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April 23, 2014

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Will the performance by Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band be the start of a trend at Smith Center?

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The Lon Bronson All-Star Band performs at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch.

During his most recent Tuesday-night show at the Stratosphere, Pop Evolution band leader David Perrico announced the upcoming performance of Lon Bronson’s All-Star Band at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center.

“Lon finally cracked the safe,” Perrico said. It was an inside joke, and the band cracked up. One of those musicians was Bronson, as he plays trumpet in Pop Evo. As crisscrossing relationships evolve on the Las Vegas entertainment scene, Perrico also joins the Bronson band on occasion. He will be onstage as part of the All-Star Band tonight at 9 for something of a landmark performance in the little music hovel across from Reynolds Hall (tickets are still available on the Smith Center website at $23; “act now because they are going fast,” as they used to say on AM radio).

The reference to cracking the safe, or an earlier comment I’ve made about Bronson winning the Smith Center Sweepstakes, is appropriate for tonight’s one-off performance. Smith Center officials, especially President Myron Martin, have long sought a popular local big band (including horns, string, backing singers, the whole nine) to file into Cabaret Jazz. The supposition is such bands as Bronson’s, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns and Perrico’s more recent project, Pop Evo, would lure their followers to Cabaret Jazz.

The resulting buzz would encourage Las Vegas entertainment fans to return to Cab Jazz for other performances. It’s so simple.

But despite that sensible template, no such Las Vegas band — at least not what we would consider a big band — has booked the room. Martin was originally interested in staging a show by Bronson, either at Cab Jazz or on the lawn out on what has become known as Symphony Park, when the center opened in March 2012. At the time, Bronson was busy with his schedule at Station Casinos.

Then, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns came into play — but did not come in to play. Martin has long been a fan of Santa Fe and last fall was attending the band’s Monday-night shows at the Palms on occasion on something of a recruiting mission. But there was reluctance from band leader Jerry Lopez to pull the band into Cab Jazz, and his off-handed comments about concerns of “reflective” noises inside the venue has become something of an urban legend around town. It is not fair to characterize Lopez’s thoughts about the room as uniformed criticism, and he has since been in the audience for a Clint Holmes performance a couple of months ago. Don’t rule out an appearance by Santa Fe at the Smith Center.

More recently, Perrico approached Smith Center officials about possibly bringing Pop Evo into Cabaret Jazz. But soon after floating that possibility, Pop Evo signed on for biweekly shows at the Stratosphere, which prefers acts it is paying as headliners to perform exclusively at the hotel.

So it is Bronson who is awarded entry into the giant safe, a venue not nearly as casually appointed as its most recent home, the Railhead at Boulder Station. As for Cab Jazz’s acoustic qualities, Bronson says, “I don’t have any reservations about it. Zero. I have seen Clint (Holmes) in there, and you can hear every single thing done onstage. He has half the size of the band we’re bringing in, and we’ll produce a fair amount of volume, but you could tell the setup there can handle a (show) band.”

True, many acts have played Cab Jazz, from Holmes and his four-piece backing band to the thundering multidrum rock outfit Uberschall, and the room has never sounded anything but ideal for those shows.

Bronson says he plans to bring a full complement of 17 musicians, vocalists and dancers (well, a single dancer) to tonight’s 90-minute performance. It won’t be anything too expansive, as he wants the show to be tight and run on time.

Bronson realizes that he’s playing for the fans but also his fellow musicians. If it works, he might find some work — for his brethren and himself.

“My take-away is this could open the door for other local bands,” he said. “We’ll see how easy it will be to sell tickets. Maybe it’ll be no easier for a band to play in there more than once a month, at most. I would like to see something run in conjunction to Composers Showcase, go in there every Wednesday (other than when the Showcase is scheduled) with a cool local act that’s worthy of being at Cabaret Jazz.”

Despite widespread availability and interest from all types of Las Vegas entertainers, that list is fairly exclusive. The Cab Jazz room should be reserved for the best of the best. For now, the Smith Center is going with Lon Bronson. As his fellow musicians understand, it’s a safe call.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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