Santurri came to Scullers with an earful of music, much through her mother. "My mother was a terrific singer and when she was moonlighting from her day job, she would go to small night clubs and belt out some of the great Motown and jazz standards I was just small enough then that my Dad would sneak me in. You could say she was a cross between Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick." Santurri does confess to being a "child of the ‘80’s", naming The Cure and Depeche Mode in her CD collection.
Historically, jazz and improvisational music in Boston reach back decades and continue to be a part of the cultural landscape of the city. Since 1989, Scullers Jazz Club has ranked as one of the best jazz venues in the country (recently named "Best Live Music Venue" by CBS4 Boston.) A favorite spot of the late vocalist Lou Rawls, the Club offers a potpourri of jazz, Latin music, blues and R&B. So, who’s performed at Scullers? To name but a few: vocalists Nancy Wilson, Ann Hampton Callaway and Shirley Horn; pianists Diana Krall and Danilo Perez; trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and Arturo Sandoval; R&B stars The Manhattans, Will Downing and Regina Belle; and the next wave of jazz artists - pianists Jason Moran and Robert Glasper and Boston area saxophonist Grace Kelly.
But within any time frame, especially the one for music, tastes change. Asked what kinds of music patrons request today as compared to a decade ago, Santurri says that "it's more the eclectic mix of requests than one particular type. That is much different from years ago. Whether we created that demand with the eclectic nature of our schedule over the years, or the requests have helped formulate our method of booking, I am not sure, probably a little of both. In one week at Scullers you can see a no-holds barred blues show on Tuesday from Joe Bonamassa, Bobby "Blue" Bland or Marcia Ball, return on Wednesday and see a salsa merengue show, then come back on Thursday to see one of jazz' elder statesman like Hank Jones, Roy Haynes or Abbey Lincoln and Marian McPartland and on the weekend we'll host a contemporary jazz supergroup like Spyro Gyra, The Rippingtons or Acoustic Alchemy."
As there becomes fewer haunts to see jazz, Scullers survives by inviting its patrons to the table for a say in its programming. "All of the programs we've rolled out have originated from our club clientele," says Santurri. "I am very fortunate to have a great flow of communication from clientele who will take me aside at a show or e-mail me suggestions, concerns and/or support for what we are doing here at Scullers or what we should or should not be doing." And from this partnership is where the party begins literally.
Santurri and Fred Taylor, the Entertainment Director who books Scullers, were approached about hosting a dance party since early on in her tenure. "We had our first Dance Party in March with Tiempo Libre and it was great - great turnout and feedback. We [are] committed to doing one a quarter. [In August] we had the Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra for our Dance Party and it was terrific."
But the party as of late has taken itself on the road. The Road Trip Series is something that Santurri has always wanted to do. "There are so many great destinations for jazz enthusiasts that I wanted to use Scullers’ name to get the best deals we could and go on a great field trip. We went to NYC last fall and this year we went to the Montreal Jazz Festival. What a blast! We went for four days and three nights and everyone had such a great time. Fred and I booked another trip for next year's Festival."
Their Dinner and Show package is a delicious idea and one that Santurri says has acted as "the backdrop of many special occasions from birthday parties, anniversaries, retirement parties and even a couple of bachelor/bachelorette parties."
Her work with Taylor has been, as she expresses is "an extraordinary experience, both professionally and personally." She and Taylor were introduced at a fundraiser last year as "the Kelly and Regis of the Boston jazz scene." Their relationship is synergistic. Taylor, since the days of running Boston’s Paul’s Mall and The Jazz Workshop, has booked some of the world’s most in-demand artists. Santurri, with her attentive staff, roll out the red hospitality rug for patrons and the artists, so that by the downbeat, everyone is cozy. Their schedule for this month runs the range of genre, mood, spark and venerability - from The Rippingtons (on their 20th Anniversary tour), vocalist Diane Schuur, guitarists Stanley Jordan and John Pizzarelli, Boston-based bassist Esperanza Spalding and vocalist Cassandre McKinley and pianists Patricia Barber and Marian McPartland.
There continue to be improvements to Scullers’ services to its patrons. Last year, they redid their website (www.scullersjazz.com). It’ll give you the latest information because Santurri puts it up herself. Another nicety is their monthly E-newlsetter that you can sign up for and receive the first notification of specials, show previews etc, before it is offered to the public. "Several of our shows last year were sold out from the newsletter announcement so it's a great way to get those tickets before they sell out," says Santurri. Soon, patrons will have access to artists in a way. "By the fall, we are going to introduce a blog on the site. We hope to also make available an artist's "corner", spotlighting a particular artist each month and we will have a music library so you can hear a sample of the artist who is coming into the club on a certain night."
If she had one favor to ask patrons before arriving at Scullers, it would be to relax. "When they get to Scullers, we know they usually have had a hard day at the office and they fought traffic to get there. We also know that Scullers has a soothing effect on people. It can be a relaxing, invigorating and enlightening experience. I would ask that when you walk in and take your seat, take a deep breath, order your favorite beverage and just enjoy!"