Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jazz Venues: Bella Vida Velvet Jazz Lounge

The Bella Vida Velvet Jazz Lounge was a pleasant surprise when I came upon it a couple weeks ago. While pulling my ever-so-patient partner Artesia by the elbow to find new locales, I took the proverbial "shot in the dark" with SL search, and tp'd to Bella Vida, hoping to find a simple dance floor with some jazz that would be a pleasant background for the evening.

Bird's eye view of the Bella Vida

What I found has turned into one of the few Jazz lounges that I placed in my picks, and remains one of my favorites for a good number of reasons.

The seating area and bar to the right of the entrance to the dance floor

Arrival places one across a bridge to the central dance floor, flanked by welcome signs and a buffet table with a selection of beverages to indulge in prior to enjoying an evening of dancing. A note, however... the main dance floor is encircled by an extensive selection of stores with environmental appros items (e.g. formal dresses, tuxedos, ect...), so again, if you need to "polish your image" a bit (or a lot) prior to entering, the selection is available from many well-known merchants.

Dancing with Artesia during The Dealer's Saturday evening set

The greeters here are exceptional - they are polite and quick to greet you upon reaching the dance floor. You'll most likely be offered membership to the Bella Vida group, which can be a mixed blessing. They are very pro-active in promoting their activities, so if you do accept, expect to see a few notes from them regarding their promotions. Personally, I don't mind, as I like to keep abreast of their going-ons.

Enjoying a drink at the small bistro on the other side of the dance floor

The dance floor uses a centralize system for dancing (the Intan Couple dance ball)... instead of the typical dance balls, one clicks on the colorful sphere hovering over the dance floor, and a pair of balls will materialize nearby, with the selector being able to choose from a menu of dances. Much easier to cycle through dances (better than having to be stuck on the same animation, regardless of the song!)

The build of the Bella Vida is reminiscent of classic Italian architecture, but has a modern and stylish appearance, including many small touches as a seating area next to an oval bar (reminds me of a San Fran cable car (lol)), and a runway for fashion events (I missed the one at the end of April due to RL circumstances, but I heard it was exceptional).

In addition to the many stores, there is a small restaurant on the other end of the sim, with outdoor tables and a replete selection of courses to indulge in with a friend.

One last item to mention... two of my favorite performers happen to be here. DJ Jen Noel, aka "The Dealer", is one of the few DJ in SL who makes a point of including Latin jazz and Tangos in her appearances, much to my appreciation. Additionally, DJ Furion Paine specializes in classic Jazz tunes, and certainly has a memorably narrative (and smooth) radio voice - his performances are good enough make you forget you're in SL. (His website is listed on the sidebar - do visit it!). Along with the talented DJ BabyJazz, they have a fantastic trifecta of performers here.

The runway to the left of the entrance - a very well built area

Needless to say, I certainly recommend Bella Vida. I have only scratched the surface of this locale. Many other hidden secrets (e.g. the lover's garden) are nestled away, so .... if you are looking for an outstanding Jazz Lounge to visit in SL, I would heartily recommend the Bella Vida Velvet Jazz Lounge.

[Oh, c'mon - you know if there is a bar, I'll find it!...]

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jazz Venue: The New Blue Note

When I was new to SL, I was fortunate enough to have a lady-friend introduce me to a great jazz lounge – it had memorable music, fantastic atmosphere, low lag… I never failed to enjoy my visits there. However, as my RL & SL diverted my attention, I paid fewer and fewer visits to this retro paradise, always meaning to return "at some later time". Last week ended up being that "later time", and to my surprise, not only was the New Blue Note still going strong, but was in fact better that I remembered.

Overview of the New Blue Note

When one tp’s to the New Blue Note, you’ll arrive just outside the entrance of the lounge. To the left are the lounge rules and a floral cart; to the right is the RFL kiosk and the Blue Note’s sign. [Before I continue, I should note that this lounge has been in operation for over two years – making it one of the oldest continually operating jazz lounges in SL.] Although there is no greeter or host per se, if Miss Naydee McGettigan (the Blue Note’s owner) happens to be in, she makes it a point of personally welcoming all guests who arrive.)

Miss Naydee McGettigan (on the piano, with her friend, Mr. Lusch, and Miss Wendell playing the ivories), greeting the newly arriving guests

The style of the New Blue Note is, as its title states, retro, harkening to the classic days of the Rat Pack. The lounge and dance floor is open and easy to navigate and dancing uses the traditional dance-ball animations for its guests. Surrounding the floor are numerous tables in case one gets tired of dancing (lol), including what must be the "Blue Note Table", a unique area to relax and watch the couples dance the night away.

