Bob and Gretchen Ravenscroft are opening a 30,000-square-foot music venue in north Scottsdale.
Set to open in October in the Scottsdale Perimeter Complex, Ravenscroft is a multiuse performance space that will include the Jazzbird Lounge and an intimate 200-capacity theater, Ravenscroft Hall.
The space will showcase a variety of music and speaking events, from storytellers to TED Talks, with an emphasis on what Bob Ravenscroft refers to as "the jazz."
An accomplished jazz piano player and teacher who moved to Valley in 1971, Ravenscroft says, "I’m all about improvisation, mostly what people would call the jazz. So that’s really the inspiration for the music that goes on."
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But there's already talk of working with the Phoenix Symphony to launch a chamber music series in the spring.
Ravenscroft says he's excited to be able to have a venue to produce music of the highest quality.
What will make Ravenscroft Hall so special
Ravenscroft Hall will offer what they're confident will be an unparalleled musical experience with superb acoustics featuring the state-of-the-art Meyer Constellation sound system.
Rob Moore, the venue's director of music, says the Constellation system will allow the hall to easily change the acoustics in the room.
In the past, Moore explained, the ways to alter room acoustics included installing moveable panels or putting a sound shell on stage that was massive and difficult to move.
Meyer developed a system of speakers and microphones with a processor that everything goes through — what Moore says is helpful to think of as "a very high-end reverb unit."
If they want a really dry room (clear sound, without echo) for a speaking engagement, they can do that. If they want it to sound like a big concert hall for a chamber music concert with a piano player and a cellist, they can add several seconds of reverb to the room. And if they have a jazz band in there and they want it to be tight but not totally dry and dead, they can dial in something in between.
"So it gives us sort of the ultimate flexibility with acoustics in that room," Moore says.
"It's really only the top-notch venues, like the Lincoln Center in New York and there's a few rooms out in California, that have the Constellation sound system. So it's one of the things that kind of sets us apart from some of the other venues in town."
Some shows will also feature visual projections for a multi-sensory experience.
"Even orchestral concerts now, you'll see a lot of visuals happening," Ravenscroft CEO Mario Barnabe says.
"So we're gonna do that. But we're also gonna be able to project visuals on the walls in different ways. That's something that is very experimental for us. So we can't really say exactly what that looks like yet. But we see music kind of melding with a visual presentation. Not necessarily when we start out in October, but over time. Visuals are gonna be a big part of it."
The Lakeshore Music Concert Series is moving to Ravenscroft Hall
The Kenny Barron Trio is set to launch the Lakeshore Music Concert Series, which moves from Tempe Center for the Arts to Ravenscroft, on Saturday, Oct. 16. The nine-concert Lakeshore season runs through May.
Lakeshore Music founder and president Woody Wilson calls the move to Scottsdale "an exciting new beginning for us in an area thirsting for cultural activity and live music.”
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Barnabe says, "We thought that's a great partnership to launch Ravenscroft because he has this existing audience and these existing artists he was working with. We're like 'This is a win-win.'"
Lakeshore ticket sales, Barnabe says, have been "blowing up."
The space will have multiple uses
Starting Fridays in October, the Jazzbird will host happy hour performances by popular and up-and-coming local acts while serving a selection of wine and local craft beers.
The space includes a showroom for displaying Ravenscroft pianos. Bob Ravenscroft and master piano builder Michael Spreeman started Ravenscroft 2004 with goal of building high quality performance instruments.
"Bob's a piano player," Moore says. "So it's gonna be a very pianocentric sort of venue, because we want to highlight how incredible the piano is. It's sort of central to what we hope to present there."
They also plan to have an educational component to the undertaking.
"We need to teach more of our young people about America's classical music," Moore says, referring to jazz.
"This is our music. This is our art form. And we want to present it in the best way possible. So we have an educational wing that's run by Russell Schmidt and his Valley Jazz Cooperative. It's kind of like an all-city youth jazz band or jazz group."
Asked how long this music venue has been in the works, Ravenscroft responds by joking, "My whole life, I guess."
As far as the building itself, that's been in the works a year or two, possibly three.
"It’s hard to say," Ravenscroft says. "It’s fairly recent, the building the way it’s going to be. It’s evolving right now."
The inspiration behind opening his own performance space, he says, was "to be able to have our own place where we can control the seating, the stage area, the lighting, the sound, to present this in the best possible way that we can."
In addition to presenting concerts in the auditorium, the space has been designed for those performances to be recorded and hopefully shared online if the artist consents.
As Ravenscroft sums up the mission, "We're very serious about this whole thing of getting the art form out to the public for the people to experience it."
"The Ravenscroft digital concert hall is kind of the concept in our mind," Moore says. "We want to be able to present an exemplary experience that people can enjoy from the comfort of their home."
Speaking of comfort, thanks to Gretchen Ravenscroft, the concert hall has been designed with your personal comfort in mind.
As her husband explains, "Gretchen said as much as possible, what she wanted to have happen was seating such that you can sit in your seat and people can walk in front of you to their seats, and you don't have to feel like you have to stand up to let them by. So it won't be cramped seating. Let's put it that way."
The hall is a legacy project for Ravenscroft
The Ravenscroft performance space is an outreach of MSW Ministries, a nonprofit private foundation the Ravenscrofts started in 2006. In addition to bringing jazz concerts to Phoenix for the past 20 years, the Ravenscrofts are major donors to Arizona State University’s Jazz Studies program and founders of a scholarship program for young jazz musicians.
To Ravenscroft, this venue is just one more outgrowth of the Ravenscroft's commitment to promoting and preserving jazz as an art form in the Valley.
There's a "very healthy" scene for jazz in Phoenix at the moment, he says. But it's definitely not the same as when he moved here.
"There is a wonderful jazz program, for example, being taught at Arizona State University and other community colleges," Ravenscroft says.
"So jazz is very much alive with younger people learning the craft. But what is always limited is how do you present it? And there's not as many jazz clubs as there used to be. So this is more important than ever to be able to have a space to present the best of jazz that we can here in the Valley."
They're "very serious," he says, "about presenting the art form in the best possible way. We're not gonna be very casual about it. I'm going to be insisting on the very best way that is technically possible. This is our goal."
Moore sees the space as a legacy project for Ravenscroft.
"It's an extension of his life’s mission," he says, "which is to provide artists an opportunity to share their gifts with the community in an exceptional venue with exquisite audio and visuals."
The Lakeshore Music Concert Series
Tickets are on sale now at theravenscroft.com for the Lakeshore Music Concert Series.
The concerts are as follows:
- Kenny Barron Trio — Saturday, Oct. 16
- Harold López-Nussa — Saturday, Oct. 30
- Bob Sheppard Quartet — Saturday, Nov. 20
- Beth Lederman & Jazz Con Alma — Saturday, Dec. 18
- Bill Cunliffe Trio — Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022
- The Tierney Sutton Band — Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022
- Corey Christiansen Quartet — Saturday, March 19, 2022
- Tamir Hendelman Trio — Saturday, Apr. 16, 2022
- Billy Childs Quartet — Saturday, May 21, 2022
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