Hmmm. What to pack for my one-night stay at The Jazz Corner Hotel. Let's see: one beret, one fake goatee beard (insufficent time to grow one), one all-black wardrobe (including skivvy and stove-pipe pants), one hep cat (sorry, no pets allowed) …Oh, yes, it's easy to mock a hotel such as this one, what with its unapologetic jazz theme. And the female staff at the front desk actually do wear (red) berets, and fetching they look, too. But the owners of the 150-room Jazz Corner Hotel, which opened earlier this year, deserve recognition for their imagination in creating a themed-hotel in what still can be a grey, predictable old world of Australian accommodation.
The Jazz Corner Hotel, which was conceived by Albert Dadon, a Moroccan-born developer and musician, is tucked away in a modern high-rise building on the quieter northern end of Melbourne's central business district, opposite Flagstaff Gardens and not far from Queen Victoria Markets. Trams run up and down William Street outside the hotel, and Southern Cross Station in Spencer Street is an easy walk away.
The concept behind the Jazz Corner Hotel makes more sense when you become aware that it's connected to Bird's Basement, Melbourne's premier jazz venue, which is associated with the renowned Birdland in New York, It wouldn't make sense to stay here and not include a show and dinner at Bird's Basement. It's reminiscent of Sydney's The Basement venue, although a little younger since it opened at this William Street site just over a year ago. Do check its gig guide when you make an accommodation booking.
There are three types of room at the Jazz Corner: studios and one and two-bedroom apartments. Each of the fresh, comfortable and sunny rooms feature jazz-themed decorations, including vinyl record covers, in what are essentially, er, jazzed-up apartments. But one particularly pleasing touch is the fact that when you enter your room for the first time, a jazz performance from the Bird's Basement is playing on the TV. The rooms feature pod-style espresso machines and free Wi-Fi, and some of apartments have panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne's Docklands precinct.
Enjoy a dinner and a show at the Bird's Basement, although this reviewer's main course order appeared to go badly astray. It arrived during the middle of the performance by the artistes and I had to take care that my clinking cutlery didn't begin sound like some unsolicited jazz-style improv from the darkened bleachers. In the bright light of day, an agreeable breakfast (or perhaps, more forgivingly, brunch) can be enjoyed at Sky Bird, in the in-house cafe restaurant overlooking Flagstaff Gardens, while tucked away off the small lobby is Beer, Wine and Calzone.
During my stay, Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, two of Australia's most respected guitarists, were performing at Bird's Basement, tucked away in a discreet laneway at the rear of the building. Not only was the concert enjoyable it was also a bonus to know that my bed for the night was a mere elevator ride away on one of a few dozen of so storeys above me. It's a perfect arrangement if you're intending to down a few or more beverages during a late night.
The owners and developers of The Jazz Corner Hotel deserve a round of applause for what is a clever ensemble of music, food and accommodation. Although you certainly don't have to be a jazz fan to stay here, those who do count themselves in such company will find The Jazz Corner Hotel a pleasurable place to build a weekend's stay around.
Doubles from $170 per night. 352 William Street, Melbourne. Phone See jazzcornerhotel.com
The concept of combining a jazz venue with a hotel is a fine one and, for jazz devotees, there's the chance of bumping into one of the acts who are also staying at the hotel.
The modern, slightly sterile high-rise apartment block in which The Jazz Corner Hotel is housed may strike a somewhat discordant note for the odd cool cat guest.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the hotel and Tourism Victoria.