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CityWalk - CityJazz

What: Jazz club without jazz
Where: On the Promenade
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Located in an octagonal building almost at the geographical center of CityWalk, CityJazz celebrates that most American of all musical forms, the forerunner of rock, soul, and reggae, and the one musical form that bridges the gap between popular and serious music.

The club’s two-story design combines the intimate ambiance of a true jazz club with the great sightlines of a conventional theater. The color scheme of soothing browns and jazzy purples, along with the plush banquettes, creates an aura of ultra-cool sophistication. Memorabilia from Downbeat magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame pays tribute to the greats, from the founding fathers, to the red hot mamas, to the eclectic cool jazz of modern times. Fascinating relics of the greats are displayed along the walls with giant colorized and cutout photo blowups. The overall effect is at once festive and laid back. CityJazz is easily the handsomest performance space in all of CityWalk. The space has also been designed to serve as a state-of-the-art recording facility, just in case a big-name act is looking to do a live album.

The great irony is that CityJazz, which lends itself to small-combo sophisticated jazz groups, offers no jazz. The management has taken to booking hyper-amplified, blow-your-brains-out blues and rockabilly groups that would be better suited to the larger confines of Hard Rock Live. On weekends, CityJazz transforms itself into a comedy club or features novelty acts such a comic hypnotist. There’s even a karaoke night! The only way to hear jazz in this club is to book it for a private event. Then they’ll dig up a jazz combo for you.

It’s a shame, really, because of all the “nightclubs” at CityWalk, CityJazz stays closest to the old-time, big-city definition of what a nightclub should be — an intimate, hip venue with a dance floor and small tables, each one offering a great view of the stage. Still, it’s worth it to visit to soak up the atmosphere and dream of what might have been.

The food and beverage service follow the nightclub formula, too. You can have the bartender pour the usual well drinks for about $5, but there are also martinis and a variety of specialty drinks (about $7). Food ($8 to $14) is something of an afterthought and is served in portions that match the postage stamp size of the tables and lend themselves to serial nibbling. If you come here hungry, you can put together an impromptu “menu de degustation” during the course of the evening. Best of all is the Jazz Deluxe Burger, with three kinds of cheese and sauteed mushrooms served on a tomato foccacia bun.

CityJazz opens for dining and entertainment at 8:00 p.m., but you can usually get in at 6:00 p.m. to browse through the Hall of Fame memorabilia and imagine Charlie Parker up there on stage, blowing sweet and cool.

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Universal Orlando 2011


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