By Bridgette Redman
The dream of two Valley jazz supporters will open its doors this October.
Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft have built the new 30,000-square-foot performing arts venue bearing their name at 8445 E. Hartford Drive in the Scottsdale Perimeter Complex.
The first resident company to perform there will be Lakeshore Music, which is moving from the Tempe Center for the Arts. The opening show, the Kenny Barron Trio, is sold out.
Woody Wilson, Lakeshore’s founder and artistic director, says advance sales for the season are impressive. Out of the 1,800 available seats for the season, there are only about 500 remaining.
“It’s a beautiful new building,” Wilson says. “It’s 200 seats, which is what we had at TCA, and I’m excited about it.”
Building a relationship
Wilson says the Ravenscrofts have supported Lakeshore since he founded it in 2009 and through the pandemic.
“So, when Bob said he was going to build a theater in Scottsdale and asked if we would come with him, I said, ‘Fine,’” Wilson recalls.
“We’ve been at TCA for a long time and saw the ups and downs of the building. I helped pass the arts tax, which supports the building now. My contact with Tempe still remains, but I’ve just changed buildings.”
Wilson says the building is more high-tech than others. It is a recording and a listening facility with a sound system he calls second to none.
“It incorporates the Constellations Sound System, which is a leading sound system of buildings and venues throughout the world,” Wilson says.
“No expense has been spared for this room to be a video center and a broadcasting center. There is a sound studio back behind the venue itself. It’s got everything new. It is exciting in terms of the acoustic and the fidelity.”
Built to high standards
Ravenscroft Director David Bauer agreed this venue is the couple’s dream.
“They have had a desire to establish a venue that achieves the highest-quality experience of music and artistic excellence,” Bauer says.
“Ravenscroft embodies their heart and their passion for presenting arts and music at the highest level of excellence possible. At the core of who Bob and Gretchen are is that they want music and arts to be presented in such a way that ultimately brings attention to God or draws people to the creative wonder that God places in artists and musicians.”
Bob Ravenscroft is a longtime arts lover. The couple’s nonprofit foundation, Music Serving the Word, is committed to presenting arts in an enriching way. Bauer says the building helps the Ravenscrofts do that.
“We inherit a series that is already well established, has a good track record and momentum, and we’re able to host something that is already readymade,” Bauer says. “It just made sense for us to partner with Woody. (The series) will make a big splash in the community and benefit him with a spectacular venue to bring all of his patrons who have been following him for years.”
Bauer says the venue allows for video and video mapping on the side and back walls.
“What sets us apart from a lot of other venues is that this particular venue has been built with the highest level of commitment to architecture and design as it relates to acoustics,” Bauer adds.
“The technology that has been implemented and built into the space is unique. It creates an immersive experience for the audience.”
Intimacy in the Jazzbird
In addition to the 200-seat concert hall, the venue houses Jazzbird, a lounge which, starting Fridays in October, will host music from popular and up-and-coming local musicians. It will serve light food and a selection of wine and local craft beers.
“The Jazzbird is a hang space on Friday nights when we do our weekly thing,” Bauer says. “Once a month, we have another series called Jazz for the Soul. It is a casual, performance-driven space where you can come and enjoy some food and beverage, sit in a nice lounge environment and enjoy a beautiful stage with audio, video and lighting capabilities that will also serve to create an immersive bar experience. It is a full jazz show scene experience, kind of like a New York City jazz club.”
Lakeshore’s opening reception is at the Jazzbird, which seats about 100 patrons.
Lakeshore returns to live performances
Wilson says their season almost didn’t happen. During the pandemic closure, Wilson’s wife, Carol, died from cancer complications.
She will be honored during the first of nine piano-centric shows. Carol never missed a performance.
“Every one of these shows has a great pianist in it,” Wilson says.
Season tickets went on sale May 24. They are slightly pricier because it costs more to put the artists in hotels and feed them in Scottsdale.
“We want people to come and see this beautiful facility,” Wilson says. “It is remarkable that people actually have the wherewithal to build a building like this and take a risk on it,” Wilson says.
“The Ravenscrofts have been an integral part of the jazz and music scene in Phoenix for many years. They are one of the leading philanthropists when it comes to jazz music in the United States. To have someone step up and build a building like this with their own private money is pretty remarkable on a national scale.”
Bauer agrees the building is going to be a major boon for jazz lovers.
“If they are looking for something more than a concert with sound, but something that really brings you into the whole performance — this is going to be the place to get that,” Bauer says.
Scottsdale Perimeter Complex
8445 E. Hartford Drive, Scottsdale