In 1981, Danny Bensusan opened a small club in Greenwich Village, decided to champion jazz musicians. In the process, he named his quaint 250-seat venue after the classic jazz recording label, Blue Note -- a name equated with quality music from the likes of Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley -- that had been founded in 1939, but at the time lay dormant. The Blue Note Jazz Club stumbled for a few years businesswise before the programming took hold, with the booking of big name talents like bassist Ray Brown, the chamber jazz ensemble Modern Jazz Quartet, pianist Oscar Peterson, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and vocalist Sarah Vaughan beginning to attract locals and tourists to see stars in an intimate, though cramped space.
Since that time, Bensusan and his son, Steve -- who now serves as the president of the Blue Note Entertainment Group -- began to think bigger and wider, using the Blue Note brand as a magnet for providing elevated business opportunities that stretched beyond the confines of jazz. The Blue Note portfolio today includes 12 owned or operated jazz clubs worldwide -- from Japan and China to Brazil and Italy -- including two additional venues in New York City: B.B. King’s Club and Lucille’s Grill in New York’s Times Square, with groups that range from blues to classic soul, which opened in 2000; and the Highline Ballroom, which presents pop and rock with a hint of jazz, which opened in 2007.
Now, the company will be adding a fourth venue to its hometown collection: Sony Hall, a joint partnership with the Sony Corporation designed with capacities of 1,000 (standing) and 500 (seated) that is slated to open this spring in New York City's Theater District. If all goes well, the new concert space could also become a milestone in sponsorship convergence, with the latest of Sony’s technological advances on display in the 6,000 square-foot event space that enhance the listening experience with sound, video and lighting integrations. Sony Hall will also serve as ground zero for the annual month-long, genre-agnostic Blue Note Jazz Festival that will celebrate its seventh anniversary this year from June 1-30 with close to 100 musicians performing throughout the city in some 15 venues.