By Shannon Cuthrell
Does your busy lifestyle call for a chance to recharge mid-week with a night on the town, great dinner, a glass of wine and some smooth music? If so, you’re in luck.
The Local Restaurant, 179 Howard St. in downtown Boone, now offers jazz nights from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesdays featuring local musician Maureen Renihan and half-priced wine specials.
The first jazz night was held last week on Oct.21 and will continue indefinitely. The Local’s General Manager Colton Lenz said the first event received a great turnout.
“This is just one more way we are trying to build the music scene in Boone,” Lenz added.
Renihan, who is always expanding her repertoire, will treat local listeners on these Wednesday nights to a variation of jazz tunes ranging from Brazilian bossa nova classics like “Girl from Ipanema” to songs made popular by The Beatles.
The Pittsburgh native describes her music as “the kind on which young people build their romances and old folks re-live joys from the past.” One of her favorite things to see on a gig is a college-aged server at a restaurant dancing with their tray between tables to a timeless jazz tune.
“It’s something that’s new and different to them, but it’s bringing back memories for others,” she said.
Renihan calls herself “an old soul” and loves music that has been able to withstand the test of time.
“I’m a drama queen,” she said. “The way the old standards depict love and heartache — I eat it up like a script.”
Renihan’s career began not with jazz, but with theater. She performed in school plays when she was young, worked in community theater as she gained more experience and eventually started acting in professional shows.
An acting career never felt like a practical or appropriate fit for this family-oriented artist, but she feels like she’s “right where she belongs” when she’s performing jazz on stage.
When her career as a jazz musician start to take off in the High Country, she was anxious to team up with other local pros and started with Andy Page, an adjunct instructor of jazz at Appalachian State’s Hayes School of Music.
“I thought he would turn me down,” Renihan said. “I was wrong.”
So began their collaboration, along with Keith McCutchen, director of the Jazz Vocal Ensemble at ASU.
Today, she also works occasionally with other North Carolina-based musicians, including Charlotte guitarist Troy Conn and Asheville-based guitarist and bassist Mike Holstein.
“I work with amazingly skilled musicians and I’m very fortunate to work with a variety of talent,” said Renihan. “It has helped me improve and learn.”
Renihan said she’s heard people refer to Howard Street as “restaurant row” and that the buzz around town is Boone has plans to enhance its downtown area. Jazz nights at The Local will add an extra element of culture and vibrancy to that atmosphere, she said. The sounds of live music will invite folks to stroll down the street, which “will be good for businesses and will add to the quality of life for residents and visitors.”
Renihan said she enjoys performing in Boone because it brings more people around to support local business owners, who are also her friends and neighbors.
“It’s a win-win for the venue, the patrons and the musicians,” she said. “I’m particularly happy that Boone is embracing jazz, allowing for a diverse music scene.”