Just in Time: Congress Hotel to Open “The Century Room” Jazz Club | Music function
Over the past 100 years or so, The Congress Hotel has survived structural fires, seen Prohibition come and go, and hosted everyone from U.S. Senators to John Dillinger and his criminal gang. Today, a new addition to the historic landmark merges a New York nightclub with a borderline mezcal bar.
Shana Oseran, owner of the Congress Hotel with her husband, Richard Oseran, and music programmer Arthur Vint are teaming up to open a jazz club in the hotel’s former Copper Hall space. The Century Room, with a grand opening scheduled for March, will host weekly jazz shows, serve local mezcals, beers and wines, and offer a step back in time.
“We have the plaza and the Club Congress, which is where it all started, and now moving into that third genre, it’s really exciting,” Oseran said. “Where in town, or anywhere, can you find a place that has three different concert halls?”
The Copper Hall was a banquet hall along the southwest side of the building with windows looking out over the hubbub of Congress Street. With a reduction in banquets and similar events due to the pandemic, Oseran was looking for a new concept to fill the vacant room when she started talking with Vint.
“While there are many great jazz musicians and great jazz shows in Tucson, there hasn’t been a single house to host concerts or tours,” Vint said. “There are a lot of musicians touring across the country, and these bands usually stop touring in Phoenix and go home. By building a world-class club and stage, we hope to bring people to come to Tucson on their West Coast tours.
Vint grew up in Tucson and graduated from Rincon High School.
He also worked at the Congress Hotel as a night shift receptionist before earning a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance from William Paterson University in New Jersey and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. From there, Vint established a career as a freelance drummer, composer, and bandleader throughout New York City beginning in 2007.
Vint says he plays everything from jazz and salsa to pop and rock, and has performed at some of the world’s most renowned venues and appeared on numerous albums. He has also starred on screen in Boardwalk Empire, The Knick and John Wick.
After performing at the plaza in April 2021, Vint floated the idea of turning The Copper Hall into a space inspired by the Village Vanguard jazz club in New York, where Vint worked as a head bartender.
Now, after 15 years in New York and the last year and a half bouncing between New York and Tucson, Vint is returning to his desert home full-time to teach jazz at the University of Arizona and work with Oseran as a as music programmer for La salle du siècle.
“The Vanguard is sort of the mecca of jazz clubs, and all the other jazz clubs point to The Vanguard,” Vint said. “It was a point of reference in the design stages, but we did a lot of detail work to make the space feel like it had been there for 100 years. he Congress hotel has just celebrated its 100th anniversary, it also refers to the factory of the century – we are an agave bar with over 40 agave spirits – and we also hope it will be there for 100 years. you walk in, it feels like it’s always been there.”
The former Copper Hall foyer is now a soundproof stage. The new entrance is through 100-year-old vestibule doors at the corner of Congress St. and Fifth Ave. Doors open to the bar on the left and wooden shutters along the south windows facing Congress St. There are booths, bar stools and 75 table seats with a clear line of sight to the stage which surrounds the far right corner of the room.
“You feel like you’ve arrived at this beautiful and important space,” Vint said. “I always like bars and places where you walk in and feel like you have to lower your voice a bit out of respect, and I think it can have that effect on people.”
Although the space as a whole is new, elements of the past are interwoven inside.
“All those brown, chocolate, delicious curtains that used to surround the whole banquet hall are now reconfigured as the backdrop of the stage on all three sides,” Oseran said.
“We’re going to be open this Friday and Saturday to start, but we plan to expand our days and hours as we get an idea of how it will fit.”
The inauguration is scheduled for the first weekend of March. Until then, they have started holding preview concerts every week on Friday, February 4. The first show sold out, so they added a second seat, a common practice in New York nightclubs. The first service is at 7:30 p.m. and the second at 9 p.m.
The first to perform in this new space was the Homero Cerón Latin Jazz Quartet on Friday, February 4. Cerón has spent over 40 years as principal percussionist of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and plans to perform a mix of originals and Latin classics. It turns out that Cerón was also Vint’s first drum teacher.
On Friday, February 11, Susan Artemis and her quartet perform “Love Songs from the Dark Side of the Lounge” for a special Valentine’s Day weekend concert.
The Howard Alden Trio will take the stage on Friday, February 18 to perform Alden’s favorite compositions throughout his career. Alden is a world famous guitarist from New York who recently moved to Phoenix.
“I look forward to having a dedicated venue that elevates jazz in Tucson,” Vint said. “Local and world-class jazz musicians now have a space where they can perform original music and special projects…drinks will be great too.”