A place to rest and have a gin & tonic
The floor plan is the same as I recalled from months ago, which is just as well, as it is smartly designed and built. The main stage has an (apparently) comfortable piano, and classic jazz microphone just in front. One nice touch is the announcement board just to its upper right, with id’s the songs that play through its online music feed (Martini in the Morning). No having to guess what songs are playing – a simple glance will do!

Dancing with my lovely lady

Additionally, She has a small bar area in the back corner of the dance floor, which is replete with modern re-imagining of the 60’s retro era by the southern California artist Shag. Images of classic Jazz artists surround the bar at one end, and a pair of suspended pod-chairs await at the other.

The picturesque shopping area

Miss McGettigan has, however, expanded the Blue Note’s holdings to include two additional areas. First, she has added a retail area, with a number of stores, including ones that sell appropriate attire for the lounge’s environs. Perhaps yet more intriguing, she has included numerous romantic hide-aways, where a couple can either dance in solitude, or have those simple conversations in private and enchanting surroundings.

Admiring the fountain and landscaping

As I mentioned previously, the New Blue Note has recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, with good reason. Superb dance floor design and layout, attention to the details of style of the 60’s lounge/Rat Pack era, secluded nooks for couples to steal a few moments away, and a plethora additional well-thought out aspects, place the New Blue Note as one of the best Jazz lounges of Second Life. A definite "must visit" – do so soon!

The pod-chairs at the swinging Shag bar

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jazz Venue: Barcelona Blues Bar

Logo of the Barcelona Blues Bar

When conducting research for this article, I found the Barcelona Blues Bar, at what appeared to be a fantstic build with much potential. I originally envisioned a small venue with virtual smoke clouding the view as whispered Catalan and Spanish murmurmed while a live artist was performing.
However, my hopes were dashed as I continued to visit it over the follwing week.

Arrival point at the Barcelona

Upon arrival, you'll land directly in the entrance of the club, which is good, as it is a skybox. No greeter, sans a bot offering me a tp link to a bookstore (?). Actually, during my visits (seven of them), I never saw a soul here, making the need for a host therefore academic. No guests = no need for a host, or even automatic greeter!

Overview of the two floors of the Bar

The build style is very sleek - practically modern. The build is well done, with a coherent style throughout the entire club. The spotlights are a nice touch, but it seems every visit was day visit, even after juggling my timeframes in rl to try to catch an evening period in SL. (I did shift to "midnight" in SL for the sake of seeing the spotlights, but rest assured, it was quite sunny).

The two solitary balls in the corner...

There were two dance balls on the floor, gigantic as it was. The seating area was well laid out, and the bars on both floors are a nice touch.

But at least there is a nice view (during the persistant daytime)!

Unfortunately, as well built as the Barcelona Blues Bar is, I can't see much point in visiting. Even by its name, I expected something along the lines of Blues or Jazz, but a consistant rock music feed actually renders the bar's title academic. It has mounds of potential, but with no Jazz/Blues and no patrons, it will never reach the potential that it has.

To say it is a bit... empty.. is generous - unfortunatly

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jazz Venue: Urbanity

Formal entrance to Urbanity

I tend to dress a bit formally in SL, and as such I seek out stores that sell quality formal men’s attire. I happened upon Eros, and was looking at a couple of suits, when I noticed a TP panel that made mention of Jazz club on the premesis. Needless to say, I decided to pay it a visit – and discovered it was certainly worth my while…

Aero view of Urbanity

When one arrives at Urbanity, you’ll be place literally at the entrance – quite nice, as you can make the proverbial bee-line to the dance floor if so desired. The times I have visited when a greeter was available, they were nice, but at other times, the notecards describing the ongoing events sufficed.

A view of a seating area, bar, and main TP board, allowing a quick trip to any part of Eros Island

I’d say that the design of the build is reminiscent of Art Deco, with sleek lines and stylish additions to the lights and columns of the club. The dance floor is located in the center of the build, surrounded on three sides by a long bar, numerous seating areas, and a stage with piano and microphone, for live entertainment. Additionally, the same TP board is located on the corner between the seating area and the bar, just in case the desire to do a bit of shopping (at Eros huge shopping complex) strikes one’s fancy.

