Couple jazzes up speakeasy-style Westside nightclub | Options

Stepping past the velvet curtain and into Westside Blues and Jazz is like stepping back in time to visit an authentic toe-tapping, head-nodding, speakeasy-style nightclub from the Roaring ’20s. 

With its live music, plush couches, moody lighting, antique fixtures, swivel stools, fully stocked bar and even an LED sign buzzing above the stage, Westside Blues and Jazz is an escape from the normal day to day and an experience unlike anywhere else in the Valley.

 

A tough start

“It’s been on my bucket list for 25 years,” said Paul Vincent Perez, owner of the nightclub. “So, when I retired in 2019, I was just driving around with nothing to do and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to open up a little blues and jazz club.’”

And he did. Having dreamt about the club for 25 years, Perez already had a clear vision of what he wanted. With his partner and co-founder Cindi Jackson at his side, Perez said he thought, “Well, we’ll figure it out,” even though this was the first time either of them had opened a nightclub. Once he decided to go for it, Perez rented and renovated a building and was ready to open less than a year later, in April 2020.

Of course, when the club was ready to open, the world was shutting down due to the pandemic. At first, they, like many, just pushed the dates back, but it soon became apparent that this would last longer. 

Westside Blues and Jazz was temporarily shuttered. Worse, because the club had not officially opened, did not have employees yet and Perez had no previous proof of income since his retirement, “we got zilch,” according to Perez. They paid rent for an empty building for a year with zero income or relief money.

Their break came April 9, when they opened with limited seating, plastic shields, temperature checks and masks. It wasn’t what they expected, but it was a start. Music fans were eager to see bands perform again. The club opened at full capacity July 1, after state restrictions were lifted, and finally had its official grand opening July 8.

“It’s been great. Just about every night we’re sold out,” Perez said. “We’re just getting to the point on a nightly basis of breaking even. We’re just starting to make a few bucks. But to make up for the year? No, that will take a while. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. But I’d be happy if I break even for the rest of my life in this business. I’m a happy guy. I’m not really in it for the money. I’m in it for the music, and this is my retirement.”

 

Prioritizing the music

While it was Perez’s idea to open the club, Jackson is just as much of a jazz lover, even a bit of an expert. She grew up immersed in jazz and wanted others to fall in love with it, too.

“Jazz is in my blood,” Jackson said. “As the niece of Arizona saxophonist Lou Garno, I was empowered to open a jazz club that celebrates and honors the history of blues and jazz. We also opened Westside Blues and Jazz out of necessity; we knew there weren’t any full-service blues and jazz clubs in the Valley that offered live music in a traditional lounge setting. We wanted to change that.”

Westside Blues and Jazz is the first live music lounge to open in the West Valley. True to the duo’s goal, the space looks like an authentic, basement speakeasy lounge. The servers even wear flapper dresses to tie together the vintage theme.

While the style may have a throwback look, the club has a professional, updated sound and lighting system to give the audience the best experience possible. Quality is important to the couple. It’s what sets them apart.

“I could get local bands (for cheap) where I could be making money right now, but I didn’t open it up just to sit in the corner and have a beer and listen to music. I can go to any local bar and do that,” Perez said. “The success to this type of business is the quality of music. You keep the quality, they will come. I will not sacrifice that for money or anything. I’ll close before I turn it into (an average bar) or I’ll get up there and sing karaoke.”

The couple said it’s important to stick with jazz and blues. Perez said part of their mission is to revive jazz and bring it back into the community, as clubs similar to Westside have fizzled out over the years. More than just a creative sound, jazz often has a deeper meaning, Jackson added, and many songs deal with issues still prevalent.

For now, all the club’s bands are local artists, many of whom have not had a space to perform live in over a year. The gigs at Westside Blues and Jazz are critical to some of these artists, while just plain fun for others. As the club draws in more revenue, Perez said they will be hiring quality musicians from all over.

 

Something for everyone

The club’s crowd is a mix of ages, races and personalities, with something for everyone.

“We’re finding jazz is more of the older crowd, it seems like, but our jazz that we have here, it’s not like people conceive,” Perez said.

“If they haven’t heard jazz, they think of that elevator music and stuff like that, but our bands are top-of-the-line rhythm and blues mix.

“Blues is a little younger crowd, under 40s, I would say. Then you’ve got the over-65 crowd who were around from my generation, who remember all those great blues bars (that used to be) here. There’s a mix. That’s why we try and diversify a little on the music, like throwing in a little R&B, but we don’t want to get away from the foundation of the blues and jazz.”

For those really feeling the music, Perez emphasizes that it’s a nightclub, so guests are free to celebrate the music.

“Certain nights, they’ll be screaming and shouting. It’s a rowdy nightclub,” Perez said. “People chitchat and socialize. It’s not a concert hall. People can get up and dance in any open spots they want. We encourage that.”

And not everyone has to come for the music. Westside Blues and Jazz has an outdoor seating area for those who want to hear the music in the background while they enjoy a beverage, from a myriad of signature cocktails, wines and beer, along with classic bar food like a soft pretzel, fries and even a grilled cheese. There is also bar seating, where patrons get more of the music than outside but can still sit back and chat. Perez said he wanted the space to be comfortable for everyone.

“We have people dress up, like couples who come in on a date,” Perez said. “But no one feels uncomfortable sitting next to a guy in shorts and sneakers. If they wanted to dress up, they could go to Scottsdale, but we want you to be comfortable. We want you to enjoy your time here, sit back, relax, have some drinks, dance, whatever.”   

