On the Scene with Marco Olivari

By John Berger for the Honolulu Star Advertiser

At the time he was general manager of the famed Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, Marco Olivari was honeymooning in Waikiki when he learned the company would be opening a club in Honolulu.

Soon afterward he was named G.M. of Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. In the year since its soft opening in December 2015, Olivari, 46, has established the room as Honolulu’s foremost jazz venue and an intimate concert stage for big-name rock, pop, soul, blues, gospel and reggae artists, as well as for Hawaii entertainers.

Blue Note Hawaii celebrates its o@cial anniversary on Jan. 17.

JOHN BERGER: Congratulations on Year One. What do you see for Year Two?

MARCO OLIVARI: We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to bring in all our usual players like Kenny G and Chris Botti, but the wealth of (Hawaii-based) talent has been such a pleasure. I think now that we’ve already built up so many new relationships with local Hawaii musicians, and now that a lot of the international musicians have been here and seen the room, I think the next year is just going to be that much stronger.

JB: Were there any surprises for you business-wise?

MO: I was surprised that some artists were so eager to come to Hawaii, and others kind of reluctant to. And it has been really fascinating to see which artists in particular, what genres in particular, are really embraced here. Some of the real heady jazz was a little bit less so, but reggae — I didn’t guess it would do so well here — but all of the reggae shows have been incredible.

JB: Which entertainer from the past year stands out?

MO: Dee Dee Bridgewater is such a unique performer who’s so incredibly versatile. I just love Monty Alexander and hold him in such high regard musically and personally, and having Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer was something we don’t do too often in New York. I’ll mention Willie K as well because he can perform anything from traditional Hawaiian to completely authentic blues.

JB: How has Hawaii lived up to your expectations as a place to live and work?

MO: Hawaii and Hawaiians have just absolutely blown me away with their hospitality. The (New York) museums I miss, but I’m not really a Broadway guy; I’ve been to the Statue of Liberty, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf. I’ve tried it in New York, I’ve tried it in San Francisco conditions, so learning to surf in Waikiki has really been amazing.

JB: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise people.

MO: I am an absolute, passionate, die-hard Ramones fan. … . I play bass and I love all forms of music, but I always played rock ’n’ roll. I had the bene@t of getting to play (New York rock club) CBGB numerous times, and I have a ’78 P bass (guitar) that Dee Dee Ramone signed for me.