big jazz fans, we’re big music fans, we’re big fans of Boston, and it shows. It’s one of those things you don’t have to sell anybody on. We’re lucky like that. I’ve been there eight years and I’m still one of the newest people on board. (Laughs.) So we’ve retained our staff for a long time and I think that really helps create the warmth, and certainly the artists and audience feels it.
Smitty: Yes. Talk about the overall vision of Scullers because I know you must have a strong vision to create what you have. Talk about the vision that is a common thread among the staff and everyone there at Scullers.
DAS: Our goal, our vision is to canvas a very wide musical landscape, I think that’s what really sets us apart from most ‘jazz’ venues out there right now. People always ask me “Well, what’s your demographic? Who comes to Scullers? Who’s a Scullers regular?” And I can’t answer that question because it’s really from 18 to 80 from all walks of life. We get the rockers who will come see Joe Bonamassa. We’ve have an old school fan base that would always come to see the giants like Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Bobby Short, Shirley Horn. Then we’ll do cabaret and the whole Boston cabaret scene will show up. We also host an incredible lineup of Latin Jazz artists such as Arturo Sandoval, Jose Feliciano, Tito Puente, Jr. and Spanish Harlem Orchestra. And then we’ll do the real straight ahead jazz stuff like Marcus Miller, Pharoah Sanders, James Carter and all these guys. It’s always been a part of Scullers’ vision and really has become what we do automatically to make sure we include so many different styles.
Smitty: And that’s unique and great because there are so many clubs across the country and around the world, and let’s face it, in a lot of areas clubs are struggling a bit, but you have seemed to be a force for so many years. What keeps you so strong in the business?
DAS: You know, you really have to have the passion behind it because it’s really not that easy. While we are committed to our fan base and the community we reside in, it’s important that we make our owners happy and they see us running our business in an efficient and financially responsible way. I always say running a jazz club in the corporate world is like fitting a square peg in a round hole and every day we do our best to make it work for everyone.
DAS: So there’s a business element that a lot of people—and I understand why—don’t like to think about. Many people feel a club should be this free flowing outlet for expression and creativity and that it should transcend the borders of a business. It doesn’t, period. We still need to make money to pay the bills and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to do it for 18 years now. Believe me there are many people, that aren’t on the Scullers website, that deserve an enormous amount of credit for keeping Scullers alive. There are a host of dedicated people from the hotel that without them we might not be celebrating our 18th birthday this month.
Smitty: Yes, and I know you do different types of specials and packages with “dinner and a show” and those kinds of things that I think are just fantastic.
DAS: That’s one of the biggest sellers that we have here our dinner and show package. We sell about 15,000 dinner show packages a year, and this is a three-course dinner that you have about an hour and a half before the show, you come in, the parking is complimentary and you receive preferred seating in the club for the performance. And another thing that we’ve added in the last few years, and it’s a big, big plus for people, we added an overnight stay package because we’re located in the Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, so you can actually have a great dinner, attend a fantastic performance, do a little after show party in the lounge, and then just take the elevator upstairs to your room. People love that.
We also have produce a travel series where we take people all over the world to premiere jazz destinations, this summer we hosted our 2nd Annual Montreal Jazz Trip to the world famous Montreal Jazz Festival in June and just a few weeks later brought a group of Scullers fans on the North Sea Jazz Cruise hosted by Marcus Miller, through Scandinavia. We are already planning a Spring 2008 trip to New Orleans.
Smitty: Very cool, that sounds exciting. Those are all winning combinations.
DAS: So those kinds of packages keep people engaged and interested in everything we do.
Smitty: Your location is fantastic and that totally helps. You’re right there on the Charles River and the view…
DAS: Yes, right at the corner of the Mass Pike and the Charles River, so really we have very easy access on and off the highway. We have 5 huge windows with a great view of the Boston skyline and the Charles River.