The three stages at Urbanity, with mike and piano

However, there are a set of freebee formals on the other end of the club. The men’s tux is quite well made, but I make no pretense on the lady’s dress – I will demure to my ignorance in arena of women’s fashion. Surrounding the club is a walkway, with romantic poseballs, in case a couple desires a little bit of quiet, away from the main gathering of patrons.

The gratis gown and tux - the men's attire is quite good

Another series of poseballs for dancing are used for couples, with a dance generator available if a person wishes to use it (for solo / separate dancing). The floor itself is quite large, and centrally situated in reference to the main stage. A common design, but it works well for the club.

A quiet and solitary deck for quiet moments

I have to admit, I do visit sometimes, if only to listen to music and attend to SL business. The style and atmosphere of not only the club, but of the entire sim is quite good, making Urbanity a pleasure to visit, be it for events, contemplation, or relaxation.

View of the dance floor, looking towards the entrance

Blog entries breakdown...

Yoshi's Jazz Club, Oakland, California, @ Jack London Square

I’m going to add a bit more structure to this blog (a bit more than my other one, the Heliograph), so I figured I’d try to explain how I’m doing what I’m doing here, and what my visits are about.

The 606 Club in Chelsea, - "London's best music venue"...

When I check out a place, I visit it a few times, when its busy and when its empty, to get an idea of how the place feels, and what the patrons of the lounge or club are like (e.g. friendly, snooty, quiet, ect…). One thing I don’t try to do is to judge the music. That’ll vary with the DJ or stream they are playing – as long as its Jazz, or a cousin of it, I’m fine with it. I hope to add some DJ interviews in the future, but for now, I’ll concentrate on the venues.

The Village Vanguard, in New York (yes, in Greenwich Village)

The first thing I blog about is how I arrived there. A lot of times its by search, but sometimes there is a story behind it – not every good place has to be found through search (ideally!) Next, I’ll discuss the arrival and the hosts. Some places will deposit you at the proverbial "front door" of a club, other will have you work through a gauntlet of obstacles before you can make it to the entrance. The hosts/greeters can make (or take away) from the all-important first impression. The majority of hosts are polite and courteous, but there are always a few exceptions. Not every place has live greeters, but if it does, and they stand out, I’ll try to give them the credit they deserve. If they aren’t so great, well… I’ll be polite in my description.

Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr., and Hugh Hefner on the classic (jazz) show, Playboy After Dark [the epimity of cool, if only for an hour at at time...]

Style and build go hand-in-hand – if a build has a style that doesn’t match its stated theme or a general jazz theme, it’ll take away from the atmosphere. I’m talking extremes here – like a jazz lounge dressed up as a country bar or an S&M parlor (yes, I’ve seen both) doesn’t quite do it. I’ll try to provide some images so the readers can make up their own minds. If there is some unusual aspect, I’ll also point it out, in addition to stores, dining areas, bars, ect... The builds of most clubs are usually done by the prototypical "trained professionals", but if one is really well done or poorly done, I’ll make mention of it.

The legendary Cotton Club at 142nd & Lennox Avenue, New York, New York

The all-important dance floor and animations are next – most places will use poseball anis, but if there is something unusual, I’ll try to point it out. Finally, I’ll mention of my impressions of the venue, good, bad, or in-between. I do realize that most club and lounge owners are hard-working individuals who have invested time, money, and more into their club, and I will do my best to respect their efforts. My goal is to promote the entire Second Life Jazz scene – bringing more attention to the great places that people can go to and relax from their RL (or SL, it its that stressful), even if for a while.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hey, hep cats - the traditional first entry

Enjoying the atmosphere at the Bella Vida Jazz Lounge

One of the most disappointing issues I have experienced in SL is where to take my partner for an enjoyable evening of dancing, or just listening to relaxing jazz music. Often times, I have resorted to sorting through a laundry list of jazz clubs and lounges in search, trying to find a place that has good music, well-designed, and is relatively lag-free (as much as SL can be).

Eventually, I'll find one that catches my eye, but often times, I end up at locales that have virtual tumbleweeds crossing it or a musical play list that claims jazz, but is actually an eclectic mix of various genres.

So I decided to start a small blog to categorize and highlight some of the better run SL jazz clubs – ones were you can enjoy good music with your sweetie, admire the quality and design of the build, and basically have a good jazz experience.
As with my other blog, if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to send them - I'm always interested in ways to make the "Jazz Scene" better - thanks!