Jazzing it up

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The dream of Arjun Sagar Gupta, The Piano Man Jazz Club is India’s first and only live programming venue with a performance every night of the week. What is special is the design and ambience of the place that speaks and breathes music

With a special focus on artists and music, The Piano Man Jazz Club based in New Delhi has created a niche for itself as a performance venue and is designed with music as the central theme – right from the green room for artists to the chandelier made of trumpets, the wooden flooring and the brick walls with names of jazz legends such as Frank Sinatra and Clark Terry on them. The entry to The Piano Man is a small cubicle room, with an elevator and the floor is cleverly designed with black and white tiles, to give it an illusion of  a piano keyboard.

How did Arjun Sagar Gupta, founder, The Piano Man think of this unique combination of a musical supper theatre and gastronomy adventure? “Dinner Theatre is essentially a combination of a play or concert with dinner and drinks. It is usually a formal setting where people focus on the performance over the meal. We aren’t a ‘proper’ supper theatre, nor entirely a restaurant or bar. We’ve taken elements from the each of these formats of operation and tried to create a fresh space, that suits us and our ideas. I wanted a change in the scene, especially in relation with the importance of an artist in a performance space and in general,” he says.

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When elaborating on the design elements, Gupta is quick to point out that, “Music isn’t an important part of the decor, the decor is an important part of the music. Music, at the jazz club, reigns supreme!”

He adds, “Amith Chhabra and his wife Mona designed The Piano Man. They run a firm called Livin’ Color Design. We got along really well, our ideas synced, our style of working agreed with the others and well, that resulted in something beautiful. There are some very interesting design elements right from entry. The understated signage in brass in a custom font designed by Pushkar Thakur (The Grafiosi, he made all our logos, etc). The piano is a  key element on the floor in the front lobby that replicates at the bar. The installation art piece at the entrance is made from salvaged parts of a grand piano I restored. The engraved bricks, the 58 trumpet chandelier, the metal work, vintage mirrors… oh it’s a long list of love. Every part of the place has been created by purposeful design. Most of these were custom made for us; some things like the chandelier, were literally made at the club.”

Piano play

Gupta’s journey with jazz began in his early teens and he has been a performing pianist since the early 2000s. He entered the F&B industry in 2010 when he started Cake Away, a bakery catering to finer wholesale requirements of restaurants and corporate houses. Though not a chef by profession, he has devoted time and energy in learning the art from bakers and chefs in order to develop the skill and minutely analyse the food, an ability he feels is indispensable as a restaurateur. He was also invited to apprise the viewers about choicest recipes from The Piano Man on NDTV’s Guilt Free TV show.

And why the name? Gupta reminisces, “The brand name – The Piano Man was coined in 2012 when we launched our first cafe by my father. We were in a rut about what to call the venture, with literally hundreds of names in the fray and nothing “felt” right. I had a WhatsApp group with all my friends, relatives and you name it, just throwing names in. Nothing stuck. One day I was playing the piano at home and my father said, “How about The Piano Man?” It stuck, I loved it, everyone around me loved it and even if they didn’t, I would have gone with it. It just clicked.”

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Another unique aspect at The Piano Man is The Silent Song, an extraordinary experience where the environment suddenly and completely changes with everyone listening to the music just the way artists would like them to. The entire audience is asked to pretend that they’ve entered a concert venue and put a stop to all movement and murmurs during performances. To help enhance the atmosphere, the bar is closed and all services are stopped during this time. This ritual is followed for a few songs every night based on the performing artist’s request.

Gupta remarks, “We want to be a point of exposure. A place for people to discover artists from the local scene and abroad. We schedule six to eight weeks of performances at a time, so if you ask me what’s coming up, there’s a lot of info coming your way! We have a dedicated space for artists to relax, unwind, eat, drink, etc  – our green room. We have an open bar and menu for the performing artist, great equipment in the house, we record and mix A/V for all the shows (our “Archive” project). Most importantly, we have respect and admiration.”

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The menu at The Piano Man is split into several sections. Bar food, Eurasian dining, comfort food and desserts. Gupta elaborates, “We’ve got some delicious quick eats from around the world. We’ve had a Swiss national compliment us on our Swiss Fondue and a French musician absolutely rave about our beetroot souffle. It’s an eclectic menu with a lot of research and work behind every dish. Like our club, which isn’t for everyone, our food is also a range of carefully crafted flavours. Hence we’ve had people love us and hate us. The comfort food section is the bridge with super thin stone oven pizzas which have been getting rave reviews, delicious risottos, my mother’s Moussaka recipe and a range of other dishes that walk the middle path while retaining authenticity and flavour.”

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