Just Jazz stirs memories

The lady in the sheer black dress swishes her hips gently, as if her contours were caught in a mild breeze.

She sings with her eyes closed, savoring the words, parting with them reluctantly.

“Rapture of looooooove,” Paris Red purrs, hanging onto the notes, kneading into them like warm dough.

Behind her, the saxophonist grips his instrument like he’s trying to squeeze the life out of some mortal enemy, counterpoising Red’s soft, spun-from-cotton voice with a hard, wild blurt, his knees bent, legs taut.

The drummer taps out a loose, yet deliberate beat; the bassist keeps his lines rubbery and robust.

“Are you feelin’ good?” Red asks, somewhat rhetorically. “Because if you’re not, you just need to dance more.”

It’s opening night at Just Jazz (1000 E. Sahara Ave.), and the fellas are dressed up in silk ties and pressed sports coats, the ladies are zipped into sparkling shoulderless gowns.

The house is full.

The band is starting to sweat.

They perform on a stage backed by a wall of mirrors, the ceiling above it illuminated with purple lights that look like neon vapor trails.

Framed portraits and collages of jazz greats color the warm, dark room, which is painted in a deep shade of black.

In a town rich in jazz heritage but poor in full-fledged outlets for the sound that once defined Las Vegas, this new nightspot aims to give the music a home every night of the week.

“There are some venues doing it one day a week, bringing in guest artists, and that’s fine,” says Mark Stewart, director of business operations for Just Jazz. “We welcome that competition, because that competition will just amplify the amount of jazz fans there are.

“But at the same time,” he continues, “when those one-night events aren’t happening and somebody wants to hear some really good, relaxing, top-drawer music, this will be the only place they can go.”

As Stewart’s words allude to, this isn’t the place for hard bop, as Just Jazz tends to favor more laid back, slow-simmering sounds.

This won’t win the joint much acclaim from scene purists who may cringe at some of the smooth jazz stylings and Sade covers occasionally on hand here.

But still, the house band is prone to some hot-under-the-collar excursions away from the R&B-laced template, breaking out with tempestuous soloing forceful enough to rattle the ice cubes in your drink.

And with a late-night crowd that’s already started to attract a handful of working musicians who drop by the bar to cut loose after their Strip gigs, the place is beginning to re-image Vegas’ jazz golden age as more than just a blurry memory.

“It’s kind of bringing back the old days without all the glitter and everything,” Stewart says. “I think there’s a demand for it in this town. And we’re bringing it back here.”

Jason Bracelin’s “Sounding Off” column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 383-0476 or e-mail him at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com.

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