By Allison Brown

Glendale Star Staff Writer

Stepping past the velvet curtain and into Westside Blues and Jazz is like stepping back in time to visit an authentic toe-tapping, head-nodding, speakeasy-style nightclub from the Roaring ’20s. 

With its live music, plush couches, moody lighting, antique fixtures, swivel stools, fully stocked bar and even an LED sign buzzing above the stage, Westside Blues and Jazz is an escape from the normal day to day and an experience unlike anywhere else in the Valley.

 

A tough start

“It’s been on my bucket list for 25 years,” said Paul Vincent Perez, owner of the nightclub. “So, when I retired in 2019, I was just driving around with nothing to do and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to open up a little blues and jazz club.’”

And he did. Having dreamt about the club for 25 years, Perez already had a clear vision of what he wanted. With his partner and co-founder Cindi Jackson at his side, Perez said he thought, “Well, we’ll figure it out,” even though this was the first time either of them had opened a nightclub. Once he decided to go for it, Perez rented and renovated a building and was ready to open less than a year later, in April 2020.

Of course, when the club was ready to open, the world was shutting down due to the pandemic. At first, they, like many, just pushed the dates back, but it soon became apparent that this would last longer. 

Westside Blues and Jazz was temporarily shuttered. Worse, because the club had not officially opened, did not have employees yet and Perez had no previous proof of income since his retirement, “we got zilch,” according to Perez. They paid rent for an empty building for a year with zero income or relief money.

Their break came April 9, when they opened with limited seating, plastic shields, temperature checks and masks. It wasn’t what they expected, but it was a start. Music fans were eager to see bands perform again. The club opened at full capacity July 1, after state restrictions were lifted, and finally had its official grand opening July 8.

“It’s been great. Just about every night we’re sold out,” Perez said. “We’re just getting to the point on a nightly basis of breaking even. We’re just starting to make a few bucks. But to make up for the year? No, that will take a while. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. But I’d be happy if I break even for the rest of my life in this business. I’m a happy guy. I’m not really in it for the money. I’m in it for the music, and this is my retirement.”

 

Prioritizing the music

While it was Perez’s idea to open the club, Jackson is just as much of a jazz lover, even a bit of an expert. She grew up immersed in jazz and wanted others to fall in love with it, too.

“Jazz is in my blood,” Jackson said. “As the niece of Arizona saxophonist Lou Garno, I was empowered to open a jazz club that celebrates and honors the history of blues and jazz. We also opened Westside Blues and Jazz out of necessity; we knew there weren’t any full-service blues and jazz clubs in the Valley that offered live music in a traditional lounge setting. We wanted to change that.”

Westside Blues and Jazz is the first live music lounge to open in the West Valley. True to the duo’s goal, the space looks like an authentic, basement speakeasy lounge. The servers even wear flapper dresses to tie together the vintage theme.

While the style may have a throwback look, the club has a professional, updated sound and lighting system to give the audience the best experience possible. Quality is important to the couple. It’s what sets them apart.

“I could get local bands (for cheap) where I could be making money right now, but I didn’t open it up just to sit in the corner and have a beer and listen to music. I can go to any local bar and do that,” Perez said. “The success to this type of business is the quality of music. You keep the quality, they will come. I will not sacrifice that for money or anything. I’ll close before I turn it into (an average bar) or I’ll get up there and sing karaoke.”

The couple said it’s important to stick with jazz and blues. Perez said part of their mission is to revive jazz and bring it back into the community, as clubs similar to Westside have fizzled out over the years. More than just a creative sound, jazz often has a deeper meaning, Jackson added, and many songs deal with issues still prevalent.

For now, all the club’s bands are local artists, many of whom have not had a space to perform live in over a year. The gigs at Westside Blues and Jazz are critical to some of these artists, while just plain fun for others. As the club draws in more revenue, Perez said they will be hiring quality musicians from all over.

 

Something for everyone

The club’s crowd is a mix of ages, races and personalities, with something for everyone.

“We’re finding jazz is more of the older crowd, it seems like, but our jazz that we have here, it’s not like people conceive,” Perez said.

“If they haven’t heard jazz, they think of that elevator music and stuff like that, but our bands are top-of-the-line rhythm and blues mix.

“Blues is a little younger crowd, under 40s, I would say. Then you’ve got the over-65 crowd who were around from my generation, who remember all those great blues bars (that used to be) here. There’s a mix. That’s why we try and diversify a little on the music, like throwing in a little R&B, but we don’t want to get away from the foundation of the blues and jazz.”

For those really feeling the music, Perez emphasizes that it’s a nightclub, so guests are free to celebrate the music.

“Certain nights, they’ll be screaming and shouting. It’s a rowdy nightclub,” Perez said. “People chitchat and socialize. It’s not a concert hall. People can get up and dance in any open spots they want. We encourage that.”

And not everyone has to come for the music. Westside Blues and Jazz has an outdoor seating area for those who want to hear the music in the background while they enjoy a beverage, from a myriad of signature cocktails, wines and beer, along with classic bar food like a soft pretzel, fries and even a grilled cheese. There is also bar seating, where patrons get more of the music than outside but can still sit back and chat. Perez said he wanted the space to be comfortable for everyone.

“We have people dress up, like couples who come in on a date,” Perez said. “But no one feels uncomfortable sitting next to a guy in shorts and sneakers. If they wanted to dress up, they could go to Scottsdale, but we want you to be comfortable. We want you to enjoy your time here, sit back, relax, have some drinks, dance, whatever.”