Slide guitar, ukulele, banjo: Local rock and blues musician Tavana played them all last month during my first visit to the Blue Note Hawaii, a live music and dinner venue that, contrary to expectations, hosts more than just jazz artists.
"We're known as jazz ambassadors and known for high-quality jazz throughout the world," said Marco Olivari, the Blue Note Hawaii's general manager, referencing its collection of venues in New York, Milan, the Far East and Napa, Calif.
"We love that," he continued. "What a lot of people don't know is that we actually embrace music of all genres."
Tapping into Hawaii's diverse pool of musical talent has been a major focus for the Blue Note Hawaii since it opened in January, according to Olivari, who told me the company didn't want to set up shop on Oahu with a rigid, mainland way of doing things.
"We really wanted to move here and incorporate and embrace the community and present a lot of the amazing talent that was already here," he said.
But visitors shouldn't expect the usual calendar of traditional Hawaiian music every night at the Blue Note Hawaii, which is located in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort.
Tavana was an excellent example. Although he grew up on Oahu, the singer-songwriter's bluesy-rock sound was far removed from much of the music you'll hear elsewhere in Waikiki.
And thanks to solid relationships with well-known artists who've performed at the long-established Blue Note New York, the Hawaii venue has also hosted some big international names, such as Jake Shimabukuro, Kenny G and Chick Corea.
Olivari said offering artists a top-notch, smaller venue for several nights of performances is often more appealing to musicians than just one night at much larger Honolulu spaces.
"For the guests, they then get to maybe see a Kenny G or Chick Corea, these living legends, in a very intimate setting," he said. "And very often the performers will also do meet and greets or sign CDs or take photos, because they can do it for 300 guests; they can't do it for 3,000. So there's the intimacy of the performance, but there's also the chance to maybe even meet your hero."
A 9,000-square-foot venue with a capacity of 326, the Blue Note Hawaii features seating ranging from large booths to tables and bar-area options along with high-end food, wine and cocktails. Children are welcome.
Two performances are held nightly at 6:30 and 9 o'clock, providing travelers a wonderful evening option after the outdoor excitement of an Oahu day winds down.
"We do the shows earlier, so they're a little bit more family-friendly and a little bit closer to after sundown," Olivari said. "If you've spent all day in the waves and had a good amount of sun, you're probably going to be pretty pooped out by 10 or 11 at night."